By FRAZIER MOORE
AP Television Writer
What could you learn about reality while immersing yourself for months in virtual reality?
Filmmaker Douglas Gayeton ponders life's big issues by means of a digital surrogate in "Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey," premiering 8 p.m. Thursday on Cinemax.
Its premise is simple. Gayeton delves into the online virtual world called Second Life for an extended stay, professing to have left real life behind.
"Whatever connection I once had to that carbon-based world is now gone," he claims, while his avatar, Molotov Alva, journeys far and wide in this alternate realm, trying to figure things out.
Billed as the first documentary shot entirely in virtual reality, this half-hour meditation seems to be the creation of Molotov Alva, who captures footage of Second Life's sights with the camera he totes.
Meanwhile, he contemplates such issues as the "reality" of standing on a virtual-reality beach. There is no crunchy feeling to the sand, no salty scent in the air. It's up to his sense-memory to fill in the gaps.
"But what would become of this place after my memories faded?" he wonders. Without memories to give life to the artifice of Second Life, how could this digital facsimile sustain him? Unless, maybe, "after my 'first life' memories were gone, I would no longer miss what I'd lost."
Maybe you're a Second Life regular. Or maybe talk of avatars and virtual worlds leaves you cold. No matter. This "Search for the Creator" is whimsical, thought-provoking and visually arresting. Even when experienced from the real-life couch in your living room, it's a trip.
Other shows to look out for:
- Better get your head out of that virtual sand long enough to do something nice for mom in a real-life way on Mother's Day. NBC marks the centennial of this holiday with "America's Favorite Mom," airing 7 p.m. Sunday. During the broadcast, one lucky mom will be crowned, based on online voting, from semifinalists in five categories: Military Mom, Working Mom, Single Mom, Unconventional Mom and Stay-At-Home Mom. Prizes for the winning mom include $250,000 in cash. Donny and Marie Osmond are hosts of the one-hour special.
- World-renowned climber and filmmaker David Breashears returns to the scene of Mount Everest's worst tragedy in "Storm Over Everest," airing 9 p.m. Tuesday on PBS (check local listings). This two-hour "Frontline" combines original cinematography with dramatic recreations of the weather of May 10, 1996, when a ferocious storm hit the mountain, trapping three climbing teams near the top of the world's highest peak.
In the film, survivors recount the progress of those expeditions as they approached the prized summit, then felt the weather deteriorate, within minutes, from favorable to deadly. Hurricane-strength winds reached 80 mph, and temperatures plunged to minus 30. Breashears (who was making his third ascent, leading an IMAX film team) assisted in the rescue effort. Five climbers died before the ordeal was over.
(Airing May 20, "Left for Dead: Miracle on Everest" tells the related story of Lincoln Hall, who, after reaching Everest's summit in June 2006, fell victim to cerebral edema and severe frostbite, and was given up for dead by his Sherpa guides. Then he lived to tell the tale. This documentary airs on National Geographic Channel.)
- "Maxed Out" reached theaters a bit more than a year ago. Since then, this documentary's chilling look inside America's debt crisis has only become more valid and urgent. It exposes a nation "maxed out" on insurmountable credit-card debt and mortgage payments, and explains why the poor keep getting poorer and how the world's largest banks are courting disaster with their credit practices.
Filmmaker James D. Scurlock warns that, as Americans rack up ever more debt, the winners are the big banks and real estate moguls, and the losers are everyone else. "Maxed Out" makes its television premiere 9 p.m. Wednesday on Showtime.