A Closer Look At Music-Related Television This Week

Fine Tuning - Weekly column highlighting music on TV during the week of Aug. 4-10, 2003.

As we get into the dog days of summer, life slows down a bit. The same generally goes for television, which used to mean only reruns, but now means seasonal reality shows. Still, within the hazy, heat-laden clutter, you'll find some musical gems to be seen and heard on the glowing box of love.

Let's start with "Pepsi Smash." Heading into its fourth week, the WB music series continues to astound with the talent it lines up each week. This Wednesday look for the Foo Fighters, Mya, the Neptunes' Pharrell with the Clipse and Spy Mob, and Jason Mraz. C'mon people! We're talking about an all around pop music show. It's covering all the bases! And, it's hosted weekly by another hot actor or celebrity, as evidenced this week by "Bad Boys II" co-star Gabrielle Union.

On the same night, Fox will lay down a challenge for eyeballs with its broadcast of the 2003 Teen Choice Awards. The event will feature appearances and/or performances by LL Cool J, Tyrese, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Evanescence and Hilary Duff. Also look for "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest among the gaggle of actors and celebrities who also grace the stage.

Even with all that star power, my choice pick for the week comes Thursday night on the Sundance Channel. Tune in for the first episode of "Keeping Time: New Music From America's Roots," a new series focusing on artists who are carrying the torch for the various styles of music born and bred in this country.

This segment will present four artists that tap their spirituality in their music, and they range from gospel turn by alt-country singer/songwriter Gillian Welch to neo-klezmer bandleader Andy Statman. Also featured will be pedal steel hotshot Robert Randolph & the Family Band and Native American vocal group Ulali. No matter your musical tastes, broad knowledge leads to deeper understanding and more enjoyment. This series promises to both inform and challenge.

Runner-up for must-watch musical programming is Lyle Lovett's appearance on PBS' "Soundstage" (check local listings for night and time). This freshman series has rarely failed to entertain, and this will be no exception as Lovett performs music featured on his Curb/MCA compilation "Smile." The album consists of songs he's covered for film soundtracks over the years, many from the great American songbook, including "Summer Wind," "Mack the Knife" and "Walking Tall." He'll be joined by Randy Newman and trumpeter Mark Isham, making the performance that much more compelling.

On the night owl scene, either stay up or set the VCR, Tivo or whatever gizmo you've got to catch NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" most night's this week. You won't be disappointed when you catch performances by Black Eyed Peas (Monday), Widespread Panic (Tuesday), Jewel (Wednesday) and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Thursday). That's a lineup that might even be worth sitting through a few of Jay's monologues!

Of course he's not the only one feeding sound to bloodshot eyes and ears. You might want to catch Blues Traveler's John Popper visiting Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"on Tuesday or Dashboard ConfessionalThursday night on CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman." And Carson Daly's got the Donnas Friday night on "Last Call" (NBC), which will be worth tuning in for if you're just getting home or suffering from insomnia.

That's it for now... Just be sure there are fresh batteries in the remote and snacks in the fridge.