Showtime (Sunday, Aug. 20, 10 p.m. ET)

On the eve of the Sydney Games, Greenspan, 73, the prolific Olympics documentarian, regales us (via narrator Will Lyman and the words and footage of the athletes themselves) with a breezy 90-minute tribute to heroes from Games past. Few would quarrel with the inclusion of Nadia Comaneci, the petite 14-year-old Romanian wunderkind who scored an unprecedented seven perfect 10s in gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Games. Or Abebe Bikila, the late, great Ethiopian marathoner, who won the grueling event twice in a row (in '60 and '64) but went barefoot only the first time. On the other hand, U.S. decathlete Dan O'Brien's quest for gold in Atlanta in '96 strikes me as more perspirational than inspirational, and Australian swimmer Duncan Armstrong's '88 upset in the 200 meters freestyle is hilariously upstaged by his coach Laurie Lawrence, who is so jubilant he slaps the poor guy interviewing him. Finally, there's the amazing Alexander Karelin, a Russian heavyweight wrestler who can hoist his opponents into the air and slam 'em into the mat. The big lug has a future on WWF Smackdown!

Bottom Line: Scores an earnest 8

TNT (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Several Young Turks, led by the grandson (George Newbern) of the big boss (Donald Moffat), declare independence from a white-shoe investment firm, vowing to enrich themselves more dynamically—and ethically—than the old guard. That's the central concept of this bustling new drama (premiering Aug. 15), the first original series from TNT.

Fortunately, the heroes find they need a bad guy on their team. Enter a devastatingly assured Stanley Tucci as "Lasky the Liquidator," a feared financial warrior fortified by maxims like "America is about ownership" and "We fill our pockets by any means necessary." Imagine Michael Douglas's Wall Street character with more subtlety and a lot less hair; now picture Tucci bidding for another Emmy to go with the one he earned last year for Winchell.

Bull stretches credulity at times, but it's amusing to think that a broker (Christopher Wiehl) who's wet behind the ears can divine stock trends by watching the Weather Channel.

Bottom Line: Buy

PBS (Tues., Aug. 22, 10 p.m. ET)

TLC (Sun., Aug. 20, 8 p.m. ET)

Bet you won't sing "Viva Las Vegas" after these documentaries.

Dreamland, an uneven but worthwhile entry in the "POV" series, directs our attention away from high-rollers and showgirls and toward some year-round residents whose gambling is stripped of glamor. The most memorable of them is Lou, a semiretired tailor with a need to sit in Binion's Horseshoe casino ("friendliest" in town, he avers) and fritter away his money. Pathetically jaunty in matching hat and sport shirt, Lou fills his loneliness with cards, chips and complimentary cigarettes. The film gets a little preachy about compulsive gambling, but the point is well-taken.

TLC's program, narrated by James Woods, covers the war between casino security experts and ingenious cheaters, who'll even wear an "on-body computer system" to the gaming table. It's mildly interesting, but the techno-talk makes you want to say, "Shut up and deal."

Bottom Line: Put a little down on PBS

TBS (Sun., Aug. 20, 8 p.m. ET)

In the dusty, tumbleweed-strewn pantheon of classic big-screen westerns, 1952's High Noon still stands alone—much like its beleaguered protagonist, Will Kane (Oscar-winner Gary Cooper). A beloved small-town marshal, Kane suddenly finds himself shunned—and outgunned—when an outlaw he once jailed shows up with his gang to wreak revenge. Accompanied by a hauntingly forlorn theme song (Tex Ritter twanging "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling"), Kane has just 84 minutes—the film's running time—to prepare for the climactic showdown.

This inferior TV-movie remake casts as its citizen Kane former Picket Fences sheriff Tom Skerritt—not a bad choice, given Skerritt's craggy features and quiet dignity. But what once seemed the epitome of cinematic suspense has now been watered down into a high-minded civics lesson as Skerritt wastes his precious 90-odd minutes (not counting commercials) engaging in endless debate ("It's my fight, my town," he reckons) with his mostly cowardly neighbors, who rationalize that a gunfight would be bad public relations for the town and so urge Will to skedaddle. So do his pacifist bride (Once and Again's Susanna Thompson, who gets to pout prettily in the role that Grace Kelly made luminous) and skittish ex-mistress (Maria Conchita Alonso, taking Katy Jurado's part). The shootout, when it finally arrives, is a textbook compilation of western clichés, including—yup—the stuntman tumbling off the roof.

Bottom Line: Forsake this one, darlin', and rent the original

>Sunday, Aug. 20 WALKING WITH DINOSAURS Discovery Channel (8 p.m. ET)

Run—do not walk—and catch the encore of this special-effects stunner.

Monday, Aug. 21 GREENWOOD, MISSISSIPPI A&E (9 p.m. ET) City Confidential probes the strange 1938 death of blues great (and reputed lothario) Robert Johnson.

Tuesday, Aug. 22 NAKED PLANET PBS (8 p.m. ET) The snows of Kilimanjaro—and its still-active volcanic craters—highlight this vivid African odyssey.

Wednesday, Aug. 23 SURVIVOR CBS (8 p.m. ET) And the winner is...whoever endures this two-hour finale plus a one-hour reunion of all 16 contestants.

Thursday, Aug. 24 INSIDE THE BOX PBS (10:30 p.m. ET) Debut of a weekly cross-country forum that lets ordinary folks vent about presidential politics.

Friday, Aug. 25 PROVIDENCE NBC (8 p.m. ET) Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere) guest-stars as the emcee of a rigged game show in this playful rerun.

Saturday, Aug. 26 EXISTENZ Showtime (8 p.m. ET) A 1999 virtual-reality thriller from a virtuoso of weirdness, David Cronenberg (Naked Lunch).

  • Contributors:
  • Terry Kelleher.