The Reader's Eye on Television

As a child, I traveled with my family along the dreary road from Budapest to Bucharest. We were the animal caretakers in the "Csodálatos Cirkusz" -- the "Wonderful Circus." I was born into it, wagon wheels carrying me over loose stones and puddles. Communism was hard on Hungary and Romania. Many snowy nights I slept on concrete, beneath the statues of Russian war heroes. My parents slept in line to buy bread and milk for my sister and me. In the morning, I would feed the tigers, bears, and hyenas what scraps I could collect from local butchers; sometimes only bones.

After several winters, the animals died. The checks from Mother Moscow slowly died, too. Cages emptied, steel bent, and wood splintered along the cracked and rocky road. The wagons were fixed, as best we could, and made into carts. The carts broke and were made into sleds to drag the old and sick performers through the weathered mountain passes.

A mime went to sleep and didn't wake up. In a note I found the next day, he declared that I should have his unicycle. From village to village I cycled, wobbly at first but steady over time. While on the unicycle, I carried a gypsy woman's sick dog, and while I did, she lent me face paint and a red-and-yellow cloak with fringe and tassels on its selvedge. In my outfit, and with my sick dog, I was the last "Csodálatos Bohóc," the last "Wonderful Clown."

My sister carried the heavy sign of our circus on her back. I carried the dog. The gypsy woman died. We had everything we needed. We propped the sign between the unicycle and a nearby rock for shelter. Village families gave us borscht and underwear. We paraded from capital to capital, the three of us -- the dog, my sister, and me -- a Wonderful Circus.

When I was 12 and my sister 10, a French woman in a white car stopped to pick us up. We left the sign, dog, and unicycle on the road that day, and we didn't stop driving until we were in Paris. In her flat, overlooking the river Seine, I saw a television for the first time.

Now I sit in front of my square cabinet of light, my own television, watching pictures of people laugh and dance, and I remember my unicycle and dog.

Thursday, February 15 Tom and Jerry TOON 8:30 a.m. You know that's all B.S., right? I wasn't born in Eastern Europe. I'm from California. I wasn't in a circus. Instead, I sat on a carpeted floor in front of a big console Zenith and watched G.I. Joe and Transformers and Alf like the rest of you. God, you're gullible.

2007 Grammy Awards Fashion Wrap With Joan & Melissa TVGC 1:00 p.m. Why the hell do we need two weeks of Grammy coverage? What was cool about the Grammys, or any awards show, was that it was one special night, like your 12th birthday or the first night you tried cocaine. (Hmm...which was the same night for me. Anyway, moving on...) I say we have year-round Grammy and Oscar coverage. So even the Wal-Mart and Disney crowd gets sick to death of Horse Face and Horse Face Junior giving their ( neeheehee! ) unbridled opinion on accessory do's and don'ts.

Friday, February 16 Watch Over Me My Network TV 9:00 p.m. I prayed once. In a Rio de Janeiro favela. There was a drug deal going wrong. A machete was pounded against an unsteady nightstand. Dear God, help me out here. Against everything I knew, against my atheist nature, and against all probability the plywood door was swung open and I was spit out into the wet-trash-and-beer-bottle gutter with all my limbs and digits still intact.

Saturday, February 17 The First Wives Club USA 11:00 a.m. Three dried-up Coach handbags drive their brand new luxury automobiles to a luncheon, where they sip martinis, talk of their next cosmetic surgery procedure, and plot revenge on the men who afforded them this lifestyle, without whom the old bats would still be receptionists for an insurance agency and struggling to make rent on a three-bedroom townhouse where they all live with only their cats, bubble baths, and bitter tea.

Midnight Madness ESPN 9:00 p.m. Midnight comes a little earlier now that ESPN is 27 years old. Those days of throwing up on its gray Dartmouth hooded sweatshirt and getting up in enough time to polish off the rest of last night's pizza and still make it to the game are gone. Now ESPN has a white-collar job and wife it can barely stand, and it pretends to be asleep at 10:00 p.m. ESPN hasn't seen midnight since New Year's Eve, and even then, it only had a little bit of champagne and a slice of pita with hummus. Oh, how it longs for those glory days.

Sunday, February 18 Dudley Do-Right USA 10:00 a.m. What the hell happened to Brendan Fraser? One minute he's that handsome Jewish kid in an important movie about anti-Semitism in an Ivy League university. The next minute he's in a score of slapstick kids' movies released directly to Beta. He must've pissed off the mafia of Hollywood producers. Tomorrow catch him at The Coffee Bean on La Brea; he'll be the barista who serves a flip of his untamable mane with every large latte.

Monday, February 19 Heroes NBC 9:00 p.m. I've been trying to pick my super power for a couple weeks now. Everything cool is already taken: super strength, flying, invisibility, mind control, and such. I'm going for the less-than-obvious but helpful-in-a-real-world-situation ability of picking the fastest moving line at the grocery store. How many hours? How many hours have I already wasted yelling, "NOW? Now is when you're going to rummage through that buckskin bowling bag to find a damned coupon, you withered hen?!"

Tuesday, February 20 Ray FX 7:00 p.m. Handicapped from birth by schmaltzy, rock-movie-cliché writing, Jamie Foxx overcomes his disability. He faces his challenges of terrible plot devices and bedraggled leitmotifs to become the greatest impersonator of a talented musician ever, in spite of these blinding screenplay afflictions.

Wednesday, February 21 American Idol FOX 8:00 p.m. Ah, damn. The nut bats and moon cookies are out, and the real contest starts. Screw this. I want the ding-dongs in tuxedo T-shirts caterwauling a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard rendition of "Afternoon Delight," not the half-talented hopefuls with a smidge of stage presence and a vanilla version of "Let's Get It On." I guess I'll wait until next season to see more delusional fruit pots. Bummer.

Thursday, February 22 Juvies MTV 10:00 p.m. An MTV program about how teenagers, unaccustomed to society and treating their life as if it's disposable, are sent to juvenile detention. The irony, MTV. The stiff irony of it all.

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