Aiming at the Stars

Two Wheat Ridge women try to plug into the miracle of TV fame.

Recently, on an obscure cable-TV channel, dedicated amateur Tonja Roi--the co-host of Cineview--took her best shot:

After a clip from the action yarn The Long Kiss Goodnight, in which Geena Davis plays a CIA assassin, a "robber" burst onto the set of the public-access TV show and snatched Roi's purse. She promptly pulled out a gun and shot the poor bastard, while co-host Suzette Dederich poutily declaimed, "Somebody get that guy off the floor--he's bleeding."

Denver's only public-access movie-review show--sort of a nutso version of Siskel and Ebert's shtick--is on the air from beautiful downtown Wheat Ridge. It airs on Channel 57 in Denver, but if Roi has her way, she'll be doing her thing in the mainstream.

The two friends--with practically no prior TV experience between them--have contrasting styles. Roi dominates the show with her gleaming white teeth, aggressive persona and explosive, obnoxious laughter. She sometimes refers to it as "Chicks on Flicks." Dederich is the quiet sidekick, verging between shyness and aloofness.

"She kind of tones me down--maybe just a little," says the 36-year-old Roi. "I wouldn't want it any other way. I have to know what's going on and push, push, push. She's more relaxed. It's a good balance."

Roi's please-like-my-show intensity provides the propulsion. She believes in TV. In fact, Maury Povich turned her world upside down.

It was seven years ago, and housewife Roi had just gotten home from picking up one of her children from school. Tired, she went downstairs to catch a few minutes of talk-show TV.

"Maury Povich had these three women on telling about this television show they had on in Chicago," Roi recalls. "And I said, 'Oh, my God! I want a television show!' Honest to God, I saw that and it was like my calling--going downstairs to turn on the television. It changed my life."

Today Roi is co-hosting her second show on a cable public-access channel. And Cineview--as well as anyone can tell, since nobody keeps ratings in the public-access world--may be a local hit. New episodes have aired every three to four weeks since its premiere last summer, and the show's audience has grown steadily. Roi and Dederich receive upwards of forty fan letters a month--even if viewers are as interested in getting free movie passes as they are in watching the reviews.

The two are trying to make a name for themselves around town, doling out the passes and hosting sneak previews. They plan to have a column in one of the daily papers' weekly bilingual inserts. They even have plans to go online next month.

Stan Li, program coordinator for Denver's DCTV cable-access operation, picked up the Wheat Ridge show at the end of last year. "Every time, their production values have improved," Li approvingly says. "They have a new director and they do chroma key, which is kind of like a blue screen. It's a step above what people normally do. They do something a little bit different."

The show airs in Denver at 5 p.m. Tuesday and 7 p.m. Saturday; it airs other times of the week on cable systems in Wheat Ridge, Northglenn, Thornton and Boulder. Though the odds seem slim that Cineview will rise above the minor league of public access and be picked up by the networks or cable, that's what the show's two scrappy hosts are shooting for.

"Siskel and Ebert are boring," says Roi. "They need to get off the air. We've seen enough movies to where we know what's going to keep you interested and not."

They also know to throw in enough sight gags to keep their viewers interested in them as well. Many jokes play off the show's tone of heroic women. "It kind of started out that way," says Dederich, 35. "We really do want to promote women as far as being part of any profession they want to be."

Ironically, Dederich says they get more positive feedback from men than women. Men take a lot of abuse on the show: In one episode, cameraman Greg Allan is tied up and asked to give his opinion about a film, but before he can utter two words, Roi tapes his mouth shut. On another show, two men in togas stand behind the hosts, fanning them as they read a fan letter.

The letter, which is from a man, reads: "Sometimes I tend to think you two lean toward reviewing too many chick flicks. And is it just my imagination, or do you kind of portray men as being on a lower level?" At that moment, one of the toga boys drops to his knee to feed Roi a peanut.

Don't expect Roi and Dederich to take serious movies too seriously, either. A grim revenge drama such as Sleepers is graded down because the "subject matter is a big downer," while Whoopi Goldberg's dubious gender-switch comedy, The Associate, rates very well (other than the opening, which Dederich complains was "heavy into stock-market information") because it "just felt good--we need more of those movies."

Bad movies warrant the "Goober Dance," in which the hosts toss the chocolate-raisin snacks onto the floor and stomp on them. Good movies receive five movie concession "stars": Goobers, a Coke, nachos, popcorn and a hot dog.

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