Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle TV Eye

By Margaret Moser

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  Please don't talk to me about NBC's sweeps entry The Sixties. My snazzy new VCR isn't set up properly, I discovered unhappily last Sunday night upon returning home from seeing Luciano Pavarotti. I was bitter but quickly distracted by Weezer bearing The X-Files on tape, as he had been to Itzhak Perlman. Now there is a sweeps entry.

Lest you think we are getting too cultured, be aware that we discuss attending a monster truck rally with the same seriousness -- life is too rich to bother with class distinctions. We, after all, watch the officially doomed Melrose Place.

Valentine's Day gets short shrift on television. The networks are in a lather over sweeps month and hurling special events, miniseries, and better movies than any other time of year except May and November, the other sweeps months. Valentine's Day benefits greeting card companies but eludes television advertising dollars for programming.

While looking over the television schedule for good ol' VD, the pickings were slim and grim. No fun series on sex on TLC or Discovery, no new Love Boat TV-movies -- there was even a paucity of "marathon programming," currently favored by cable channels. Interestingly, the Travel Channel uses both the holiday and marathon concept to its best advantage, though, showcasing a lightweight half-hour series called Best Places to Kiss (noon-6pm, TRAV) for six hours. Like most of the shows in this marginal channel, it emphasizes desirable destinations, though limited to the West Coast and New England. Lush footage of alluring scenery bolsters these segments and although the narration annoyingly hypes each location like a Chamber of Commerce commercial, the places highlighted in Seattle, Napa Valley, San Francisco, the Oregon Coast, New York's Adirondack Mountains, Vermont, and Victoria, British Columbia are very picturesque and inviting.

Aha! Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics went for it! TCM took the romance challenge and answered it with six -- count 'em -- films about weddings! Score a big 10! 1940's The Philadelphia Story (noon, TCM) kicks it off with this classic Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn pairing. It's also one of director George Cukor's best films. It's followed by 1948's The Bride Goes Wild (2pm, TCM) with June Allyson or the William Powell-Myrna Loy pairing in 1937's Double Wedding (4pm, TCM), then 1951's Royal Wedding (6pm, TCM), which has some dazzling footwork from Fred Astaire. 1950's Father of the Bride (8pm, TCM) with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor and a lesser Bette Davis vehicle from 1956, The Catered Affair, finish the evening.

Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence in Enchanted April.
AMC serves up a platter of black-&-white favorites, a couple of specials, and a contemporary classic including The Loves of Carmen (8am, AMC) with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, By the Light of the Silvery Moon (10am, AMC) with Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, and an overblown Tennessee Williams story, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2pm, AMC), Vivien Leigh's last role in 1961. Leigh is also the subject of Great Romances of the 20th Century (4pm, AMC), which follows. Lots of choice footage of her and hubby Laurence Olivier. The 1991 film Enchanted April (8pm, TCM) is unusual for AMC to offer, although they have been scheduling more contemporary titles of late. The story of four women who rent an Italian villa in San Salvatore stars Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright, who was the second Mrs. Laurence Olivier.

Obviously, Valentine's Day themes can be explored endlessly on movie channels, especially the Romance Classics channel (not offered by Time Warner Cable). And it seems like every day is Valentine's Day on the Lifetime Channel. The offerings for the day are staggeringly pedestrian -- in 1998's Follow Your Heart (1pm, LIFE), "a woman must choose between true love and money when she meets two eligible bachelors in California." Oh, please, you say -- but wait, it gets better. 1990's The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid (3pm, LIFE) stars Donna Mills as a high-powered attorney forced to re-examine her lifestyle when she gets the hots for her male secretary. Did I say better? It reeks.

The Comedy Channel got it right; they scheduled 1989's She-Devil (8am, 3pm, COM) twice. Unfortunately this particular adaptation of Fay Weldon's novel of excruciating revenge, Life and Loves of a She Devil, is pretty milquetoast, even if Roseanne makes a believable lead. Enjoy this for a dippy Meryl Streep as the romance novelist husband Ed Begley leaves Roseanne for, and make your video store get the Eighties' British miniseries. It's quite a wicked version. And a hell of a Valentine's tale.

Like the Travel Channel, Home & Garden TV holds little interest for me but they anted up in the romance department with Windsor Auction: Treasures of a Royal Romance (4pm, HGTV). Nice going, HGTV! Windsor Auction features highlights from the auction of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's collection of memorabilia, jewelry, and objets d'art. Duke and Duchess of Windsor! You know --"The woman I love," etc. Never mind that they unforgivably sympathized with the Nazis, an American woman married an English king and brought down the monarchy over it. You hear that, Jerry Hall? Forget about that divorce suit, make him pay support to the simpering twit. He's done stupider things before; get on with the business of being Mrs. Mick Jagger because honey, we're rooting for you!

Speaking of such matters, Animal Planet has the intriguingly titled Planet Safari: Harem of the Ethiopian Baboon (3pm, ANP). I am certainly not trying to draw any parallels that don't exist between the divorce suit of a leading rock & roll singer by his long-suffering model-wife in regards to a pregnant model-girlfriend and the mating habits of this family of Ethiopian baboons, but I'll wager there are a few.

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