The latest in television news the week of Sept. 28, 1990
Bart, the home version
You’ve seen the posters and key chains. You’ve worn the T-shirts. Now everyone can play along with the Simpsons in a board game based on the adventures of America’s most popular animated family. It’s called the Simpsons Mystery of Life Game, and it comes complete with miniaturized Simpson playing pieces, doughnut bonus cards, and Simpson play money (with Bart on every buck). ”The object is simple,” explains Bonnie Canner, vice president of marketing for Cardinal Industries, the New York-based company that’s producing the game (list price: $18). ”Each character is given an agenda to accomplish — Bart might have to go to the ice-cream store, Homer might have to go bowling, Marge might have to do the shopping — and you roll the dice to move around the board and try to complete your agenda.” Along the way, there are such Simpsonesque challenges as burping contests and competitions to see who can make the scariest-looking faces. The key to winning: doughnuts. ”If you win enough doughnut cards,” Canner says, ”you can wipe up.”
Blues in the night
No more burlesque queens. No more blue movies. No more Geisha-to-Go ads. As of Oct. 1, America’s raunchiest cable service, New York City’s Channel J, may be gone from the air. For 14 years the channel has been home to such fare as Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein’s variety show, Midnight Blue (sometimes shown nationally), and The Robin Byrd Show (in which the scantily clad hostess interviews porn stars and strippers). But Time Warner, which holds Manhattan’s cable franchises, has decided to pull the plug on the channel. ”Our contract with the city came up in August,” says Richard Aurelio, president of Time Warner’s New York City Cable Group, who notes that the new pact, unlike the old one, allows the company to dump Channel J. ”We decided enough was enough. We started Channel J as a way to increase the diversity of programming. But instead of diversity, all we’ve been getting is perversity.” Not everyone agrees: ”These morons are trying to knock us off the air,” says the outraged and outrageous Goldstein. ”It’s censorship. I say, screw ’em. We’re taking them to court. Midnight Blue has been around for 14 years, and it’ll be around another 14.”
Peaking too early
Who killed Laura Palmer? At the 42nd Annual Emmy Awards show on Sept. 16, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had a two-word answer: Who cares? Emmy voters pointedly ignored the season’s most-nominated series, ABC’s proudly eccentric Twin Peaks (and its star, Kyle MacLachlan, pictured), giving the series only two technical awards (best editing and costume design). And few people in attendance had satisfactory answers to the Palmer case. ”I’ve never even watched the show,” said Married?With Children‘s Katey Sagal. Nor, apparently, had Peter Falk, chosen best actor in a drama series for Columbo. ”You know,” he muttered, waving a cigarette, ”I got to get on that one.” Only Candice Bergen (best actress in a comedy series for Murphy Brown) sounded as if she could appreciate the virtues of a damn fine cup of coffee. ”That is one show I really do try to watch,” she said of Peaks. ”Especially when the llama walked into the vet’s office — it just made my heart sing.” Peaks creator David Lynch appeared unfazed by the reaction to his show. ”I’m not so disappointed,” he said after the Emmy broadcast. ”I’ve said before, I love the theater of the absurd, so I had a great time tonight.”
Groucho round the clock Get ready for TV’s first Grouchothon. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Groucho Marx’s birth, cable’s HA! network is devoting 24 straight hours to the work of the leering, eye-popping comic genius. The Oct. 2 special will feature clips from Marx Brothers movies (Duck Soup, The Cocoanuts, A Night at the Opera, and others), episodes of Groucho’s 1950s TV game show, You Bet Your Life, and a 60-minute documentary called Hello I Must Be Going — A Tribute to Groucho, which includes never-before-seen clips of his last performance, in 1972 in L.A. ”There were all these legal problems after Groucho died [in 1977], so I wasn’t able to use the footage from the 1972 performance until now,” says the film’s director, Charles Braverman. ”This film has been sitting on my shelf for 18 years.” The documentary also features interviews with Chevy Chase, Walter Matthau,,Milton Berle, and other Groucho-philes.