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Austin Chronicle TV Eye

History Lesson

By Belinda Acosta

APRIL 24, 2000:  The Travel Channel premiered an unusual new series Sunday, Great Writers, Great Cities. Using selections from an author's writings and informal interviews, Great Writers creates a portrait of the writer and the world-class city that influenced the writer's work.

Mexico City is the first featured city, with Edward James Olmos lending his interpretation of detective Hector Belascoaran Shayne, the hero in several novels by Mexican mystery writer Paco Taibo. Taibo's Mexico City is part nostalgia, part "cornucopia of surreal delights held together with humor, cigarettes, and lots of Coca-Cola," according to press material. Years of economic hardship, devastating natural disasters, and police corruption have dramatically changed Mexico City, but it is the city Taibo refuses to abandon. As the camera follows Taibo through his beloved city, he happens upon Super Barrio, the mysterious "superhero" clad in wrestlers attire, who works to protect poor neighborhoods from crime and injustice. A sort of Lone Ranger in tights. Super Barrio provides only one of the reasons Mexico's premiere mystery writer calls Mexico City home.

Check local listings for regular date and airtime.

Last Stop: Wonderland

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill applauded ABC execs' decision to can Wonderland after only two episodes. The cancellation of the drama was hailed as "a victory against stigma" by the Alliance's executive director, Laurie Flynn. While I respect the Alliance and its efforts to protect the rights of the mentally ill, I stand behind my critique of the show. In an April 7 "TV Eye," I said that Wonderland, though a demanding watch, was not without its own critique of the larger society which chooses to make the mentally ill invisible. The show was difficult, which probably accounts for the three million viewers who tuned out Wonderland at the midway point. Still, 17 million viewers stayed, although not enough to give the drama the ratings share needed to threaten the competition (ER on NBC). That's a pity. It's also an indication of what viewers will endure, a prime example being Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show which routinely features lurid images of rape and assault victims, mostly women. The only peep that SVU caused were viewer complaints that the show was on too early in the evening. The drama has since been moved back an hour. Wonderland still has six unaired episodes which may make a reappearance on ABC this summer. In the meantime, 20/20 Downtown will play in its Thursday evening time slot at 9pm.

Heads Will Not Roll

Following the embarrassment of Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, the Fox network hired the L.A. law firm Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger to determine who was responsible for the fiasco. The answer: no one. No heads will roll, and no one associated with the program will receive so much as a slap on the wrist. The findings from the investigation determined that the show's producers would not have come across the 1991 restraining order placed on Rick Rockwell, the game show's dubious multimillionaire groom, because federal laws prevent disclosure of that information after seven years, according to the April 13 issue of Lew Irwin's Studio Briefing. In the meantime, Rick Rockwell has taken his stand-up act on the road. Darva Conger, his on-air bride who pled "poor little me" in all manner of interviews, claiming that she wants her quiet life back, recently attended Hugh Hefner's birthday party at the Playboy Mansion. She also attended several Oscar parties -- though she couldn't get into the posh Vanity Fair affair. Poor Darva. Maybe the new manager she's hired can turn that icky glare of the spotlight away from her. Isn't that what managers are for?

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