Hitler: The Rise of Evil
CBS (Sun. and Tues., May 18 and 20, 9 p.m. ET)
"He's not human," says a German journalist (Matthew Modine). "He's studied people in order to appear human, but all he's discovered is our fear and our hatred." That may not be the clearest analysis of Adolf Hitler, but it's the best this intermittently powerful miniseries has to offer.
Primarily covering the period from Hitler's World War I service to his achievement of total dictatorship in 1934, the drama succeeds in giving viewers a sense of the turbulent political atmosphere in which the relentless future Führer (Robert Carlyle) seeks power through intimidation and intrigue. Carlyle (The Full Monty
) gives a performance of enormous intensity, shouting so frequently and frighteningly that we can see why even men of stature tend to shrink back when the Nazi leader bulls ahead. But the script doesn't shed enough light on how this fire-breather wins over so many Germans with his raging nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism. Julianna Margulies and Liev Schreiber would be more convincing as an influential couple drawn to Hitler if we better understood what their characters see in him.
BOTTOM LINE: Valuable but flawed history
Everybody Loves Raymond
CBS (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)
Sweeps-month wedding episodes are hardly a novelty, but rarely are they as funny as this reliable sitcom's 45-minute season closer, airing May 19. Robert Barone (Brad Garrett), a big guy with a size-XL inferiority complex, is about to exchange I dos with Amy (Monica Horan), though her square parents (Fred Willard and Georgia Engel) and weird brother (an orange-haired Chris Elliott) have been slow to embrace him. "Speak now or forever hold your peace," intones the reverend, and it's Robert's mother, Marie (Doris Roberts), who seizes the opportunity to inflict yet another embarrassment upon him.
As usual, the laughs flow from character—Robert's chagrin, Marie's professed reluctance to interfere—and executive producer Phil Rosenthal's script avoids the excess sentiment of a "very special episode." The best-man toast by Robert's brother Ray (series star Ray Romano) adds just enough heart to the humor.
BOTTOM LINE: Vow to watch
Showtime (Sat, May 24, 8 p.m. ET)
Last December Paul Newman returned to Broadway for the first time since 1964 in a worthy revival of Thornton Wilder's classic about a small New Hampshire town in the early 20th century. Newman did a sterling job as the play's rumpled and wise narrator-commentator, and he's even better in this television version.
Using four cameras, director James Naughton shot Our Town
onstage without a live audience, retaining its theatricality while adding intimacy. The feeling of closeness will enhance your appreciation of Newman's understated but indelible performance. Maggie Lacey and Ben Fox also stand out as the young neighbors whose growing love is at the heart of this still-affecting 1938 drama.
BOTTOM LINE: Come to Newman's town
America's Next Top Model
UPN (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
A successful fashion model needs guts as well as looks. So I learned from the May 20 opener of this average reality show, in which 10 young women vie for a prize package that includes a lucrative modeling contract. At one point the contestants are forced to pose in skimpy swimwear in bone-chilling weather. One shivers and weeps as her nose unglamorously drips.
The series has the stock reality elements: The competitors share a penthouse and annoy one another; a panel of experts—including model Tyra Banks
, the show's creator—drops one hopeful a week. But at least the humiliation is a little different. Before Top Model
, I'd never seen a torturous bikini wax on TV.
BOTTOM LINE: Pretty but pedestrian
Sunday, May 18 THE BACHELOR ABC (9 p.m. ET) In a two-hour finale, Andrew picks the woman most worthy of him.
Monday, May 19 ABC'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION ABC (8 p.m. ET) John Travolta and Muhammad Ali help the network toast itself.
Tuesday, May 20 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
UPN (8 p.m. ET) Angel's David Boreanaz comes back to guest-star as the series ends its run.
Wednesday, May 21 AMERICAN IDOL
FOX (8 p.m. ET) Idolize the winner on the season finale.
Thursday, May 22 VH1 DIVAS DUETS VH1 (9 p.m. ET) Queen Latifah
is host for a live concert with Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Beyoncé Knowles.
Friday, May 23 TOM JONES LIVE A&E (8 p.m. ET) The brawny belter delivers his hits at Cardiff Castle in Wales.
Saturday, May 24 THE SHAKESPEARE SESSIONS
PBS (9 p.m. ET) Kevin Kline, Dustin Hoffman and Cynthia Nixon play well-known scenes by the Bard.
Cybill Shepherd, 53, stars as embattled domestic diva Martha Stewart in Martha Inc
., an NBC movie May 19.
On model behavior: "Martha and I have a lot of similarities. We both started out as models in small towns. She's done some bad things to people, and she's never looked back. But at the same time, she made it to the top. Some people think I'm like that, but I'm not"
On morphing into Martha: "I put on some weight for the part because I played her over a 30-year period. I also learned to chop food properly so I wouldn't cut my fingers off during filming. I have Martha's strong, broad fingers, and at first I kept cutting them to shreds."
On sympathy for Stewart: "Whatever happens, she will always be dear to many people and hated by others because she does what nobody else can."
On looking for love: I'm dating three different people right now. But I really want to go out with...I better not say the name. He's too famous, and he'll never go out with me. Of course, I said that about Ted Turner years ago, and he called me up for a date. What do I have to lose? It's Michael Crichton." Amy Bonawitz