August is the time of year when TV pretty much just phones it in. NBC is running "The 10th Kingdom" again, for crying out loud! It's almost as if they don't want us to watch anymore. Or, maybe TV is just playing hard to get, like if it acts disinterested in us, we'll want it even more.
Even some cable channels are getting into the act. On Tuesday, ESPN2 is running a recap of the Kansas City Chief's 9-7 1999 season.
But at least the brainy channels that are good for us but no one watches are trying hard to fill the void. So this week, just to show the networks (and ESPN2) that they can't take us for granted, we've got a very special "Bravo-riffic" edition of Channel Surfer.
Ted Danson "The Museum of Television and Radio: Influences" premieres at 7:30 p.m. PDT today on Bravo. Alan Alda hosts this new weekly series featuring TV stars of today talking about the TV stars of yesterday. This week, Ted Danson credits Andy Griffith's ability to play the straight man to Barney Fife and Floyd the barber, while still getting laughs of his own, for providing the model that made "Cheers" so good. This show is not only a lot of fun, but it also does a remarkable job of making TV seem really important while still showing clips of Don Knotts.
"Keith Olbermann Evening News" also premieres today, at 10 p.m. PDT on the Fox Sports Network. If there is one thing for certain in this world, it's that there are too many sports channels and highlight shows. Maybe Olbermann (also producer on this one) has the right idea in condensing the whole spectrum of sports into a single hour of highlights and commentary. Olbermann (along with CBS talk-show host Craig Kilborn) was a precursor to the cynical, witty, nerd sports anchors who are everywhere you look today. But Olbermann is funnier and generally more thoughtful than those assembly line imitations. Among the regular segments for "Evening News": a continuing look at the big-business side of sports called "Another Day Closer to "Rollerball.""
OK, one quick nod to the networks. Hot off receiving something like a million Emmy nominations (OK, 18), NBC will show four of the best episodes of "The West Wing" this week (Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. PDT and a double feature Wednesday starting at 9 p.m. PDT). Simply put, this is absolutely the best-written and most interesting show on network television. If you are not on the bandwagon yet, now is your chance to catch up before the new season starts.
This one started while Channel Surfer was on hiatus, but it's worth bringing up now. The Sci-Fi Channel has gone back in time to repackage a really old concept into a brand new talk show that seems almost certain to be a hit. "Crossing Over, with John Edward" (weeknights at 8 p.m. PDT) is the first talk show hosted by a self-professed "psychic," and his guest list is made up of, you guessed it, dead people. Wow. With all of the inherent entertainment value in those "psychic friends" infomercials, not to mention the ringing endorsements from very credible celebrities such as Gary Coleman and LaToya Jackson, it's hard to believe that no one ever thought of this before. Edward invites living people to talk with their dead relatives five nights a week. Cool.
"Belle du Jour" Tuesday is "dumbing down of America " night on most of TV (except for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on the WB), so we're going back to Bravo one more time. It's a brainy/sexy double feature starting with "Belle du Jour" (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on Bravo), Luis Brunel's satire about a sexually unsatisfied wife (Catherine Deneuve) who takes up prostitution as an afternoon hobby. This is followed by the 1990 sexorama "Henry & June" starring Uma Thurman as the wife of author Henry Miller, who must explore her burgeoning desire for his mistress. Yes!
And finally this week, for those of you who like your intelligent programming to be mostly sex-free, The History Channel reruns one of its most interesting documentary series, "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" (Monday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. PDT and back to back Thursday starting at 9 p.m. PDT). This investigative documentary is definitely an eye-opener.