August 19 at 8 on Discovery Times Channel
In the wake of Spellbound (the hit documentary about spelling bee competitors) and Cinemania (the one about New York cinephiles) comes another entertaining portrait of obsessive Americans. Word Wars chronicles four Scrabble champions—grown men who see anagrams in their sleep and structure their lives around a game most of us played casually, if at all, with our parents. Family man Joe practices tai chi and meditation, dreadlocked Marlon calls himself “a pre-Mecca Malcolm who plays Scrabble,” Matt’s a stand-up comic with a penchant for gambling, and Joel is plagued with such bad digestive problems that he burps up bile and swills stomach medication even while in competition.
August 19 at 9 on PBS
The Olympics makes a big glossy show of international unity. Meanwhile, the refugees of Western Sahara, stranded in desert camps for decades after a failed attempt to gain sovereignty from Morocco decades ago, stage an annual marathon to attract the world’s attention and sympathy through sports. The filmmakers follow one local runner and one Spanish athlete who race through dust storms and heat, but mostly they use the marathon as a backdrop for the tale of a forgotten people.
August 29 through September 4 at 9 on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (check local listings)
Alternative media groups like Paper Tiger, Deep Dish TV, and Indymedia have come together to produce this week-long cable show meant to provide a critical view of the Republican convention, including coverage of protests and forums around the city.
THE DAILY SHOW INDECISION 2004
August 30 through September 2 at 11 on Comedy Central
If you need a little levity to get you through the convention, plop yourself down in front of Jon Stewart, safe in the knowledge that he and his correspondents will make Republicans look a lot sillier than the protesters. Maybe Rob Corddry will even give some politicians wedgies.