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WEIRD & WILD: Spock/Kirk & Elvis & CES -- oh, my!
January 6, 2009  | By Diane Werts

Let Bianculli cover the network biggies. I prefer sifting through the more obscure sands of cable/satellite to find peculiar jewels among the junk.

Like a new Shatner's Raw Nerve where the BIO host pokes away at old Trek second Leonard Nimoy. Or PBS' fresh Make: recycling how-to, where old VCRs get turned into kitty feeding machines. Or G4's live CES coverage of the hottest electronics. Or, from TV Land, the inevitable Elvis.

Who needs the networks, eh?

Here's just a taste of what's coming up, in this first full week of the year:

nimoy shatner raw nerve.jpgShatner's Raw Nerve (Tuesday at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET, BIO) -- How shocked were we when the infamously self-interested William Shatner turned out to be a sensitive, probing and good-listener chat host? Shut up! This week, the Shat sits face-to-face with '60s Star Trekcostar Leonard Nimoy, whom we'd pegged as the sensitive, probing listener, as evidenced by his film directing, many writings and acclaimed photography. Go figure. And go figure these two together in this intimate, let-it-all-hang-out setting. Not "logical," as Spock would say. But "fascinating." (Miss it? Nimoy's appearance repeats on BIO next Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. ET.)

make tv vcr kitty feeder.jpgMAKE: television (check this week's local PBS listings) -- This spinoff of the helpful webmag inspires us to spot treasure in our trash. Now you can learn "how to make a fully functional pneumatic T-shirt cannon/Burrito Blaster in the privacy of your own living room"! Better yet, use that old VCR motor to create an automated feline feeder, as explained in this week's premiere, along with bicycles built from dumpster dives. Then try them yourself by following illustrated step-by-step instructions online and/or viewing or downloading videos posted free all over the web, at makezine.tv, YouTube, iTunes, LegalTorrents.com, etc. (Local premieres include New York's WLIW Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET, San Francisco's KQED Saturday at 8 a.m. PT, and Washington's WETA Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET. Check local listings in other cities.)

CES 09 logo.jpgCES 2009 (Thursday-Friday 6-9 p.m. ET/PT, G4) -- Ogle all the cutting-edge goodies from this week's Consumer Electronics Show, with news announcements, product demos, press conferences, interviews and more, from 2,700 exhibitors in 30 product categories. Attack of the Showhosts Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn lead the coverage from "the #1 podcasted cable network in America," as G4 boasts. That means you can also ogle online (G4tv.com, iTunes, Zune, etc.), via mobile (Verizon VCAST, iPhone), through gaming portals (Wii, PS3), et al.

Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii poster.jpgThe King's Birthday Bash (Thursday 9 p.m.-midnight ET, TV Land) -- Imagine a 74-year-old Elvis Presley. That's what we'd be seeing this week, had The Pelvis not perished in 1977. This "prime"-centric cabler thinks its target audience of young boomers cares. (Really?) So they're encoring their own Myths and Legends: Elvis (9 and 11:30 p.m.) and the personal tribute Elvis by the Presleys (9:30 p.m.). Not enough Elvis for you? Try other Thursday airings by Turner Classic Movies (seven straight Presley pictures from 7:30 a.m. ET), BIO (Priscilla Presley bio at 9 a.m. ET), and yes, even QVC (5-6 p.m. ET). Comcast On Demand offers the additional thrill of anytime karaoke to Elvis' Suspicious Minds and Heartbreak Hotel. Start singing!

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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post