01 October 2007

The Hunks of PBS

A few weeks ago I was (rightly) accused of watching too much PBS. Many people have argued that my affection for its wonderful programming was just and appropriate as there is no such thing as too much public television. I beg to differ. I realized I had a problem waiting in the queue at the grocery store. I caught a glimpse of a gentleman in line ahead of me who was wearing a plaid flannel shirt. This conjured fond memories of watching This Old House; the mere recollection of which made me salivate. I think that spells serious conditioning, if not a serious public broadcast consumption problem. If bell is to Pavlov's dogs, then plaid flannel is to me.

Though I admit I have a bit of a problem with the PBS viewing, I have no intention of giving it up. After all, the station regularly affirms that the problem is brought on by viewers like me. I am very much looking forward to a winter of evening Sunday evenings curled up on the couch with some mulled beverage and Masterpiece Theatre. It's an exciting life I lead.

So, by special request, I present to you THE HUNKS of PBS. It's a list of twelve, just in case my local affiliate wants to turn it into a calendar for their next pledge drive giveaway. I tried my darnedest to stick to current or upcoming programming. In lieu of naming specific months (i.e. Mr. March), these gents are listed in order of preference.

12. Rudy Maxa

Aw, Rudy's trying to give us a big hug! Mr. Maxa hosts Smart Travels: Europe with Rudy Maxa. He was previously known as The Savvy Traveler on NPR. I am relatively new to this show, but Maxa makes his way onto this list because he gives me the pleasure of watching a travelogue sans Rick Steves. I appreciate the vantage of an experienced traveler, but Steves' has afflicted the American tourist with an unfortunate dependence upon money belts. Mr. Maxa's show is one of the first PBS programs to appear in HDTV. Way to be ahead of the curve!

11. "Everyman"- The PBS Logo

Never underestimate the value of a silent partner.

The PBS "Everyman", deigned by the infamous branders at Chermayeff & Geismar, is one of the most infamous insignias in television. It's meant to imply that Public Broadcasting Services puts people before profits. It suggests that we are all a part of PBS, one phoned-in-pledge at a time. Sure, Everyman has had a few nip tucks since his inception, but like fine wine he improves with time. He sits in the bottom corner of my screen as like a good friend. He has a discerning eye and usually has unquestionable good taste. His androgynous appearance evokes thoughts David Bowie's gender bending days. Delicious!

10. Christopher Kimball

Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen is one of my personal favorites on the list. His wit is dry and tart, and his looks are classically geeky. He has more charisma in his bow tie than most of the chefs featured on the program possess collectively. Sometimes he acts like an erudite jerk, but this only adds fuel to my fanatic fire. He samples pies, beans, pork tenderloins and other delicious fare, but viewers remain hungry for him. In one of my favorite episodes, he tests white wine vinegar with no chaser. If that's not living on the edge, what is?

9. Alan Alda

Former M*A*S*H star and king of the crossword puzzle clue makes a crossover to Public Television as the host of Scientific American Frontiers. Alda tours around, giving viewers a peek at the exciting world of scientific progress. Alda is a standout host, with an enthusiastic and genuine interest in the subjects he is covering. Most notably, Alda asks terrifically astute questions. Good show, Hawkeye. I watched an episode about mechanics over the weekend. It featured the World Cup of robot soccer, self-propelled submarines and sundry other projects. An M.I.T. professor equated the elation he feels at his anual mechanical engineering contest as a "geekgasm". I'm relatively certain a spontaneous geekgasm happens to viewers like you every time Alan Alda appears on this show.

8. Jim Leher
Oh, Jim Leher. Now that Lou Rukeyser is gone, you are the shining beacon of the older generation of PBS hotties. You bet I'll tune in to your News Hour. Eat your heart out, Paul Kangas in Miami.

7. Norm Abrams

Plaid shirts, works with his hands, Bostonian accent. The Master Carpenter on This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop must have a long line up of hopeful apprentices.

6. The Ninth Dr. Who

There have been 10 incarnations of The Doctor in the BBC's seminal sci-fi time travel drama. Chris Eccleston was the ninth doctor, and he's currently gracing the airwaves as Dr. Who thanks to the lag that occurs when PBS picks up British programming. I've never really been able to jump on the Dr. Who train before. Perhaps this is because my perferred science fiction falls well within the dystopian literature vein (think: Brave New World, The Handmaids Tale, et al.) Or, perhaps it is quite simply because Dr. Who has never been much of a looker until no.9. Eccelston's Doctor is broody and tempermental. He is quite simply the most luscious gent to step out of the TARDIS.

5. Ken Burns

I've caught several episodes of the latest Ken Burns series "The War" and not just because Oprah told me to watch. I find this to be a fascinating era unblemished by my academic traditions. You see, I always had the history teacher that would spend hours prattling off figures on the Revolutionary War before "jumping around a bit" in the curriculum to make sure we knew about civil rights during Black history month. By the end of the year, we were are far as the Empancipation Proclamation. I also learned that for decades Americans believed Commies were bad, but let's face it, I figured that one out in English class.

I've been really impressed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's new series. Of course it doesn't have that simple and powerful throughline of "The Civil War", but it is a great piece of work. It's collage of wartime propoganda, news reels, and layman's commentary makes a very tangible example of the American experience in all theatres of the war. I think it's especially harrowing to see how drastically America at war has changed. Now back to your regularly scheduled escapism.

4. LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton actually left the Reading Rainbow series earlier this year after the rights to the program were bought by a big education conglomerate. As a proud member of the first generation of Reading Rainbow viewers, it's impossible for me to imagine the show without LeVar. PBS likes to keep production costs low and production quality high by airing a lot of repeats, so I'm sure we'll see him again.

Burton actually installed himself quite high on the list because he gave the keynote address at my college graduation. His speech was memorable for two reasons:

1. He appeared to be genuinely greatful for the honorary degree from a tiny little liberal arts university. Most keynote speakers I've seen could care less, but LeVar seemed really proud. He left college for a little acting gig as Kunta Kinte in Roots, and never officially graduated from USC. He was so pleased by the honor, he brought his Momma along to see him "graduate".

2. He lead everyone in attendence in a spirited version of the Reading Rainbow theme song. A tent full of graduates belted out "Butterfly in the sky/I can fly twice as high!" as their parents looked on somewhat bewildered by the fact that we knew all the words. I think there was an overwhelming sigh of relief from the parents camp. It was tinged with echos of, "We installed our children in front of the TV, but yet they still managed to become literate, college graduates! Yessssssss!"

I CAN DO ANYTHING! Thanks, literacy. Thanks, LeVar!

3. George Page

You may not recognize this face, but certainly you will recognize his voice. The late Mr. Page was the host and creator of the Nature series. His voice is like a little slice of heaven, even when he is talking about animals ripping each others flesh off.

2. Oscar the Grouch

Surely Kermit the Frog is the forerunner in the Sesame Street beauty pagent. Kermit's got it all: the looks, the talent (banjo ballads), the humanitarian world view. Kermit would take the cake.

Oscar, meanwhile, may not even qualify for runner up. He's definitely running on the underdog ticket, and that makes my heart pitter patter even more fervently. Besides, everyone loves a misanthrope.

This grouch has a lot going for him. It's not easy bein' green for Oscar, but he doesn't whine about it! He gets cranky and then takes pleasure in his rotten mood. If you're still not convinced of Oscar's prowess, consider this riveting rendition of his song "I Love Trash" which proves that he fits a rather antiquated mold of being a catch:

1. He owns real estate, albeit a trash can.

2. He's fond of his mother, who gave him the tattered old sneaker

3. Oscar was an early pioneer in the sustainability movement: reusing and recycling before it was cool.

4. If he's that enthusiastic about trash... well!

1. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Mmmmmm. Mr. Darcy...

I can say no more, except to add that Masterpiece Theatre is going to broadcast all the complete works of Jane Austen in 2008 . I'll be watching Mr. Darcy will bells on. Just don't expect me to wear anything else. Ring-a-ding ding!

1 comment:

cadillac margarita said...

i haven't checked in with crowcrastination in awhile, and this entry was a fantastic surprise to discover upon investigation!

LeVar Burton being the keynote speaker at your college graduation kicks so much ass, and the fact that he was awesome makes it kick even more ass.

if i may interject an "honorable mention" contender for the hunks of pbs in the form of "where in the world is carmen san diego's own rockapella...i just love men who can harmonize.