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Austin Chronicle TV Eye

Rerun Relief

By Belinda Acosta

JUNE 5, 2000:  Sure, I whine about network sweeps months, turn my nose up at the hype, refuse to be unconsciously lured to watch this show or that -- but there is something worse than a sweeps month: the end of the network television season and that long stretch before the start of the fall season. The upcoming Summer Olympics will cause many of the networks to delay their season launches. This means a long summer laden with reruns and previously dropped series (like Veronica's Closet and Suddenly Susan) from now to October on network television. Thank goodness there's cable television, not to mention books, new magazines to peruse, the summer short story issue of The New Yorker, day trips, swimming, shopping ... But hey! This is a column on television, so let's go back to cable.

You don't have cable? I wouldn't either were I not writing this column -- rather, I should say, I wouldn't be paying for it. Papi Chulo couldn't function without access to the many sporting events cable brings. Truth be told, I would find it difficult to give up some of my newfound pleasures on the cable nets: The Sopranos (HBO), The Awful Truth (Bravo), Sex and the City (HBO), Iron Chef (Food Network), and the recently canceled Good vs. Evil (Sci-Fi Network).

Last weekend, I finally experienced Twin Peaks in a "Laura Palmer Is Still Dead" marathon on Bravo. (No, I have no idea where I was or what I was doing when Twin Peaks was first on the scene.) On MTV, Tom Green's Cancer Special managed to be annoying and touching at the same time, while ultimately imparting a message on the importance of self-examination to young men. Green can veer from outrageously hilarious to moronic in a moment, but his cancer special revealed a quality I didn't think Green possessed: bravery. It takes moxie for someone so young to confront their mortality in front of the camera, even if he tried to make light of his situation by aggravating family, friends, and hospital personnel with his irreverent behavior. As expected, Green's humor hit some screechy notes, but he still earns stars for handling his experience with testicular cancer candidly, though sometimes in the most unsettling manner. An examination of Green's dissected, cancerous testicle and freshly removed lymph nodes were particularly fascinating and gruesome at the same time.

For more relevant and intellectually stimulating fare, check out The Awful Truth With Michael Moore (Bravo). There's no one like Moore to spank some sense into elite power brokers, big business, and gentrified politicians. It was Moore's piece on Humana that shamed the HMO into approving an "unnecessary" pancreas transplant for a longtime HMO subscriber who would have died without the procedure. Though not seen at press time, a segment on Bush brothers (and governors) Jeb and George's "rivalry" to see who can score the most executions in their respective states promises to fry even the most inert couch potato. The Awful Truth airs on Wednesday nights at 9pm and midnight on Bravo.


Channel Surfing

As reported earlier, Sex and the City and Arli$$ return to HBO on June 4. An encore presentation of The Sopranos' second season begins June 7. Check listings for air times. Sarah Jessica Parker fans should note that the Sex and the City star will host this year's MTV Movie Awards. Where else can you see awards for Best Kiss, Best Fight, or Best Villain? The awards show airs Thursday, June 8, 8pm, on MTV.

"King Gimp," 1999 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Short Subject, will air exclusively on HBO. The short explores the life of Dan Keplinger from age 13, when he was first stricken with cerebral palsy, to age 25. Though the disease keeps Keplinger wheelchair-bound, and his uncontrolled body movements make it difficult for him to communicate, he has managed to make a career for himself as an artist. His first solo exhibit is currently on display at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York. During the airing of "King Gimp," a virtual exhibit of Keplinger's show can be viewed at www.hbo.com. In addition, a talk-back section will be available to those who want to "Talk to the King" and respond to his work or post questions. "King Gimp" airs Monday, June 5, 7pm, on HBO.

Fans could not persuade NBC to save their beloved Freaks & Geeks, but the show may not lost. Rumor has it that all 18 episodes of the canceled series will air this summer on MTV. No formal announcement has been made at press time. F&G fans could make like the Roswell fans who innundated the WB with bottles of Tabasco sauce (the preferred food of Roswell's aliens) in a show of force. What would the F&G fans send? Clearasil and some smokes might do the trick.


Nothing but Nets

The May 25 issue of Lew Irwin's Studio Briefing reports that Gail Berman, president of Regency Television, will take over as head of Entertainment at Fox. She replaces Doug Herzog, who left the network following fingerpointing in his direction for Fox's less-than-stellar 1999-2000 season. Regency Television developed Fox's current hit Malcolm in the Middle.

The idea to revisit the early days of television with 15-minute sitcoms has been sidetracked at UPN. News of the mini sitcoms was in the media pipeline for over six months, but when the pilots were reviewed, they were "no good," according to UPN Entertainment president Tom Nunan. In the early days, the 15-minute segments were bridges between regular programming and the news. The modern version was intended to appeal to the short attention span of young men and boys. However, the idea is not entirely canned, according to Nunan. "The experiment didn't keep us from wanting to revive the possibility," he said in the June 2 issue of Entertainment Weekly.


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