TVW needs juicier shows to snag viewers

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OLYMPIA — I like TVW, I really do.

The state’s public-private public affairs network brings us gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Washington Legislature as well as many other entities that use gavels.

Founded in 1995 by now-U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, recently retired state budget director Stan Marshburn and the late Sen. Jeannette Hayner of Walla Walla, the network has evolved to include staff-produced programming — interview shows, review shows, documentaries on controversial issues, conversations with state authors and the like.

But it still suffers a bit from a reputation for wonkishness. After all, it takes a certain intensity of interest to watch a rerun of the House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee.

For me, watching TVW during the evenings or on weekends is something of a busman’s holiday — you know, doing something on your off hours that you get paid for doing during the day.

If only the managers could let TVW evolve into something more familiar to cable surfers. Taking the lead of American broadcast and cable networks couldn’t help but broaden the audience to viewers not yet consumed by government and politics.

These programs are not yet rated, so viewer discretion is strongly advised:

• Chopped” — Each week, new Senate Ways & Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill eliminates a different social program in order to “fund education first.”

• “House” — Irrascible-but-brilliant Speaker of the House Frank Chopp diagnoses the problems with everyone else’s bills and rewrites them before he agrees to let them out of the Rules Committee.

• “Call of the Wildman” — This Animal Planet program features host Rep. Joel Kretz, who this week relocates a family of wolves from his Northeast Washington district to Mercer Island.

• “American Experience: The Abolitionists” — The story of Seattle liberals and their decades-long campaign to eliminate high school graduation requirements.

• “Great Performances” — This week, Sen. Pam Roach performs her one-woman tour de force “The Caucus” in which she explains how all state problems emanate from the time when then-Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla pretended to “moon” her.

• “Pawn Stars”— This History Channel smash hit features state Reps. Jan Angel and Linda Kochmar deciding how to price an upcoming auction of the state’s bridges, buildings and institutions.

• “The Taste” — Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain mentors newbie Gov. Jay Inslee. This week’s challenge: Secret Sauce.

• “The Big Bucks Theory” — What happens when business and labor lobbyists compete to see who can be the first to discover the origin of greed.

• “New Girl” — The wacky adventures of Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a young Republican forced to share the statewide elected office with a bunch of Democratic men.

• “Shameless” — Drama featuring a family of campaign consultants.

• “The 206” — Seattle-centric sketch comedy show starring host Ed Murray and a cast of your favorite madcap lawmakers from the Emerald City.

• “Rick Steves’ Washington” — The public television travel guru gives viewers a preview of the best places in the state to score some legal pot.

• “Judge Barbara” — Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen explains how the court can order the Legislature to increase funding for public education while making it nearly impossible to raise taxes.

• “Antique Roadways” — The Senate Transportation Committee meets to reject calls to increase the gas tax.

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