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Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2000

Nice guy wakes up as a monstor

Becoming Dick’ looks at Hollywoood soul-selling

August 31, 2000

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What if you woke up and all of your dreams came true, only to find that you had lost your soul in the bargain? That, in a nutshell, is the plot of the Hollywood morality tale "Becoming Dick" (8 p.m., E!). Richard Briggs (Harland Williams) is a sweet, likable, spectacularly unsuccessful New York City actor. He and his nice girlfriend, Maggie (Elizabeth Berkley), live in a dump and they can't even afford to buy shades for their windows. Briggs drives a cab to pay the bills between auditions that go nowhere. Then, his pal (Bob Saget) suggests that success comes only to those who are aggressive and nasty enough to seize it. Inspired by this advice, Richard doublecrosses a fellow actor and immediately gets a part in a play. Maggie, however, is not so thrilled by Richard's aggressive nature. They quarrel, and go to bed still mad at each other.

Richard wakes up only to find that four years have transpired, and he can't remember a thing. Only, he's sleeping in silk pajamas, in his own mansion, with his own butler, Edward (Robert Wagner). He stars in his own hit TV show, "Dick," as a mean-spirited hairdresser. And he has the reputation as the meanest, most demanding star in the world.

Still stunned by the turn of events, Richard, now Dick, tries to find Maggie, only to find that he abandoned her long ago on his rise to the top. "Becoming Dick" has some funny moments, including video flashbacks of Richard/Dick's nasty behavior on the set of his show. It quickly descends into mawkish sentimentality when Dick goes about reclaiming his old life and identity. As Edward, Wagner shamelessly imitates the butler role created by John Gielgud in "Arthur" some 20 years back. Saget, who directed this film, also plays a tad too hard as the best friend "conscience" who Dick left behind.

  • Muhammad Ali may have called himself "the greatest," but the TV movie, "Ali: An American Hero" (7 p.m., Fox) is a merely adequate biopic. Simply overmatched by the role of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, actor David Ramsey captures some of the boxer's brash exuberance but none of his gravity, his ambition and even cruelty. Produced by Thomas Carter, an Emmy winner for "Don King: Only in America," this film lacks the narrative invention and daring visual style that made "King" so remarkable. Watch "Ali" for its supporting cast, including Clarence Williams III as Clay's father, Joe Morton as Malcolm X and Antonio Fargas as Elijah Muhammad.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Ross meets his young girlfriend's dad (Bruce Willis) on a repeat of "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • The sports preview series "Inside the NFL" enters its 24th season (7 p.m., HBO).
  • A presidential impersonator (Kevin Kline) has to step into the real job in the 1993 comedy, "Dave" (7:30 p.m., CBS).
  • Greene spends quality time with his dad on a repeat of "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • On part two of the six-part documentary, "Hopkins 24/7" (9 p.m., ABC): parents weigh the risks of complicated brain surgery on their 4-year-old daughter; interns endure 100-hour work weeks.
  • Award-winning chef Ming Tsai hits the road in search of fresh ingredients, adventure and culinary inspiration on the premiere of "Ming's Quest" (9 p.m., Food Network).

Cult choice

A trusting wife (Norma Shearer) has her husband stolen by an unscrupulous shop girl (Joan Crawford) in the gossipy 1939 comedy, "The Women" (10:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies), based on the snappy play by Clare Boothe Luce.

Series notes

Cramped quarters on "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS) ... On back-to-back episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (ABC), sumo wrestlers (7 p.m.), and a new sitcom theme (7:30 p.m.) ... Wrestling on "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Sam wins a modeling contest on "Popular" (7 p.m., WB).

On back-to-back episodes of "Will & Grace" (NBC), Grace dates Will's therapist (7:30 p.m.), and Will's perfect dad (Sydney Pollack) lets him down (8 p.m.) ... Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (8 p.m., ABC) ... Too many warlocks on "Charmed" (8 p.m., WB).

Finch returns to the rink on "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Singers Tony Bennett and Diana Krall appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno's guests include actor Mel Gibson, actress Claire Forlani and performance troupe The Blue Man Group on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Actors Mike Farrell and Daryl Mitchell, officer Maria Martinez and inmate Rubin Becarra are Bill Maher's scheduled guests on "Politically Incorrect" (11:05 a.m., ABC).

Singer Britney Spears and actor Kyle MacLachlan are booked on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC) ... Actor Jason Biggs and musical guests Art Alexakis and Everclear appear on "The Late, Late Show With Craig Kilborn" (11:37 a.m., CBS).

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