Something like the stinging sea nettles that annually drift up the Chesapeake Bay to annoy swimmers, the pledge pitches are once again back on Maryland Public Television.
Yes, the traditional membership period returns tonight through Aug. 25, following a one-year break from begging that MPT says did not generate enough contributions from viewers. As in the past, the outstretched palm is accompanied by a slate of special programming aimed at easing the pocketbook pinch.
Much of it is musical and much has been seen before. Donating viewers will also have a chance to vote for their favorite pledge program to be repeated on the final "Member's Choice" night of the drive.
Media Monitor's vote for the most interesting special of the period comes late in the drive. It's "Elvis '56," a splendid, haunting documentary about the year in which Elvis Presley zoomed from a shy, religious young man to a major star. It is scheduled at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. (Speaking of Elvis, see next item below for another Presley outing, on TV tonight.)
Other highlights in the early days of the pledge drive (on channels 22 and 67) include:
* "Songs of the Civil War," at 7:30 tonight, with Richie Havens, Judy Collins, Waylon Jennings and others.
* "Simon and Garfunkel: Concert in Central Park," at 11 p.m. Thursday.
* "Cerreras, Domingo & Pavarotti," at 9 p.m. Friday.
* "In the Hank Williams Tradition," at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
* "A Tribute to Harry Chapin," at 8 p.m. Saturday.
* "Roger Whittaker: Live from the Tivoli," at 1 p.m. Sunday.
DOES HE YET LIVE? -- Psychologists would call it classic denial, but for TV it's just another speculative opportunity to mine the rich lode of die-hard Elvis fans out there.
In "The Elvis Files," a two-hour syndicated program at 8 tonight on WNUV-Channel 54, host Bill Bixby (a co-star with Elvis in his films "Speedway" and "Clambake") explores the notion that the singer is still alive. Press materials even refer to the show's scheduling as occurring, "two days before the 14th anniversary of 'The King's' alleged death."
Did Elvis fake his death because he was an undercover agent for the government? Is he living secretly (like Steve Martin in "My Blue Heaven") under the government's Witness Protection Program? Do you care?
The convoluted conspiracy theory will get a workout in the show, which is being broadcast live from the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Among the guests is author Gail Brewer-Giorgio, who wrote the book "Is Elvis Alive?" Viewers will even have a chance to participate in a telephone poll on the question.
The documentary "Graceland" follows at 10 p.m.