Cable stations observe today as 'Mummy's Day' Viewing: A&E brings you the mysteries of ancient Egypt, and TBS looks at the Inca body preserved on a mountain in Peru.

On the Air

June 23, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

It's an occasion that would somehow seem more appropriate for the second Sunday in May, but for a reason only they understand, two cable TV operations seem to have settled on today as "Mummy's Day."

(OK, I know it's a lame play on words, but it got your attention, didn't it?)

The fun begins at 8 p.m. on Arts & Entertainment with episode No. 1 of "Mummies," a two-part, four-hour look at ancient Egyptian history through the preserved remains of their leaders.

Tonight's episode, which airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., looks at the process of mummification itself: How -- and why -- did the Egyptians do it? Why were all the internal organs removed from the body, save the heart? And could just anyone become a mummy?

The episode also looks at the pyramids, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing (although the wear-and-tear caused by pollution and tourists could end up doing what the centuries could not).

And in a real crowd pleaser, the show uses computers to show what the Giza plateau looked like 30 centuries ago -- as well as what the Sphinx looked like in his younger days, well before Napoleon's men decided to blow his nose off.

Episode No. 2, which airs from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow, looks at ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It ends with looks at the most famous of all the Egyptian tombs, that of King Tut, as well as the more recently discovered tomb of the sons of Ramses II.

The series is narrated by Frank Langella. And by the time it's over, I can't imagine there's too much you'll still need to know about ancient Egypt and its reverence for the dead.

Which doesn't mean you should skip "Mummy Hunters," an episode of "National Geographic Explorer" airing from 9 to 10 tonight on TBS.

For one, these mummies have nothing to do with Egypt. The fascinating (though melodramatically written) opening segment, "Mystery of the Inca Mummy," tells the story of a young Inca girl found frozen atop a mountain, where she apparently had been offered as a sacrifice to the gods.

The 500-year-old de facto mummy (freezing works almost as well as anything the Egyptians ever came up with) is taken back to the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Peru, where scientists are filmed carefully removing the wool garments used to wrap the girl before she was left for the gods.

Eventually, she's taken to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where a CT-scan reveals that she did not die from exposure, as initially thought, but from a blow to the head.

More fascinating, however, is film of the expedition that found the mummified remains. Other shows may be challenging Geographic's dominance in the field, but few can match them for putting the viewer right in the center of the action: you're there as the burial site is discovered and as the girl's remains are carefully removed.

The show then ends on a bizarre note with "Pet Wrap," about a service in Salt Lake City that allows pet owners to have Fluffy's remains mummified and encased in hard plastic, so they can be forever displayed in the family home.

It's bad enough watching pet owners stroke the fur of their beloved dogs after they've been lying in a vat of preservation fluids for seven months. But the worst part comes when the price is revealed: $25,000, and that doesn't even include the fancy bronze casing that makes Fido look as if he belonged to King Tut himself.

WMAR seeks scripts

WMAR, Channel 2, has started accepting manuscripts for its 15th annual Drama Competition in celebration of Black History Month.

The competition is open to African-American playwrights and offers a $1,000 cash prize to the winner, along with an airing of the work on Channel 2 next February. The winning work will be produced in conjunction with the Arena Players.

Entries should be mailed to: Drama Competition, Public Relations Department, WMAR-TV, 6400 York Road, Baltimore, Md. 21212. Deadline: Sept. 6.

Last year's winning play was "Without a Doubt," a combination murder-mystery, corporate-power-play written by Morgan State University graduate Donald Dankwa Brooks.

WJHU exec leaving

For years, WJHU's Dennis Kita has been trying to get money out of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Beginning next month, he'll be the one doing the giving.

Kita, for five years the general manager of WJHU-FM (88.1), is leaving Baltimore to accept a position with the CPB in Washington.

A 10-year veteran of WJHU, Kita will join CPB July 8 as manager of radio projects and programming. As such, he will work with radio stations and others seeking to pay for their projects through the corporation, as well as serve as project officer for selected programs.

Last year, Kita oversaw WJHU's shift from a station concentrating on classical music and news to a news and information station -- a move that didn't thrill Baltimore's classical music lovers, but seems to have increased the station's overall ratings.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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