By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM

It's almost surprising that PBS' "American Masters" look at Jeff Bridges comes at a time when he has two movies out in the theaters, one of them -- "True Grit" -- last weekend's biggest movie.

Usually, these "American Masters" episodes look at an artist or performer are looks backward at someone who's no longer part of the scene.

But while this 90-minute documentary does look backward at a 40-year career, it shows an actor whose every performance is a prelude to the next.

It's a pretty inclusive catalog of Bridges' major roles, with plenty of attention to the one that gives the documentary its name, "The Dude" in the Coen Brothers' 1998 film, "The Big Lebowski."

"I do have a bit of 'The Dude' in me," Bridges admits early in the documentary.

As for revelations about what makes Bridges tick, I didn't see many.

I don't think Bridges did either.

As he puts it, "When I really think about it, I really don't know who I am either. Really, I don't know what I am, I don't know who I am ... That feels very comforting to me."

There is something comforting about Bridges, both on the big screen and in this small-screen biography. 

While he's a man with many levels and talents -- music, art and, of course, acting -- he doesn't come across as a complicated artist. That's part of his skill.

"The Dude Abides" airs at 7 tonight on Channel 10. It repeats at 8:30 am. Friday on MPTV World (Channel 10.2 over the air, and Channel 976 on Time Warner Cable.)

Here's a sample:

On TV: Tickets go on sale at noon Friday for Kathy Griffin's two shows on Feb. 19 at the Riverside Theater, which will be taped for a Bravo special to air later this year. Reserved seats are $35.

  • Tuesday's installment of TNT's "Southland" featured a subplot clearly ripped from the headlines in Wisconsin, where a group of women took revenge on a cheating husband by applying glue to a sensitive area. The episode repeats tonight at 10.
  • Monday night's BCS championship game between the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks pulled in 27.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. That makes it the most-watched cable broadcast ever, beating the Oct. 5 Packers-Vikings game, the previous record holder with 21.8 million viewers.
  • Fox has given an early second-season order to "Raising Hope."
  • The Hollywood Reporter says FX and Starz say they're not interested in airing the controversial JFK docudrama already rejected by History Channel. There's still talk of it landing on Showtime.
  • ABC's pre-Oscar show from the red carpet is being expanded from the usual half hour to 90 minutes, so it can compete with red carpet shows on E! Entertainment TV and the TV Guide Channel. It'll air at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 on Channel 12.

Looking for donations: The Third Coast Digest Internet magazine is soliciting donations from its readers.

The ad-supported site posted this: "We keep hearing from our readers (you guys) that they (you, again) love us and will do whatever it takes to support us … If you mean that literally, this is where you put your money where your mouth is."

Jon Anne Willow, editor-in-chief and co-publisher of TCD, tells me "it's definitely not a sign of financial difficulty."

"We had a great year in 2010. Instead, it's a direct response to reader feedback asking how they could support us. I think because we're such a niched site and because a lot of what we cover (arts and culture) is within the non-profit sector, there's a line of thinking about readers contributing directly to us that's unique to what we do -- and we definitely appreciate the sentiment."

She says there isn't something the site is "pushing hard." And that donations have been in the $5 to $25 range.

"And since everyone who donates gets swag, this is definitely more about engagement than meaningful revenue."

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.