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Austin Chronicle TV Eye

Eyes Without a Face

By Belinda Acosta

DECEMBER 13, 1999:  It's a strange thing, this column-writing business. In the beginning, I was relieved and somewhat startled that I could crank out a column every week. It's hardly "old hat" now. I still look to St. Claire of Assissi, the patron saint of television, for guidance from time to time, but it's not something I'd call an incredible feat, like climbing Mt. Everest or not eating a chocolate cake.Most of the time, I'm content with how "TV Eye" reaches the newsstand week after week. Other times, I cringe. An underdeveloped idea, a fizzled-out argument, or just plain flabby writing are constant gremlins. When the gremlins win, I toss the column over to the "there's always next time" part of my brain. Coincidentally, this is the same part of my brain where I sustain the fantasy that a not-so-hot column will simply not be read by anybody. Ever. It's a survival mechanism, or at least it used to be, until I started to meet some of my readers, in person.

For some reason, faces and names have recently been attached to a once-faceless lot. While it's always a pleasant encounter, it's also strange. The readers of this column are an eclectic bunch. Students young enough to be my children, adults old enough to be my parents. There's one UT professor that I know of, former and current co-workers, former classmates, and, of course, my friends. I have one friend whose husband reads the column to her as they drive on I-35 from work in Austin to home in Round Rock. Another reads it online in Berkeley. Although the readers I've met are as varied as a box of buttons, one thing is common: My reaction to them when they tell me they read my column every week.

"You do?" I'm not sure why I'm surprised, but I am. Probably because I realize there are plenty of other things a reader could do to amuse himself -- like watch television. That, and I know what it's like too look for a byline or page past the serious news to a favorite columnist. If that's the kind of response I create in a reader, then I am truly flattered.

There are those of you I haven't met but have bantered with via e-mail. The column I wrote about David E. Kelley ("Grow Up, David," November 19) was the latest to draw a vociferous response, interestingly, all from men. Not all were in defense of Kelley, and in fact, one good reader suggested that "if you are smart enough to realize the problems on TV, then you aren't one of the 90% of dumb-ass Americans that the shows are targeted for. Take it as a compliment." I did.

There are several TV-philes I'd like to meet. I'm told of one person, a professor at UT who is probably a bigger Buffy, the Vampire Slayer fan than I am. He teaches English literature and never misses the opportunity to bring a Buffy reference to class. Sounds like my kind of guy. (I wonder if he's heard about the new Buffy font, patterned after the blood scrawl used for the show's titles. Might jazz up those dull syllabi. It's downloadable at http://www.fontface.com).

Several readers have e-mailed to comment on my lack of attention to programming on PBS, the local news, and daytime soap operas. Another wants to know why I don't talk about Nash Bridges. One particularly cozy fan, known to readers of this column as Papi Chulo, occasionally harangues me for the lack of column space spent on televised sports. I can promise some much-needed attention to PBS and the local news. As for the rest: You never know. As always, stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Strange Timing

Although the NAACP is still talking up its boycott of the four major television networks during February sweeps, the African-American organization announced nominations for its 1999 Image Awards. The awards are given to film and television professionals whose work has provided positive images of African-Americans.

The timing of the Image Awards ceremony couldn't be stranger. The awards show is slated for taping on February 11-12 and would ordinarily air soon thereafter. However, when NAACP President Kweisi Mfume was asked by the Hollywood Reporter about the possibility of the boycott being launched the same month the show airs on Fox, Mfume replied, "All things are possible. Probabilities are something altogether different. And the probability right now is that we are making what we believe to be slow but steady progress on this issue."

Coming Soon: Iron Chef?

When I first heard about the cooking show that pits world-class chefs in culinary battles, I couldn't quite put it together. Indeed, Iron Chef, the Japanese cult favorite now airing on the Food Network, is a wonderful feast to behold. It's amazing what the chefs can whip up with a theme ingredient that can be anything from yogurt to ostrich. Now, the one-of-a-kind show may be moving to the big screen. Neal Moritz (Blue Streak) has optioned the show for a Sony feature film. An opportunity for the snappy-dressing host, Chairman Kaga, to be introduced to a larger audience? Keep your chopsticks crossed.

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