The Austin Chronicle

TV Eye

Sweeping and Surfing

By Belinda Acosta, May 5, 2006, Screens

Yes, it's May, which is a sweeps month. Now, this should be exciting, as the networks try and woo viewers by saving the best for last. It also means all good things (and some not so good) are coming to an end. Lost, Invasion, Gilmore Girls, and Veronica Mars (to name a few favorites) will see their seasons close. In the cases of Invasion and Gilmore, the future is uncertain. As for others – The OC and Alias, for instance – their glory days are over.

Regardless, I can't think of anything more dismal than sitting at home and watching TV in the summer. Fortunately, the Sundance Channel picks up some of the slack with encores of acclaimed series aired earlier in the year. If you missed them the first time, set up your recording device of choice for these TV treasures.

City of Men: This amazing Brazilian series set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro started on Tuesday, but not to worry: A rerun of the episode you missed airs on Saturday at midnight.

Kath and Kim: Catch up with reruns of the Australian sitcom on Fridays and Sundays.

Slings and Arrows: A Canadian Theatre Festival is the backdrop of this comedy series, returning to the Sundance Channel for a second run. The second season reruns in its entirety starting Sunday, May 15; encores air on Tuesday and Fridays. Check local listings.

Heard and overheard

Carmine Giovinazzo (Detective Danny Messer, CSI: NY) kicks back in Austin this weekend. On Saturday night, he throws out the first pitch at the Round Rock Express game. On Sunday, he putts around with other celebs during the Dennis Quaid Charity Weekend. In between, he's doing interviews and, since he's been included in People's 50 Most Beautiful People list, will probably be beating off admirers with a stick.

Chronicle colleague Joe O'Connell passed this along: Word has it that a crew is in town shooting new scenes for Welcome to the Neighborhood, the reality show that was shelved after vociferous criticism last summer. The premise appeared simple enough: Several families try to earn the favor of current homeowners in an all-American neighborhood (Austin's Circle C subdivision) in order to win a brand-new home in said all-American neighborhood. When the first two episodes were shown to critics and test audiences an uproar arose because the deciding family had reportedly made prejudicial remarks about some of the contestant families, which were Latino, African-American, Wiccan, and gay. That wasn't so surprising. After all, reality TV thrives on this kind of chatter. However, the final yank on the plug came when it was suggested that the series was violating the Fair Housing Act, which protects potential homeowners from discrimination based on race, religion, color, ethnicity, sexual preference, national origin, or family status.

Welcome to the Neighborhood was to have premiered on ABC last June. Calls to the network to find out if the show had resumed production and whether it would air were not returned. "TV Eye" speculates that all is silent until the new footage is shot and episodes recut to deflate criticism back to garden-variety reality-show piffle. That, and it could be that when the contestant families signed on, they were contractually promised an outcome: meaning that someone, no matter if the series aired or not, would win a new home. I suspect Welcome to the Neighborhood will appear on cable TV. If not, look for it as a future TV-on-DVD release. Speaking of which ...

New Releases

Mixed with contemporary TV titles are several vintage titles (and I mean from way back in the vault) coming to DVD.

May 2: Kate & Allie: Complete First Season

May 9: Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season One; The Facts of Life: The Complete First & Second Season; Life Goes On: The Complete First Season; Northern Exposure: The Complete First and Second Seasons (repackaging)

May 23: Boston Legal: Season One; The Closer: The Complete First Season

May 30: Night Stalker: The Complete Series (the remake; includes four unaired episodes); Rollergirls: The Complete Season One

Coming in June: The Boondocks; Dharma & Greg; Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp; Medium; Walker, Texas Ranger; Strangers With Candy; Perry Mason; Weeds; The Bill Cosby Show; JAG; Pinky and the Brain; Rawhide.

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