BY TOM GLIATTO
, now in its second season, is about the tumultuous life of an L.A. psychiatrist (Hank Azaria), so naturally it's crammed with articulate people endlessly explicating each other's failings. Ids, egos and superegos slam around like sumo wrestlers in an elevator. But with alcoholism, schizophrenia, cancer, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, speed freaks and infidelity piled on, it feels less like Freud's fun house than an opportunity for one performer after another to launch into frenzied, vituperative speeches. Clear the decks—monologue time!
That even goes for Blythe Danner, a great actress who won an Emmy last season as Huff's
mother, a fragile yet combative martini-swiller. Her single best moment here comes when she does nothing more than stroke a houseplant. Such a relief. Oliver Platt, as a lawyer who parties way too hard, cuts through the sweaty pathos with humor, but the only true calm comes with Anjelica Huston: She's a therapist who puts Huff on a drug course to help him break through his midlife crises. Huston gives an understated performance that still manages to show off her toughness and sly sexiness. Otherwise it's Huff and puff.
TLC (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)
Nutritionist Lisa Hark summons the parents of three disastrously out-of-shape boys and yells at them, "You're killing your kids!" She shows them computer-rendered portraits of the boys grown up on their horrible diets: They look like those Chuck Close paintings of middle-aged men in gruesome, open-pored closeup. Stark then puts the family on a corrective course that includes tofu at dinner. The kids don't like her, and no wonder. Hark can be a stressful presence, even though her goals are 100 percent correct. Any family would be glad to see her go and leave them to eat their transfats in peace.
The WB (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
soon will be back on movie screens in another X-Men movie, playing supermutant Mystique and wearing the blue, spangly body makeup that makes her look like a Vegas showgirl costumed as a mechanical nightingale. In her new WB series, she's a more recognizable being, a super-ambitious newswoman named Pepper Dennis. Pepper runs around Chicago with her blonde hair pulled back and her curves concealed within a white raincoat. She's erotic but cold-looking, like a behavioral scientist who makes men run through mazes.
The show is just as bad as several other recent WB shows (Modern Men
, The Bedford Diaries
), neither cartoonish enough nor realistic enough to register as anything more than a conceptual shell with a handful of dried peas rattling inside. Pepper chases stories, Pepper falls in love with the new station anchor, Pepper sometimes lets her blonde hair fall down in soft attractive ringlets. Romijn does a star-glamour turn here. The better performance, actually, is from Brooke Burns as her cute twittish sister. Burns seems to be trying a variation on the old Mary Tyler Moore winsome adorableness, and it nearly works.
ABC (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)
That question is asked of Brian, a thirtysomething who remains single while the rest of his circle of friends are becoming engaged, settling down, getting married, having kids and—once the comforting glow of commitment wears off and the worm of boredom wriggles in—thinking about messing around. Brian's problem, at least at the outset, is that he's in love with Marjorie, a pediatric surgeon, but she's going to marry his buddy Adam, a successful lawyer.
This is all nicely produced with mild offbeat tweaks along the way—Brian and one girlfriend break up driving on the freeway while a mattress is coming unstrapped from the roof—and Barry Watson (7th Heaven
) has the right physical quality as Brian: good-looking, with the eyes haunted by caffeine. But none of this is original either. The networks should create some sort of central dating registry for all their eligible youngish characters and clean up some of this vague, messy trafficking in hearts. What about it, Brian?
Celebrity Cooking Showdown
(NBC, April 17, 9 p.m. ET) Sean Combs is one of the producers of this weeklong reality show with Patti LaBelle, Cindy Margolis and Big Kenny in the kitchen.
(VH1, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET) The short-lived but intriguing CBS series—with Tom Cavanagh as a cool New York City dude—gets to finish its eight-episode run, only on a different channel.
(ABC, April 16, 9 p.m. ET) Carol Burnett visits as the icy stepmother of Bree (Marcia Cross).
Miss USA (NBC, April 21, 9 p.m. ET) Why care? Because the cohost is Drew Lachey, winner of Dancing with the Stars
, that's why.
The New Adventures of Old Christine
(CBS, April 17, 9:30 p.m. ET) Andy Richter shows up again as Julia Louis-Dreyfus's pathetic one-night stand, a.k.a. "Sad Dad."
Author and self-described spiritual intuitive Char Margolis, 54, displays her clairvoyant ways on the Sci Fi Channel reality show Psychic at Large
. The soothsayer shares some predictions on ripped-from-the-headlines news and tells PEOPLE all about her sixth sense.
ON THE NATALEE HOLLOWAY INVESTIGATION
I don't know if they will ever find any evidence of the body.... People know what happened, and they are covering up. The saddest cases are when a child goes missing or dies and the parents [never] know what happened.
ON WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB
The most important thing I can share is that other people also have the gift of intuition and they can act on it to save their lives.
DOES BEING A TV PSYCHIC AFFECT YOUR LOVE LIFE?
It's difficult for me to date. Some men don't want their private lives exposed to the public because they are dating someone on TV, but my feeling is: for the right man, that won't matter.
ON HOW SHE CAN SLEEP AMID VOICES FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Very peacefully. I can turn it on and off unless I have to know something.
THE RYAN WATCH I was excited by Ryan Seacrest taking the coanchor job on E! News—where he also has an executive producer title—and yet the disappointment can't be denied. The set looks dinky and cheap, a few plasma screens and a scrim of slender colored panels. This, I say, is not much of a showcase for the man who announces American Idol
. E! is giving Seacrest a slot to do longer celeb interviews (first up: Eva Longoria
on April 17), and maybe that'll help. Or he and coanchor Giuliana DePandi can have a go at the kind of playful catfighting he does with Simon Cowell
back on Idol
PROBLEM CHILD A British commentator once complained that the Brits, after years of impressing Americans with shows like Masterpiece Theatre, had begun to dumb down U.S. television with reality exports (including Idol
). Well, bring it on, U.K.! An upcoming BBC1 show, A Problem Called Maria
, will conduct an Idol-style search to find an actress to play the Julie Andrews part in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage revival of The Sound of Music
. Can't you just picture Kelly Clarkson
yodeling "The Lonely Goatherd"?
Showtime (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)