New shows aim to help handymen and cooks

Hometime PBS, Saturdays, starting Nov. 1, check local listings for air time. Presented by WHYY, Philadelphia. Good Health from Jane Brody's Kitchen PBS, Saturdays, starting Oct. 25, 3:30-4 p.m., check local listings. Presented by KERA, Dallas. Just as Saturday morning is kiddie time on commercial TV, Saturday afternoon is becoming homemaker time on PBS.

Public Broadcasting Service rounds out its new schedule with two Saturday programs that will air in the afternoon in most areas.

If you're all thumbs, better take a nap when ``Hometime'' airs. This new 13-part series assumes you'll want to do all your own home repairs and improvements -- except maybe things like laying the foundation for a new addition or running new electrical circuits.

With businessman Dean Johnson and do-it-yourselfer/actress Peggy Knapp as hosts, ``Hometime'' offers step-by-step instructions in everything from exterior painting (premi`ere show) to replacing roofs, siding, windows, and doors and redoing bathrooms. Ms. Knapp's acting experience stands her in good stead as she makes her chores believable; Mr. Johnson comes across as a knowledgeable but wooden host.

Based on a screening of the initial show, however, they'd better get their chronology in order: The do-it-yourselfers were already painting the house when they remembered to tell viewers to use drop cloths to protect the area around it. It might be a good idea to lay it all out for the viewer before showing the project underway.

Just to keep the show from becoming boring, a field reporter intersperses bits of interesting data: why barns are painted red; how San Francisco trims its Victorian houses.

A warning: ``Hometime'' is not about minor repair jobs like fixing doorknobs. It's about the big jobs most of us five-thumbers automatically assign to expensive contractors. So those viewers who are used to the attitude of ``let the contractor do it while I watch,'' an approach often seen in the PBS series ``This Old House,'' should be aware that they start a project at their own risk.

Additional help will be available, however, in the form of videotape. In fact, ``Hometime'' may represent a kind of PBS wave of the future: An expanded home video of each episode will be for sale through local PBS stations and hardware stores for around $10. Johnson just happens also to be the president of Invision, the video publishing house that produces the tapes.

Jane Brody, health columnist for the New York Times, brings her approach to a new 10-part series that attempts to show that nourishing foods can also be tasty.

If the first of the series is any indication, however, she needs to demonstrate that nourishing, tasty food can also look appetizing. The focus is on micronutrients that nutritionists consider healthful, as she prepares an eggplant-cheese pie with a zucchini crust, a citrus and spinach salad, and a three-C (cabbage, caraway, and carrot) soup.

No junk food for her!

There is a no-nonsense approach to the preparation: Brody shows you how to do it and then the finished product. There's no phony ``And now let's see what it looks like,'' as the oven door is opened ceremoniously.

The programs are produced under the guidance of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Besides Brody in the kitchen, nutritionist David Watts gives short advice segments. Future shows will concentrate on low-sodium dishes, protein-rich menus, cooking for kids, low-fat cooking, potatoes, fiber, even exercise. Ms. Brody's orientation, in fact, emphasizes what researchers consider a healthful life-style as much as cooking.

There's a nice country sound to the background guitar music, but if you're expecting a Texas sound to the show, be you'll be disappointed. Jane Brody's accent is as New York as a pastrami sandwich.

And I must admit that all that fiber food had me yearning for a decadent pastrami sandwich.

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