Show of the week
"I know stealing a foot is weird," says teenager Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose), whose family owns, operates and resides in a Los Angeles funeral home. "But hello? Living in a house where a foot is available to be stolen is weird."
You'll have to wait till the third episode to learn how foot theft fits into the story, but Claire's remark serves as something of a thematic statement for this slightly ghoulish but engrossing new series created by Alan Ball (writer of American Beauty
). Put it this way: Weirdness, like death, is part of life.
Undertaker Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins) meets an untimely end in the June 3 premiere, but he continues sending mixed signals to his adult sons Nate (Peter Krause, late of Sports Night
) and David (Michael C. Hall), who enter into an uneasy partnership to keep the business going. David also has imaginary talks with embalmed customers, including a gunned-down gang member and a porn star electrocuted by her cat. There is no fixed border between the here and the hereafter or the past and the present.
When they're not resisting the buyout efforts of a soulless mortuary chain, the Fisher brothers have tricky relationships to tend—Nate with his disturbingly enigmatic girlfriend (Rachel Griffiths) and David with a gay lover (Mathew St. Patrick) who wants him out of the closet. Meanwhile, their mother (Frances Conroy) seems paralyzed by grief, guilt and sexual need. Six Feet Under
gives us much to dig into.
Bottom Line: Worthwhile undertaking
NBC (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)
Here is all you need to know about this new series, in which contestants vie for a $50,000 prize by attempting stunts described as "extremely dangerous" by host Joe Rogan: In the June 11 premiere the players are asked to take turns lying in a pit with 400 rats.
"Was that the grossest thing you've ever done in your life?" asks Rogan (News Radio), who calls male competitors "dude," renders the past tense of "drag" as "drug" and repeatedly flashes a goofball grin. One contestant withdraws rather than get cozy with vermin. "I don't see a purpose in it," the dropout explains. And there's no purpose in watching Fear Factor
, unless the network offers you $50,000 to endure it.
Bottom Line: Call the exterminator
A&E (Sun., June 10, 9 p.m. ET)
The brilliance of The Sopranos
lies in its ability to make viewers laugh one moment and shudder the next. This TV movie, based on a true crime story, tries for a similar effect but can't quite bring it off.
The subject is the 1978 robbery of an estimated $8 million from New York City's Kennedy airport, a case that figured in the 1990 Mob classic GoodFellas
. Miscast but game, Donald Sutherland dons a wavy wig, affects a light brogue and dives into the role of heist organizer Jimmy "the Gent" Burke. In this account, Burke is surrounded by a gang that can't shoot straight—including a would-be soul singer and a dancin' fool with disco fever—and is pursued by a single-minded cop (John Heard). Since the film seems to adopt an attitude of ironic detachment toward its characters, viewers won't be too shaken when people start getting killed. And might there be a bit of blarney in the suggestion that Burke was a comparatively honorable thief?
Bottom Line: Imperfect crime
Sunday, June 10 SUMMER JAM CONCERT
ABC (7 p.m. ET) Sugar Ray, Baha Men and Shaggy get down at Walt Disney World.
Monday, June 11 X-MEN
Cinemax (10 p.m. ET) Hugh Jackman
and Halle Berry
star in this 2000 movie, a dark adaptation of the Marvel comic book.
Tuesday, June 12 AFI'S 100 YEARS...100 THRILLS
CBS (8 p.m. ET) Harrison Ford is host of this three-hour countdown of the 100 most suspenseful films of all time.
Wednesday, June 13 THE BEAST
ABC (10 p.m. ET) Ooh, deadline pressure. Frank Langella is the boss of a fictional TV news service in this series premiere.
Thursday, June 14 THE CON
USA (12 p.m. ET) Grifter Rebecca De Mornay eyes William H. Macy's money in a diverting TV movie from 1!
Friday, June 15 EGG: THE ARTS SHOW
PBS (10 p.m. ET) Learn how plays develop from page to stage.
Saturday, June 16 WORLD STUNT AWARDS
ABC (9 p.m. ET) Alec Baldwin emcees a salute to the unsung movie heroes who crash the cars and take the falls.
The MTV Movie Awards usually cover all the bases: best villain, best fight, best kiss. But there's a missing category: "They should have one for best performance in hosting a movie-awards show," says Jimmy Fallon, 26, who will be cohost, with Kirsten Dunst
, of this year's festivities (airing June 7 at 9 p.m.). "That's what I'd like to get," he says.
To improve his chances, the Saturday Night Live star is seeking advice from the pros. "I am going to put in a call to Ben Stiller," he says. "I liked him a lot when he hosted [SNL
]." Like Stiller, the Brooklyn-born comic has begun acting. Fallon next stars in HBO's upcoming miniseries Band of Brothers
. But he isn't giving up his day job just yet. "The whole reason I did stand-up was to get on SNL
," he says. "It is truly like summer camp—a bunch of cool people hanging out."
Even if he doesn't snag a bronze popcorn statuette, Fallon is looking forward to the show's signature parodies. At last year's awards show "I played Keanu Reeves
, and Sarah Jessica Parker
picked me up at a bar," he says. "It was Sex and the City
meets The Matrix
. That's how crazy the show is. Anything can happen."
- Ericka Souter.
HBO (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)