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Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Robo Shark’ reels in clever documentary

August 13, 2003

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What do shark-obsessed scientists do in their spare time? They build a "Robo Shark" (8 p.m., Discovery). No, this isn't a new Peter Weller movie. It's a documentary about an animatronic creature developed to swim, dive and hang out with all manner of killer fish, while capturing their elusive behavior on videotape.

While some of the bigger fish, like great whites, give little Robo no respect, he manages to hoodwink most aquatic life. Parasite fish swim in its wake, looking for the bloody leftovers that are the result of most shark snacks. Giant sea turtles treat Robo like the real deal.

During its two-year tenure, Robo documented some of the most dangerous sharks of all. "Robo Shark" features gorgeous, haunting footage. There's nothing quite like a convention of 500 hammerhead sharks.

Robo also followed gray reef sharks as they congregated near the Bikini Atoll, a place still considered too dangerous to fish more than 50 years after it was used as a test site for an atom bomb. Beautiful stuff.

  • Facing scandal, the White House hires a movie producer (Dustin Hoffman) to fake a war, whip up patriotism and divert the public in the 1997 satire "Wag the Dog" (7 p.m., Bravo). Released just before the Clinton-Lewinsky media maelstrom, this weird little movie, directed by Barry Levinson, has only become timelier.

During the 1998 U.S. bombing of Iraq, Saddam Hussein showed bootlegged versions of this film over Baghdad television to taunt the just-impeached President Bill Clinton. More recently, some have accused the U.S. government and media of using "Wag"-like methods during the Jessica Lynch incident to whip up patriotism. The Lynch-inspired TV movie, now in production for NBC, has undergone so many changes and revisions it has become a virtual exercise in un-wagging the dog.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS): a mother challenges a king's right to take her daughter as his 10th wife.
  • "Biography" (7 p.m., A&E): profiles gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • People with nothing to do but get on each other's nerves and talk about strategy -- and themselves -- on "Big Brother 4" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Will Bailey's speech polishing does not go unnoticed on "The West Wing" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • Jack Johnson, Jewel and Rooney are on "Pepsi Smash" (8 p.m., WB).
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): new leads in the investigation of a murder of a young American woman on a Caribbean island.
  • A vacation video may offer the only witness to an actress's murder on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Kelly Ripa and Good Charlotte appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno is host to Brittany Murphy and Wynonna on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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