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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Radner remembered in weeper

April 28, 2002

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Poor Jami Gertz. The former "Square Pegs" star has the thankless task of portraying the late Gilda Radner in the maudlin television weeper "It's Always Something" (8 p.m., ABC). An endearing combination of brash anarchic energy and aching sensitivity, Radner was a comic original who also happened to suffer from childhood obesity, adult bulimia and fatal ovarian cancer. Based on Radner's memoir, completed only weeks before her death at 42, "Something" can't decide whether to be an entertainment biography or a disease-of-the-week movie. Unfortunately, it tries to be both, with ghastly results.

At the risk of making light of a deadly disease, the scenes concerning Radner's cancer are much easier to take than the many odd approximations of her "Second City" and "Saturday Night Live" comedy routines. Yes, they actually attempt to recreate Radner's familiar and often repeated performances as Roseanne Rosannadanna, Lisa Loopner, Baba Wawa and Emily Litella. Watching these re-makes is like being trapped in a wax museum with a laugh track.

Try as she might, Gertz never captures the particular neurotic incandescence that made Radner a rare comic creature a lovable satirist. Radner's colleagues are also impersonated in a series of comedy karaoke performances featuring John Belushi (Eric Siegel), Bill Murray (Mather Zickel), Laraine Newman (Maureen Ross Neilson), Dan Aykroyd (Dan Di Julio), Jane Curtin (Jennifer Irwin), Garrett Morris (Dean Bernard), Eugene Levy (Patrick Fischler) and Radner's first husband, G.E. Smith (J.D. Nicholsen). Tom Rooney deserves special mention his impersonation of Gene Wilder, Radner's second husband and the love of her life, is so dead-on that it's creepy.

"It's Always Something" just may be bad enough to qualify as an instant cult classic. This excruciating exercise in pathetic nostalgia should become required viewing for the true TV movie masochist. Look for it soon on Lifetime!

Chosen from 5,000 applicants, three modern families participate on "Frontier House" (8 p.m., PBS, nightly through Wednesday) a six-part recreation of daily life as it was experienced on the Montana wilderness during the 1880s. Along the way, the families endure severe weight loss, a June blizzard and an enduring hunger for modern cosmetics. Created by the makers of "1900 House."

A travelogue fit for a King, "Jordan: The Royal Tour" (9 p.m., Travel) presents an exciting look at the ancient kingdom through the eyes of its youthful leader King Abdullah II, son of King Hussein by his British-born second wife. Educated in both the United States and England, Abdullah rides a motorcycle, pilots his own helicopter, climbs mountains and braves a river canyon as he shows off his nation's many splendid sites including the 2500-year-old city of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert, featured prominently in the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia."

Tonight's other highlights

Melissa Joan Hart is profiled on "Intimate Portraits" (6 p.m., Lifetime).

Friends and colleagues including Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and Eugene Levy remember "Gilda Radner's Greatest Moments" (7 p.m., ABC), a collection of her best clips from "Saturday Night Live."

Holy rerun! TV Land unspools a five-night, 20-episode "Batman" marathon running nightly from 7 to 9 p.m. The campy series starring Adam West and Burt Ward will air nightly on the nostalgia network at 6 p.m., beginning May 6.

Marie has an unexpected reaction to Debra's term of endearment on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).

Dr. Lewis (Sherry Stringfield, "ER") continues her search for her niece on "Third Watch" (8 p.m., NBC).

Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): taking on nightmare neighbors.

Jack Klugman returns to his "Quincy" form to guest star as a coroner on "Crossing Jordan" (9 p.m., NBC).

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