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Archive for Friday, April 5, 2002

Dateline’ looks at Vegas homicide

April 5, 2002

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"Dateline" (8 p.m., NBC) departs from its usual magazine format to present "Death in the Desert," a behind-the-scenes report on a Las Vegas homicide squad's investigation. The police gave "Dateline" complete access to their offices and allowed hand-held camera crews to follow detectives Jeff Rosgen and Mark McNett as they interviewed witnesses and suspects, often in their own homes.

"Death" focuses on the murder of Loretta Beechler, a 49-year-old woman who had just arrived from California to care for her recently widowed father. At first, Rosgen and McNett focus their suspicions on a local freelance gardener known as "the weed-whacker guy," seen stalking the neighborhood. "Death" really gets juicy when more information emerges about the victim's father. First shown as a frail, wheelchair-bound patient, reduced to sucking oxygen out of a tube, we later learn that he's healthy and possesses quite a temper. One of his daughters admits that he uses his wheelchair as "a recreational vehicle."

Rosgen and McNett make a point of differentiating their work from TV drama. "It's not like 'NYPD Blue' or 'Law & Order,'" Rosgen explains. Set in "CSI's" Vegas neighborhood, this "Dateline" often resembles a more thoughtful episode of "Cops."

Based on an award winning 1997 Janet Tashjian novel, "Tru Confessions" (7 p.m., Disney) stars Clara Bryant as Tru, a smart, precocious teen struggling to create a school video project about her developmentally challenged twin brother, Eddie (Shia LaBeouf).

Tru spends a lot of time in her own room, videotaping herself and fantasizing about creating a "normal" family on a perfect retro sitcom. Although she and Eddie were inseparable as children, they have reached an age when Eddie has begun to embarrass her in front of her friends and potential boyfriends. Given its subject matter, "Tru Confessions" strives for poignancy more often than necessary. Its message is undercut by Tru's media-savvy patter and her bratty treatment of her mother, Ginny (Mare Winningham), who seems to grovel and apologize in almost every scene. The capable Winningham ("Wallace") needs to find projects where she isn't cast as an emotional doormat.

The quick-witted Irish-born talk-show host Graham Norton kicks off a new season of "So Graham Norton" (10 p.m., BBC America). Norton prefers chatty has-beens to trendy guests who merely plug their latest movie, book or TV appearance. This season, watch him trade wits (and a few off-color anecdotes) with Sophia Loren, Donny Osmond, Cybill Shepherd and William Shatner. Tonight, Norton hosts Patrick Duffy ("Dallas") and Sheena ("My Baby Takes the Morning Train") Easton. By far the smartest talk show on either side of the Atlantic.

Tonight's other highlights

Syd's malpractice trial begins on "Providence" (7 p.m., NBC).

Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck take on NBA stars Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing in the 1996 blend of live action and animation in the comedy "Space Jam" (7 p.m., UPN). The "reality" series "Under One Roof" has been canceled.

Grace and Hannah learn about the realities of war after Greer's son is killed in Vietnam on "State of Grace" (7 p.m., Family).

Molly becomes obsessed with her popular lab partner on "Maybe it's Me" (8:30 p.m., WB).

Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): a scientist claims he has invented "brain fingerprinting."

Benson and Stabler investigate the murder of a judge's (Keir Dullea) stepdaughter on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Lorraine Bracco star in director Martin Scorsese's 1990 mob epic "Goodfellas" (8 p.m., Lifetime).

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