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Austin Chronicle TV Eye

Sweep No More

By Belinda Acosta

NOVEMBER 15, 1999:  Didn't it used to be sweeps week? That one, short week when the networks sent out the siren call to viewers to witness that can't-miss television event? Forget that. Now it's sweeps months -- November, February, and May -- every single day, with not a minute to spare. It seems we just recovered from February sweeps, not to mention all those shameless -- shameless -- tie-ins. But here we go again. I knew I was in for a month of eye-rolling during the season premiere of The X-Files when the local Fox affiliate promised a "news" feature called "The TX Files" on the 10 o'clock newscast. Need I say more?

I confess to watching fair portions of the delightful Annie remake, the live, partially improved episode of The Drew Carey Show, and tuning in to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (all on ABC) just to see what all the hoo-ha was about. But after a while -- a very short while, it turns out -- all the hype, the splash, and the "watch-me-watch-me-watch-me!" demands of the networks take on the dulcet tones of a two-year-old's tantrum. And like any right-minded adult who just can't take it anymore, I leave the creature to its high-pitched squealing and walk away. But not too far. So, while leprechauns flit across the screen in the background, I turned my attention to the gentle hum of the computer, to search on the Web for the news and events that will shape TV viewing in Central Texas. Well, at least in my living room. Here are a few tidbits:


Ain't It Cool?

Austin's Harry Knowles might have a regular TV gig this fall if all went well in Los Angeles this week. Knowles -- best known for his entertainment Web site Ain't It Cool News (http://www.aintitcoolnews.com) and as a sometime sidekick to Roger Ebert on Roger Ebert & the Movies -- is pitching a TV show inspired by his Web site. No details, although if a deal is struck, the show will be totally Austin-based.

Can a Web geek, used to the cyber glow of computer screens and the disembodied chatter of chat rooms, make it as an onscreen celeb? No doubt. Knowles' appearances with Ebert were cool and confident. Surely he could carry his own in a half-hour program. The big questions are: What network will take him? When will it happen? What will the format be?

"TV has never seen a show like this before! It will be phantasmagorical! Nothing else can be said at present. We must protect the format from cheap imitations." This from the Ain't It Cool News (AICN) site, where a person identified only as Father Geek responded in an e-mail message to Knowles on the subject.

Knowles has shot three Ebert & The Movies episodes. The third episode, airing later this season, features Knowles and Ebert chatting about their favorite cult movies.


Speaking of cult favorites

According to AICN, the third angel for the upcoming Charlie's Angels movie has been selected. If this information is correct, Lucy Liu (Ling on Ally McBeal) is the final angel to be cast. She joins Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz for the big-screen flick.


Boycott scrapped

Plans by the NAACP to organize a boycott of the four major networks during November sweeps has been scrapped. Instead, a new plan of attack is in the works, said NAACP President Kweisi Mfume at a Nov. 3 press conference. The boycott was originally called to protest the virtual "whitewash" of television, following the announcement of the fall season on the four prominent networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox.

The new plan includes developing a set of goals for improving diversity in programming and production and a timetable for reaching those goals. A series of public hearings will be held in Los Angeles to gather viewer input, and finally, a full-scale boycott will be launched in January, lasting through February sweeps.

The November boycott was delayed due to a lack of information requested by the NAACP of the networks, and the organization's desire to "target the worst offenders appropriately," according to E! Online.

"Our complaint is not only about the lack of people of color as lead characters in the new fall shows, but more importantly, the other whitewash or blackout that continues to take place in TV board rooms, in their executive, production, and talent ranks, and among their writers, producers, and directors," Mfume said. In July, the NAACP purchased stock in all four networks. As a stockholder, the organization plans to make its concerns known at shareholders' meetings.

In related news, originally reported by the Chicago Tribune and posted by Lew Irwin's Studio Briefing last week: "A coalition of the nation's largest broadcasting companies will contribute several hundred million dollars to an investment fund aimed at boosting minority ownership of broadcasting stations. The fund would be available to minority broadcasters to finance as much as $500 million in TV and radio stations." The move is seen as a good-faith effort to boost minority and women ownership of stations. More information is expected for release in the coming weeks.


Animal Magnetism

Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson -- together at last? No, it's not some ill-fated recording featuring the two. It's McCartney taking a guest role on Anderson's syndicated series VIP. Anderson's work for animal rights caught McCartney's attention, who expressed his appreciation to the actress at an awards ceremony. The ethical treatment of animals was a pet project of McCartney's wife Linda, who died of breast cancer earlier this year. The VIP episode McCartney will appear on has an animal rights theme.


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