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I Like to Watch
By Dean Robbins
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 12:53 AM
Tuesday, Aug. 6, 9 pm (Showtime)
Web Therapy is a series where comedians amuse each other and, more often than not, the viewers. Lisa Kudrow plays a dumb, vain, manipulative therapist named Fiona, who communicates with people via web chat. Each half-hour episode consists of a double-screen image, with Kudrow on one side talking to stars such as Megan Mullally and Steve Carell on the other. In season three, they improvise silly conversations about a misbegotten Broadway musical and a phony self-help cult called Quorum.
Carell plays Jackson, the head of Quorum, and this week he hooks up both Fiona and himself to a “soul-cleansing machine.” The machine makes a pleasant DING after a truthful answer and provides an electric shock after a lie. Jackson gets a shock when he denies that he once sold timeshares. He takes an additional jolt when he insists that they were “spiritually based timeshares.” BZZT!
A blooper reel over the closing credits shows the stars having a good time. You’ll have a good time, too.
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 9 pm (BBC America)
A quiet English town registers shock when an 11-year-old boy’s body turns up on the beach. No one on the local police force has experience in such matters – no one except a new detective in town named Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Alec is haunted-looking and intense, given to outbursts when his partner, Ellie (Olivia Colman) makes a mistake. Ellie’s son was a friend of the victim, and she can’t help letting her own feelings affect the investigation.
This BBC series brings to life not only these two detectives, but a whole community. Everyone knows everyone in Broadchurch, and everyone becomes a suspect in the murder.
It’s refreshing to watch a crime drama that doesn’t feel the need to throw buckets of blood at the screen. Instead, Broadchurch focuses on relationships, some of them almost embarrassingly intimate.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Ellie confesses to her husband at the start of the investigation.
I certainly hope she can. After knowing her for only a short time, I’m already counting on her.
Friday, Aug. 9, 9 pm (Cinemax)
When it comes to international terrorist dramas, I’ll take Strike Back over Homeland. It’s twice as exciting, with actors clearly out to have a good time. (Contrast to Homeland’s perpetually pained Claire Danes.) The season premiere begins at maximum thrill level, as terrorists threaten a member of our British intelligence team in the Lebanese outback. I guess “maximum” is the wrong word, because the action only ratchets up from there. Bad-ass operatives Michael (Philip Winchester) and Damian ( Sullivan Stapleton) parachute into Colombia to neutralize the terrorist kingpin who’s traveled from Lebanon to do business with a scary South American drug lord. These two find time to rib each other in between grenade blasts, gun battles and rocket-launcher attacks.
And don’t think all the fun is reserved for these gorgeous, muscle-bound, tough-as-nails guys. The episode gives equal time to gorgeous, muscle-bound, tough-as-nails women, who (believe me) are not to be trifled with. One of them, an agent stationed in Colombia, notices Michael dive into the water during a climactic shootout. “What the hell is he doing?” she asks Damian. He replies, “Something brave or something stupid.”
Either way, I guarantee you will enjoy it.
Saturday, Aug. 10, 8 pm (HBO)
All of us Curb Your Enthusiasm fans were suspicious when writer-star Larry David suspended the series to work on an HBO movie. But we needn’t have worried. Clear History is like an extended episode of Curb, with even bigger and better humiliations for the Larry David stand-in.
Here David plays Nathan Flomm, a bearded, longhaired marketing executive who stupidly walks away from a billion-dollar electric-car idea after a petty fight with his partner, Will (Jon Hamm). Nathan becomes a national laughingstock, so he moves to Martha’s Vineyard, changes his identity, shaves his hair to Larry David-style baldness, and blends into working-class life with a group of new pals (Amy Ryan, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Danny McBride, Bill Hader). All is well until Will happens to move to the island with his perfect wife (Kate Hudson). Nathan plots his revenge, ignoring the advice of a friend to “let it go.”
Of course, a Larry David character can never let anything go. He’s convinced he’s in the right, thereby sealing his doom.
David is our bard of minor irritations, dating back to his brilliant scripts for Seinfeld. Clear History bears the marks of his comic genius, including an insight into the minutiae of daily life you’ve never thought about before. (And really, why aren’t electrical outlets at eye level?) Then there’s his ruthless determination to expose self-interested behavior in all its forms.
David is incapable of allowing his heroes satisfaction. I just hope he can allow himself a moment’s satisfaction for his long-form achievement in Clear History.
Sunday, Aug. 11, 8 pm (AMC)
Here we go. Breaking Bad begins its last eight-episode run, sealing the fate of high school teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White. I don’t actually know if Walt’s life will end tragically (AMC is being as secretive as the NSA about the season’s plot points), but it’s hard to imagine a moral universe in which it didn’t.
In the season’s first half, which aired last summer, Walt revived his meth operation, forced his wife into a fake suicide attempt, killed an associate, and had a bunch of potential stool pigeons massacred. I can’t foresee the sun shining and the soundtrack striking a major chord when the curtain finally comes down on this corrupted soul.
I can foresee Breaking Bad taking its place among the TV series immortals. Entertainment Weekly recently picked it as the 18th best show of all time, even though it’s still in mid-run. Here’s hoping the home stretch places it definitively in the top 10.
Saturday, Aug. 17, 7 pm (Lifetime)
This TV movie goes inside the criminal operations that provide babies to sell on the adoption market. It is efficiently written and directed to evoke maximum outrage.
In the opening scenes, Homeland Security officers with flak jackets and assault rifles surround a truck carrying a cargo of babies in plastic bins. One of the officers, Nicole (Jennifer Finnigan), is so disgusted she decides to go undercover to a shady adoption agency, posing as a woman seeking a baby from India. Agency head Carla (Kirstie Alley) is all sweetness and smiles in public, but cold and calculating as she deals with her suppliers behind closed doors.
I’m used to loving Alley on the small screen, so it’s a shock to see her as a villain. And what a villain – cynical, blunt and cruel. She makes such a memorable creep that it might be hard for her to go back to playing sympathetic characters.
I’m worried that, from now on, even seeing her in Cheers reruns will make me slightly uneasy.
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THE TOP 7 >>
Rejected Best of La Crosse Categories
1. Electronic billboard
2. Middle school football team
3. Rail liquor selection
4. Parking ramp
5. Internet troll
6. Graffiti artist
7. Kwik Trip
1. Pete Best
2. Milwaukee's Best
3. "Best in Show"
4. Best Western
5. Best Coast
6. Best Buy
7. 'My Best Friend's Girl"
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Friday: That Salad Place
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