PBS (Wed., May 13, 9 p.m. ET)
Show of the week
If you want to mark 30 years of 60 Minutes
with a traditional retrospective, watch CBS's 60 Minutes
at 30 on May 17. But if you're looking for crackling drama and caustic comedy behind the scenes at the archetypal TV news-magazine, don't miss this American Masters
special on PBS. Even the legendary interrogator Mike Wallace has only a supporting role, albeit a substantial one, in this film; the star is Don Hewitt, the charming, infuriating, hyperactive (his term), 75-year-old executive producer who rules 60 Minutes
in an atmosphere of relentless pressure, intense internal competition (as star reporters battle for airtime) and often heated give-and-take. Correspondent Steve Kroft likens arguing with the boss to fighting with his father, but when Wallace and Hewitt do verbal battle in the screening room it's more like two old lions rumbling in the jungle. The guy you'll really root for is Michael Radutzky, a producer who works almost insanely hard on a story about the Kennedy family, then sweats bullets awaiting Hewitt's verdict.
Bottom Line: Worth every minute
The Learning Channel (Sun., May 10, 9 p.m. ET)
(the term is defined in the subtitle as Triplets, Quads and More
) is more than a photo album of precious newborns all in a row or cute toddlers in matching outfits. The first hour follows five women through difficult pregnancies with triplets or quadruplets; the second studies various sets of siblings at different stages of life. It's interesting to consider the dating problems of attractive triplets in their teens and 20s, but the elderly "multiples" leave the most lasting impression: three sisters in their 70s still dressing alike and two in their 80s bereft after a sibling's death. The bond uniting these women seems as much mystical as genetic.
Bottom Line: Good family fare
NBC (Sun.-Mon., May 10-11, 9 p.m. ET)
There are understandable reasons for dismissing this miniseries without a fair trial. You may be Mafia-ed out after enduring CBS's The Last Don II.
You may think you've seen enough TV dramas about imprisoned mob boss John Gotti (HBO's Gotti, CBS's Getting Gotti
). But this one depicts the Dapper Don from the point of view of his enforcer-turned-betrayer, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, basing its account on court records, FBI transcripts and news reports (rather than on Peter Maas's 1997 bestseller Underboss
, written with Gravano's cooperation). The film carefully and absorbingly develops the relationship between Gravano (Nicholas Turturro of NYPD Blue
), the reliable murderer and organization man, and flashy, publicity-hungry Gotti (Tom Sizemore of Heat
), carried away with his media image as the people's gangster. Turturro and Sizemore have the tandem act down to perfection—the tough talk, the cocky walk, the wary avowals of undying mutual loyalty. The pleasure of watching them work together compensates for a nagging sense that Witness to the Mob
amounts to little more than ersatz Scorsese—Good-Fellas
with laundered language.
Bottom Line: Violent, but give it a shot
PBS (Sun., May 10, and Sun., May 17, 9 p.m. ET)
This 4-hour Mobil Masterpiece Theatre
version of Thomas Hardy's classic novel transports us so effectively to another place and time—rural England, 19th century—that we're only too willing to hang on, even when the plot takes an improbable turn late in Part 2. Paloma Baeza (a fresh and striking face) stars as Bathsheba Everdene, an independent-minded young woman who inherits a large farm, which she insists on running herself, and stirs the hearts of three dissimilar men: Gabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker), the noble shepherd who becomes her steward; Mr. Boldwood (Nigel Terry), a rigid landowner unaccustomed to the pangs of love and undeterred by repeated rejection; and Sgt. Frank Troy (Jonathan Firth), the dashing but unstable soldier she foolishly marries. Terry gives a remarkable performance as a character dumbfounded by his own desire.
Bottom Line: A story to be savored, especially by the Masterpiece crowd
>Sunday, May 10 ONLY LOVE CBS (9 p.m. ET)
Get out your hankies for Part 1 of this Erich Segal love story, with Rob Morrow and Marisa Tomei. Concludes Monday.
Monday, May 11 THE PRACTICE ABC (10 p.m. ET)
Season finale finds Bobby defending a 13-year-old who murdered his mom.
Tuesday, May 12 MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT CBS (9 p.m. ET)
Beauties on parade again, this time in Honolulu.
Wednesday, May 13 ELLEN ABC (9 p.m. ET)
Controversial sitcom ends the season and its ABC run with a star-filled (Helen Hunt, Glenn Close) mock documentary.
Thursday, May 14 SEINFELD SEND-OFF NBC (8 p.m. ET)
Ever heard of this show? Two-hour farewell includes an hour of past highlights followed by the much-hyped final episode.
Friday, May 15 DAYTIME EMMY AWARDS NBC (9 p.m. ET)
Can Susan Lucci lose again? No reason why not. Oprah
Winfrey gets a lifetime-achievement honor.
Saturday, May 16 MAD TV FOX (11 p.m. ET)
Season finale for the Saturday Night Live
alternative, with guest Halle Berry
Accepting a Scary Mission
To direct "The Original Wives Club," the 11th of HBO's 12-part miniseries From the Earth to the Moon
—and the only one to focus on the astronauts' wives (Sunday, May 10, at 8 p.m. ET)—executive producer Tom Hanks called on his friend (and Forrest Gump
mama) Sally Field. Tapped last August as a last-minute fill-in, Field, 51, had only one previous directing credit (1996's The Christmas Tree
) and says, "It was so terrifying to have no time to prep. But it was such a great group of people"—including Rita Wilson (Hanks's wife), Elizabeth Perkins and JoBeth Williams. She speaks bluntly about the NASA wives' public smiles belying their private torments. "The men were off having affairs," says Field, "and the women just had to shovel s—t." But the twice-divorced double Oscar winner seems content in her own life. "We're all fine," she says of her three sons, Peter, 28, Eli, 25, and Sam, 10. And, "No, I'm not dating anyone at the moment. I have not seen Burt [Reynolds] in gazillions of years." She wouldn't mind directing in Burt's old genre: action films. But the movie would have to be more than just "things going bang, because," she says, "bangs scare me."
- John Hannah.