Idiot Box: Lemming Chic

Before delving into the coming week’s programming, I have to ask: Why do they keep letting Bob Woodward appear on Larry King Live? I understand he’s a big name in journalism–Watergate, Washington Post, yadda, yadda, yadda–but the man should not be allowed on television. His performance on election night last November, and again after Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, was painful to behold. He speaks preternaturally slowly, as if operating underwater, so that watching him in discussion with two or three fast-on- their-feet political analysts is much like watching a valium addict trying to communicate with a roomful of meth heads.

That said, on to less political TV fare… First, the bad news: The awards season continues apace with this Sunday’s broadcast of the 56th annual Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 8 PM). The ad in TV Guide says it all: “As glamorous and unpredictable as the stars themselves!” “Insipid and self-absorbed” would be more accurate. You’d be better entertained watching TNT’s back-to-back showings of Dirty Dancing (7 PM & 9 PM).

The Monday night scene is equally dismal (unless you happen to care who’s shagging whom on Melrose). Like a confused lemming, UPN is joining the animation frenzy with Dilbert (8 PM), a new series based on the popular comic strip by Scott Adams. Don’t bother. At its best, Adams’ comic strip delivers clever, sarcastic, deadpan humor. The series relies too much on characters shrieking and running about. Granted, I’ve thus far seen only the pilot episode, but the odds are against major improvement: Dilbert the comic strip relies heavily on its final frame to deliver a hysterical, twisted punch line–a formula that does not translate well to television narrative.

For Monday’s most disturbing offering, turn to ABC for Celebrity Weddings: In Style (8 PM). A joint presentation with In Style magazine, the hour-long special is media synergy at its most vapid. Meant to complement (and hawk) InStyle’s annual weddings issue (featuring 19 celebrity couples!), Monday’s show lets viewers bask in the warm nuptial-day radiance of John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Cindy Crawford, Vivica A. Fox, Kathy Najimy, and so on. I’m getting weepy just thinking about it.

Apparently, ABC execs have designated this Monday as “chick night,” because hot on the heels of the celebrity-wedding gawking hour comes the MFTV movie My Last Love (9 PM). As a general rule, made-for-TV movies stink. It may have something to do with the fact that three-quarters of them are now filmed in Canada, I don’t know. But they tend to fall into one of three dreary categories: pathetic pseudo-macho western (e.g., Outlaw Justice, CBS, Sun., 9 PM), cheesy suspense thriller, or nauseatingly gooey romance–which is where My Last Love comes in. Basic premise: Dying from some unspecified form of cancer, the fetching Susan Allen (Nancy Travis) quits her high-powered law career and moves home to L.A. with her precocious 11-year-old daughter, Carson. There, Allen falls madly in love with a yummy young poet-waiter (Scott Bairstow), who makes her last days worth living. Throw in a couple of well- intentioned, overbearing grandparents, tearful reminiscing about the poet- waiter’s dead sister, and repeated shots of characters gazing soulfully out at the Pacific, and you’ve got the makings of a movie so overwrought it should only be shown on Lifetime.

The good viewing news this week is harder to come by, in part because the networks are going heavy on the repeats. There are, however, a number of top- notch movie options: Driving Miss Daisy (UPN, Sun., 8 PM), Star Wars Special Edition, the 20th anniversary re-edit of George Lucas’$2 1977 mega hit (TBS, Sun., 8 PM), The Shawshank Redemption (CBS, Tue., 8 PM), The Sting (TNT, Tue., 8 PM), Stagecoach (AMC, Wed., 8 PM), and, of course, the Sunday night Porky’s trilogy on FX (Porky’s at 6 PM, Porky’sII at 8 PM, and Porky’s Revenge at 11 PM).

Also noteworthy is the X-Files conspiracy marathon on FX (Mon.-Fri., 8 PM). It’s an X-phile’s dream come true: no L.A. vampires, Indian werewolves, or homicidal inbred hillbillies–just 10 nights (weekends excluded) of biological experimentation, government cover-ups, and little green men. Regrettably, viewers will also be subjected to “behind the scenes interviews” serving largely to feed the egos of the cast and crew. But no viewing experience is perfect.

Finally, if the media circus surrounding Bimbroglio makes you long for a kinder, gentler era, check out Pacific Blue (USA, Sun., 8 PM). Adding camp to an already silly show, this week’s episode features former small-screen stars Erik Estrada (CHiPs), Adam West (Batman), Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch), and Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family).

Guaranteed groovy.

Michelle Cottle