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LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
- November 22, 2004
- Vol. 62
- No. 21
Picks and Pans Main: TV
TV Board Games
FOX (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
"How is it you always think you're right?" Dr. Gregory House is asked. "I don't," he replies. "I just find it hard to operate on the opposite assumption."
Cherish this moment in the Nov. 16 premiere of House. It's as humble as the good doctor gets.
This series is an ER-CSI blend some-what similar to NBC's Medical Investigation, with a team of physicians racing against time to determine what's causing the mystery illness of the week. But House stands out on the strength of its misanthropic main character, the head of diagnostic medicine at a prestigious hospital. He's an acid-tongued egotist who not only lacks compassion but openly disdains it. British actor Hugh Laurie, sounding completely American and looking as though he hasn't slept in a fortnight, plays House as a man with contempt for everything except results. Armed by creator-writer David Shore with an endless supply of sarcasm, Laurie gives a brilliant, fully committed performance. It takes nerve to say "Humanity is overrated" without a hint of apology.
The show comes close to copping out when House actually listens while a female patient analyzes his arrogance as overcompensation for his crippled leg, which forces him to pop pain pills and walk with a cane. Generally, though, he avoids visiting the sick unless ordered to by hospital administrator Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), with whom he has a running verbal battle. Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), the closest thing House has to a friend, suggests that the great people-hater may be sexually attracted to the boss. Let's hope not—that kind of humanity would fatally weaken the character.
HBO (Mon., Nov. 15, 10 p.m. ET)
Disturbing and thoroughly depressing, this documentary is British filmmaker Nick Broomfield's second study of the Florida prostitute who confessed to murdering seven men and was executed in 2002. Following up on Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, released in 1992, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer includes her last interviews, details on her abusive upbringing and Broomfield's take on how politicians and the media exploited her case.
Broomfield injects himself into the film too much, and his tone suggests that he feels let down by Wuornos's willingness to recant self-defense claims and get on with her death. But for those who saw Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning portrayal of Wuornos in Monster, the real woman's rants will hold morbid fascination.
WB (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
This year has given us two prime-time soaps that feature pretty people in formulaic situations with a resort for backdrop. FOX's North Shore offers surf; this series has snow—and a slight edge in quality.
Oliver Hudson (son of Goldie Hawn and brother of Kate Hudson) plays David, a motocross racer who unexpectedly inherits control of a ski resort from his grandfather. Hudson is good-looking, all right—it's apparently a priority to show him emerging from the shower—but he has a scruffy sheepishness befitting the role of a young man who knows he's not truly ready for responsibility. Another plus is the mature sex appeal of Barbara Hershey as David's mother, Gennie.
Unfortunately, The Mountain rests on stock romantic complications. Maria (Alana De La Garza), David's ex-flame, is now involved with his business-savvy brother Will (Anson Mount). David messes around with Max (Elizabeth Bogush), daughter of a scheming developer who covets the resort. And Shelley (Tara Thompson), Will and David's teen sister, keeps flirting with Max's brother Michael (Tom-my Dewey). Besides kiss-and-tell, there's nothing to say.
CBS (Sun., Nov. 14, 9 p.m. ET; Wed. Nov. 17, 8 p.m. ET)
All disaster miniseries seem to go by the same theory: No matter how dire the big picture, the audience won't care unless the principal characters have some extra problems in their personal lives.
In the totally typical Category 6, three weather systems bearing down on Chicago threaten to combine in a cataclysmic superstorm just as the city is suffering a power failure that could spread nationwide. Does Midwest Electric's chief of operations (Thomas Gibson) have enough trouble? No, his wife realizes he's carrying on with the flack for evil Lexer Energy Corp., and his daughter's new boyfriend turns out to be a gun-wielding criminal. Meanwhile, a crusading TV reporter (Nancy McKeon) has lots to warn the public about—but look, her pregnant sister-in-law is trapped in an elevator!
Except for Randy Quaid as a yahooing tornado buff, no one here has time for fun. Still, I got a small kick out of Brian Dennehy as a gruff government meteorologist who finds monster storms even more irksome than bad office coffee.
Spike TV (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
What to do after you've run for President? For the Reverend Al Sharpton, hosting this new reality series is a dubious career move.
The premise: Eight guys who bemoan their unexciting jobs get a shot at their dream gigs if they impress Sharpton and life coach Stephanie Raye. (The contest can have more than one winner.) Initial tests trimmed the field in the Nov. 9 opener—goodbye to that handyman who wanted to be a hockey coach—though Sharpton insisted, "I really, really don't want to send nobody home." Sorry, Reverend, but reality TV requires eliminations, as well as pointless physical challenges. The four survivors in the second episode have to climb a telephone pole, then jump for a ring hanging 50 feet in the air. Sharpton doesn't bother watching this; in fact, the celebrated speechmaker looks bored whenever he's not talking.
American Music Awards (ABC, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. ET) Jimmy Kimmel emcees, and Usher and Alicia Keys perform their hit duet "My Boo."
The Simpsons (FOX, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. ET) Inspired by Homer's old Playdude magazines, Bart tries to adopt a swinging '70s lifestyle, and James Caan stops by to grab a share of the action.
Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, Nov. 15, 9 p.m. ET) In the sitcom's 200th episode, Ray and his dad sit in on one of Robert's therapy sessions.
Scrubs (NBC, Nov. 16, 9:30 p.m. ET) ER alum Julianna Margulies is back in a hospital setting, guest-starring as a malpractice lawyer who has J.D. under her spell.
HOPE & FAITH (ABC, Nov. 19, 9 p.m. ET) To score points with an attractive bachelor father (guest star Nick Lachey), Faith feigns single motherhood by pretending her nephew is her son.
Phil Keoghan The host of CBS's The Amazing Race, Keoghan has written the self-help book No Opportunity Wasted, which is also the name of the Discovery Channel show he produces.
ON WHY HE WROTE THE BOOK I've asked people, "If you were going to die in an hour, what would you regret not doing?" A lot of people just stare blankly. That scares me. I want to force people to create a contract with themselves to do the things they've always wanted to do.
ON HIS OWN DREAMS I'd like to climb Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. I'd also love to go to space. I just love the idea of being strapped to a rocket.
ON THE NEW SEASON OF RACE This season's race covered roughly 55,000 miles. I go to every single location the teams go to. It's so tight sometimes, I'm literally running up one way while they're coming up the other. People say to me, "You must go off sightseeing while they're racing." To be honest, I'm racing too.
Okay, couch potatoes, a slew of new TV-themed games will let you prove that all those hours before the tube weren't in vain. Get ready to roll the dice.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: SNL EDITION
Fans of Saturday Night Live will revel in this special edition, which comes complete with themed games pieces (including Dan Aykroyd's Conehead and Will Ferrell's cheerleader). And no more fighting over how to pick the game-winning questions—they come from a challenging DVD. ($44.99)
SCENE IT? TV EDITION Finally a chance to show off all those TV theme songs you've memorized. With DVD clips of shows from the past 50 years (ranging from The Lone Ranger to Charmed), this all-TV Scene It? features questions about songs, plotlines, and catchphrases (Seinfeld's "Hello, Newman"). For larger groups: Ditch the game board and switch the DVD to party play mode. You'll get one video question after another. ($44.99)
SEX AND WE CITY: TRIVIA GAME If you're still mourning the dearly departed HBO series, whip up some cosmos and dry your eyes. This game, which comes in a hot pink tin box, is packed with 1,000 demanding trivia questions about the Fab Four. What drops out of Carrie's purse the first time she meets Mr. Big? What is the name of Charlotte's dog? (Condoms and Elizabeth Taylor, respectively.) ($15.99)
CSI: THE BOARD GAME Just as Gil Grissom's team does every week, you've got a murder to solve. Collecting evidence (à la Clue) you sniff out a suspect, motive and opportunity. First person to hand over the correct arrest warrant wins. ($29.99)
- Terry Kelleher,
- Amy Bonawitz.
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