It would be easy to dismiss this late-night comedy show, which just ended its fourth season, as the poor man's Saturday Night Live. But basically MAD TV has everything SNL has—the virtues and the defects. Those traits will be on display twice weekly in rerun season, as FOX adds a prime-time airing starting June 4.
Like SNL, MAD TV earns the most laughs when mining the rich territory of pop-culture parody. Witness cast member Will Sasso's well-done portrayals of Randy Newman (churning out disposable movie music) and Drew Carey (chuckling his way through some underwhelming improv in a spoof of Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Sad to say, the FOX alternative also resembles the NBC perennial in its policy of putting recurring characters through the same tired paces. I could barely sit through one sketch featuring Michael McDonald as a moronic child with the body of a tall adult.
If you're a loyal customer of brand-name SNL, summer could be a good time to sample the competition. On the whole, it's not a bad product.
Bottom Line: There's some method in this madness
E! (Sun., June 6, 8 p.m. ET)
Nick at Nite (Tues., June 8, 9 p.m. ET)
Shows of the week
It's a big week for The Brady Bunch, the proudly innocuous family sitcom that ran on ABC for five seasons (1969-74); went on to steady rerun success in syndication; spawned three prime-time spinoffs, a TV movie and two feature films; and generally refuses to die.
E! Entertainment Television's True Hollywood Story series devotes two hours to a study of the Brady phenomenon, combining fun factoids (luckily for Gene Hackman, he lost the daddy role to the late Robert Reed) with a complex portrait of Reed as a serious actor struggling to hide his sexual orientation and torn between disdain for the show and attachment to it.
Nick at Nite, current home of Brady reruns, offers an eight-episode June 8 marathon featuring Marcia (Maureen McCormick), most favored of the three golden-haired sisters. If you liked the movie Election, don't miss the minor mudslinging at 9 p.m. as Marcia and stepbrother Greg (Barry Williams) vie for student-body president.
Bottom Line: Brady bonanza
PBS (Wed., June 9, 8 p.m. ET)
With all the hard feelings recently between China and the NATO countries, it's heartening to turn on American television and see a huge multinational cast perform an Italian opera before an appreciative throng in the grandeur of Beijing's Forbidden City. Taped last September, the $15 million production of Giacomo Puccini's Turandot was the first to be presented in the actual setting of the opera's story about a determined suitor risking his life to win over a stone-hearted princess. This Turandot, staged by brilliant Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and conducted by Zubin Mehta, is a spectacle of such magnitude that the TV camera hardly knows where to look. You don't have to be an operaphile to be impressed. The two-hour Turandot (9-11 p.m.) is preceded by an hour-long look at the vast human resources that went into the production—including 300 extras from the Chinese Army who served as spearcarriers in this peaceful enterprise.
Bottom Line: Stay till the fat lady sings
>Sunday, June 6 TONY AWARDS CBS (9 p.m. ET) Brian Dennehy, Kevin Spacey, Martin Short and Bernadette Peters are among the nominees as Broadway honors its best.
Monday, June 7 THE KING OF QUEENS CBS (8:30 p.m. ET) This rerun has aged well. Carrie dreads her 30th birthday, and husband Doug forgets it.
Tuesday, June 8 NEWSRADIO NBC (8:30 p.m. ET) Mourning this show's cancellation? A funny repeat with guest star Patrick Warburton may cheer you.
Wednesday, June 9 CRUSADE TNT (10 p.m. ET) Time flies in sci-fi. It's 2267 in the first episode of this Babylon 5 spinoff.
Thursday, June 10 WNBA BASKETBALL Lifetime (8 p.m. ET) Houston meets Orlando as the female pros hoop it up for a third season.
Friday, June 11 JOHN CANDY MARATHON USA (9 p.m. ET) Uncle Buck and three more flicks with a comedy star who's sorely missed.
Saturday, June 12 TO GILLIAN ON HER 37TH BIRTHDAY ABC (9 p.m. ET) Michelle Pfeiffer is the dead wife Peter Gallagher can't forget in this sentimental 1996 drama.
Almost a decade after his menacing turn as Mob boss Paulie, Paul Sorvino still strikes fear into the hearts of GoodFellas fans. "Some people literally tremble when they meet me," says Sorvino, 60. "I find it amusing, because I have the impression of being a formidable, fearsome guy, when in reality I'm a painter, a poet and a singer."
Sorvino can now add "director" to that list; he helmed (and stars in) That Championship Season, airing June 6 on Showtime. The drama, about four high school basketball stars reuniting 20 years later, left Sorvino with double déjà vu: He appeared in Season's original 1972 Broadway cast and in the 1982 film version. This time around, Sorvino teamed up with the likes of Gary Sinise and Vincent D'Onofrio, who, he says, "would make anybody look good as a director."
The twice-divorced Sorvino, who lives in New York City, is still choosing his next project but says he wants to work with Oscar-winning daughter Mira "when the time is right." He also tries to stick to his low-carbohydrate diet, which has helped him shed 30 pounds. Compared to dieting, says Sorvino, "directing is a snap!"
- Jason Lynch.
FOX (Fridays, 9 p.m. ET; Saturdays, 11 p.m. ET)