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TV highlights April 27 

AMERICAN INVENTOR
8 p.m. Thursday, April 27
ABC (Comcast Ch. 8,
Broadcast Ch. 7)

n For better or for worse, America is a country of inventors. While that has led to such breakthroughs as the electric light bulb and the airplane, it has also meant shelves crammed full of junk we don’t need: the electric poop-scooper, the pocket fisherman and that city-block-sized bread maker you got for Christmas last year and used exactly once. Here, ABC finds a way to tap into both the craze for “American Idol” and the urge to invent with this new reality show. From a pool of thousands of applicants, a panel of judges has whittled down a group of inventors to 20 whose ideas were most workable. Each will be given $50,000 to develop their product, with the one judged as the best being awarded $1 million and a manufacturing contract. Highlights include a spherical child safety seat, a portable gym and a radically new kind of bicycle.

TEXAS RANCH HOUSE
7 p.m. Monday, May 1
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2)

n Everyone, at some time or another, has wondered what it would be like to travel back in time — to live, even for a little while, the way our ancestors did. Here, in first of a four-consecutive-night mini-series, PBS helps several families of would-be time travelers scratch their itch for the old West, depositing them on a Texas ranch that recreates to the tiniest detail life as it would have been lived in the 1870s. As in the previous incarnations of the PBS “House” Series — “1900 House,” “Frontier House,” “1940 House” and “Colonial House” — this includes stripping the participants of all modern conveniences and making them live “in period” for a month, wearing only period clothes, traveling by horse-drawn transportation, using only period-appropriate medicine and hygiene products, and cooking on a wood-fired stove. This week, the families arrive on the ranch and are soon learning the finer — and sometimes painful — points of herding cattle on horseback.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: JOSE ANTONIO NAVARRO
9 p.m. Monday, May 1
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2)

n Though fans of Lone Star State history and lore surely remember such names as Sam Houston and Jim Bowie, one figure integral to the battle for Texas independence and eventual entry into the United States has been largely forgotten: Jose Antonio Navarro. The son of Spanish nobles, Navarro was one of the first to advocate Texas sovereignty, eventually becoming one of only three Mexican-native signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Later captured by Mexican forces during the Battle of Santa Fe, Navarro was able to escape after more than a year of torturous imprisonment and return to Texas, where he rejoined his troops and helped turn the tide of the war. Afterward, he helped write the state constitution in 1845, and served several terms in the state senate. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, tune in to learn more about the life of this early Texas hero.

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