By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Aug 03, 2011 at 11:00 AM

The seemingly endless "reality" TV show known as the debt ceiling debate finally came to an end Tuesday as the president signed the bill to finish this – for now, anyway.

The important part of all this, as it played out on the news channels and the network newscasts, is that it exposed just how polarized the nation's legislative system had become. Not only do we have the usual Democratic-Republican divide, but there's the Tea Party Republicans wagging the elephant's tail, calling for revolution and then proclaiming they wouldn't vote for the bill.

Add to that the countless hours of analysis, the staple of cable, which added little light to this long, dark tunnel that either meant economic collapse, or wasn't really a big deal, depending on which talking head was doing the talking.

But then, as the House of Representatives voted on the plan that ends this chapter, a ray of light appeared on the TV screen. If you didn't see it live, which is likely, it was hard to miss as it replayed over and over.

Gabrielle Giffords had returned to the work to cast her "yes" vote, just in case she was needed to get it passed (she wasn't, since it went through 269-161). The Arizona representative is still deep in recovery from an attack that almost killed her.

And there she was, surrounded by smiling colleagues, back at work – if just for the day.

It was one of those TV moments that stand out, and it comes after lots of dismal news, from the congressional debacle to the end of the Space Shuttle program (a coincidence that seems to have added to our gnawing national malaise.)

On Monday, Gabby Giffords offered a brief shining on-camera moment of hope. It's one of those things that only TV can convey.

Here's the video:

On TV: is reporting the latest scenario for the Charlie Sheen-less "Two and a Half Men," with reporter Nellie Andreeva saying "I have been able to confirm" that the season will open with Sheen's Charlie Harper's funeral. We'll see on Sept. 19.

  • Don't forget Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food Nation" visits Milwaukee at 8 tonight. It repeats at 11 p.m.
  • Syfy's "Warehouse 13" has been picked up for a fourth season.
  • Bravo has given "Real Housewives of Orange County" another season.
  • MSNBC has extended Rachel Maddow's contract for several years, assuring that its only host with an audience in excess of 1 million will be around through next year's presidential election. Her show airs at 8 p.m. weeknights.
  • SiriusXM satellite radio is honoring Lucille Ball's 100th birthday on Saturday with "Redhead Radio" this weekend on Channel 82. It will air live from the annual Lucy Fest in her hometown of Jamestown, N.Y.

Leave it to Jimmy Kimmel: ABC late night funny guy Jimmy Kimmel has combined the conclusion of his own network's "The Bachelorette," (Ashley Hebert picked J.P. Rosenbaum and sent Ben Flajnik packing) with the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week'"

Here's the result:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.