Absolutely nothing was understated about the 2001 Broadway revival of The Women
, Clare Boothe Luce's 1936 comedy about New York City socialites who live to dish. Dressed in eye-popping outfits by Isaac Mizrahi, the all-female cast played every scene to the balcony and beyond.
So take a tip and turn down the volume on this TV presentation, taped in live performance for PBS's occasional Stage on Screen series. Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun
) is funny as the biggest gossip of them all, and Jennifer Tilly is merely strident as the gold digger whose husband-stealing sets the plot in motion, but it's fair to call their contributions equal—equally loud. The only nuanced acting comes from Sex and the City
's Cynthia Nixon as the wronged wife who realizes she'll have to fight dirty to keep her man.
Nixon, Johnston and Tilly join costars Rue McClanahan, Jennifer Coolidge and Mary Louise Wilson for a lively and enlightening intermission chat with host Jason Alexander. The 15-minute segment may break your concentration on the play itself, but that's no great loss. Though Luce's catty lines are quotable, this ain't Shakespeare.
Bottom Line: Entertaining—in a broad way
USA (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
High school biology teacher Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) has a car accident that lands him in a six-year coma from which he awakens with amazing paranormal powers. He touches the nurse and glimpses danger in her immediate future. He touches the doctor and sees that the man's mother, long thought dead, still lives.
So far I'm intrigued by the June 16 opener of this 13-episode series, loosely based on Stephen King's 1979 novel. Then Sheriff Walt Bannerman (Chris Bruno)—who happens to be the husband of Johnny's ex-girlfriend Sarah (Nicole deBoer)—breaks the spell with the oft-heard TV line: "We've got a serial killer out there." Inevitably our psychic hero aids in the investigation, and Hall—after acquitting himself well in the opener—overacts in episode 2 as Johnny's visions put him inside the perp's troubled mind. (He may not walk a mile in the killer's shoes, but somehow he knows they're size 11½ narrow.) I won't pronounce the show dead on arrival because future plots—like Johnny finding an old man's lost love—promise to make more imaginative use of the protagonist's gifts.
Bottom Line: Don't get too psyched about it
Hallmark Channel (Sat.-Sun., June 15-16, 9 p.m. ET)
This miniseries is inspired by a 19th-century classic, The Swiss Family Robinson
, so I expected it to be a bit old-fashioned. (There's even a pirate captain who says, "I smell gold!") What's more bothersome is that the filmmakers seem to have cut the most interesting parts of their story.
In the first scene, David Robinson (Liam Cunningham) is sentenced to an Australian penal colony for refusing on religious grounds to swear allegiance to Britain. No time to consider what sort of man takes such a stand or what sort of wife (Brana Bajic) sticks by him. Quickly the family's Australia-bound ship is wrecked by a storm and David is arguing with his teenage sons (Jesse Spencer and Neil Newbon) on a deserted island. Similarly, Part 2 starts by skipping over the seven years it takes the Robinsons to turn a primitive habitation into something worthy of Better Homes and Gardens
. I'd rather observe that construction project than see an invasion by a stock bunch of buccaneers with David's long-missing youngest boy (Andrew Lee Potts) in tow.
Bottom Line: Vote yourself off the island
A&E (Mon., June 17, 9 p.m. ET; Thurs., June 20, 10 p.m. ET)
Show of the week
Director Michael Apted has two dramas currently in release (Enough
) but he's also a dedicated documentarian. Like Apted's acclaimed 7 Up series, which has studied 14 Britons at regular intervals since the 1960s, Married in America
will look at nine couples every 18 months or so over the next 10 years.
The project gets off to a most auspicious start with this three-hour film (premiering in two parts), which introduces the widely diverse couples in optimistic prewedding mode. The childhood friends whose love just kept growing, the battle-scarred blue-collar pair who connected at an AA meeting, the lesbians who combine family values with being "110 percent out"—we like them all and wish them well. But Apted discreetly points out problem areas in each relationship, piquing our anticipation of the next installment.
Bottom Line: Vow to watch
NBC (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
NBC touts this 13-week series (starting June 16) as a "real-life Law & Order
." For once, a believable promo.
Executive producer Dick Wolf (the man behind the L&O
franchise) and filmmaker Bill Guttentag focus on deputy district attorneys in San Diego as they prepare and present criminal cases. Actual prosecutors may not perform with the polish of Sam Waterston, but the trial scenes here rival L&O
's for drama, thanks to three-camera courtroom coverage and a lot of skillful editing. A murder defendant grins inappropriately on the witness stand; cut to the prosecutor checking to see if the jury noticed. It's seamless--and spontaneous. Only when the prosecutors get together for pep talks and strategy sessions does an element of artificiality creep in.
Bottom Line: Nonfiction makes a solid case
Sunday, June 16 SIXTEEN Oxygen (7 p.m. ET) A four-part documentary series on teenage girls starts with a study of a homecoming-queen candidate facing racism.
Monday, June 17 ROAD RULES XI MTV (10 p.m. ET) in the season opener, the contestants roar off on a tour of southern college campuses.
Tuesday, June 18 HOUSTON MEDICAL ABC (10 p.m. ET) With ER
in reruns, try the debut of this real-life hospital show.
Wednesday, June 19 POWER, PRIVILEGE & JUSTICE Court TV (10 p.m. ET) Confessed name-dropper Dominick Dunne looks at crimes of the rich in this series premiere.
Thursday, June 20 FRONTLINE PBS (9 p.m. ET) Bigger Than Enron probes accounting failures that have cost investors some $200 billion.
Friday, June 21 TV LAND WEDDINGS TV Land (8 p.m. ET) Throw some rice. It's a night of nuptial episodes from The Brady Bunch
, All in the Family
Saturday, June 22 POINT OF ORIGIN HBO (8 p.m. ET) A fire investigator hunts a serial arsonist in this TV movie with Ray Liotta and John Leguizamo.
PBS (Tues., June 18, 9 p.m. ET)