A Closer Look At Music-Related Television This Week

Fine Tuning - Weekly column highlighting music on TV during the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2003.

"I guess that's why they call it the blues," is how the Elton John song goes. And if you pay attention this week, you'll walk away a near expert on the genre and guessing won't be needed.

It started on Sunday night and in last week's column I said what was probably enough about the musical gravity of the subject of Martin Scorcese-produced seven-part PBS series "The Blues." Lemme just say if you watch it, you won't have to sell your soul to understand its importance.

There are six episodes left, running nightly Monday through Saturday, each by a different director. In order, you'll see "The Soul of a Man" directed by Wim Wenders, "The Road to Memphis" directed by Richard Pearce, "Warming by the Devil's Fire" by director Charles Burnett, Godfathers and Sons" by Marc Levin, "Red, White and Blues" by Mike Figgis and finally, "Piano Blues" directed by Clint Eastwood.

There are simply too many artists to name here -- from blues greats such as B.B. King, Son House and Sonny Boy Williamson to contemporary figures like Eric Clapton, Chuck D and Los Lobos -- all included in this project. Check out the nightly descriptions listed in "Tunes On TV" for episode breakdowns.

Watch 'em, tape 'em and watch 'em again. Use the knowledge when you go out and buy a few discs and discover "The Blues" for yourself.

Now, "The Blues" may be the main thrust of this week, but it's far from the only music on television. Since variety is the spice of life, take note of the following highlights worth checking out:

• "Monday Night at the Mic" will debut during ABC's weekly NFL contest (Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears). You'll see football players jamming with musicians and fans can vote on who's the best -- winners are announced at the end of the third quarter of the game and move on to the next week, losers are eliminated.

This week check out Detroit Lions QB Joey Harrington with Blues Traveler's John Popper and Jason Mraz taking on San Diego Chargers DE Marcellus Wiley with Run-DMC's DMC and Vic Damone.

Sting will be all over the map. You can catch him interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes II" and "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Wednesday and "A&E's In Concert" on Friday.

R.E.M. will perform on Letterman Thursday night and NBC's "Today" on Friday morning.

John Mellencamp and Kenny Chesney will be playing one another's songs and telling stories on CMT's "Crossroads" on Friday.

• The new season of "Saturday Night Live" bows on NBC this week with John Mayer as musical guest and Tenacious D's Jack Black hosting.

Monica will guest star as the great Mary Wells on NBC's nostalgic drama "American Dreams" on Sunday.

• Sunday will also see the premiere of "Extreme History With Roger Daltrey." The lead singer of the Who opens with an episode titled "Surviving the Colorado River."

Oh yeah, Elton may not have the blues, even though he's decided to go minimalist and sell off a lot of his possessions for charity, but he will be on hand Friday to entertain on "The Tonight Show."