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Testosterone All the Time

January 16, 2003

The troubled cable channel TNN, once devoted to country lifestyle programming, then urban pop, is planning a macho make-over to attract more males and advertisers of either sex. Cable TV, like radio and magazines, has become a covey of niches catering to viewer segments including cooks, golfers and fans of the soaps. Two channels with ample talk aim for women. So it's only fair that men get a hairy channel. Obviously, Viacom can't build a 24-hour channel solely on cheerleader workouts and being Oprah-free -- it has to fill a whole day, not just a "Man Show" half-hour. But a few printable possibilities do come to mind.

The new TNN (once called the Nashville Network, then National Network) must have a fried food show, not only offering tips on proper scorching but advice on hiding uneaten veggies beneath bones and napkins. This might attract late-night infomercials for pork-rind cookers. Movies would provide evening opportunities for working guys finally to see good triumph over evil. Older Westerns and early Rocky, Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood would be staples. Two hours every night would be devoted to "Brian's Song" (the 1971 original), followed by "The Dirty Dozen" on Fridays. News programs would start and end with sports and include clips of athletes waving at the camera and saying, "Hi, Dad." NASCAR drivers would be news anchors, with closed-caption translations to English.

Machinery and tool shows would go behind the scenes at Home Depot and the Black & Decker factory. "Ask Hank" would offer survival tips for in-law visits and spousal shopping in women's wear departments yet to grasp the impatience-dampening effects of large TV screens on males.

Talk shows could mix chatter with sudden kung-fu fights, creating opportunities for new sets and carpentry tips. Advice shows would focus less on tapping the inner self than on neat projects such as re-boring a '57 Chevy 283 into a 301, creatively making over a crew cut and installing personal codes to lock TV remotes. "Tank Top Travels" would follow single men beach to beach. And a show called "American Idle" would highlight imaginative Sunday chore-shirkers.

Health shows might work -- "Avoiding Fruits" or "Five-Minute Lay-Z-Boy Workouts," along with "Bulldozer Battles," "When Things Explode" and "Downstairs Bicycle Racing." A sure hit would be "Who Wants to Win a Million Beers?"; this show would pit a man who quotes obscure movie lines against an opponent who names the films. The loser must lunch with Regis Philbin and have a one-hour private session on relationships with Dr. Phil.

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