Archive for Monday, April 19, 2004

Tonight’s reality shows: ‘Sleep with the fishes’ — or quiches

April 19, 2004

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The funeral-home documentary series "Family Plots" (8 p.m., A&E;) breaks little new ground. In fact, this subject has been done to death. It's difficult for it not to be buried under unfavorable comparisons to stiff competition, including the superlative "Six Feet Under." And "Family" follows in the wake of more than a generation of memorable funeral-related viewings, including the 1963 comedy "The Loved One" and the amazing 1978 documentary "Gates of Heaven."

Oddly enough, all of these films take place in Southern California.

"Family" follows the hectic schedule of San Diego's Poway-Bernardo Mortuary, run by three attractive and high-spirited sisters, their former boxer father and a number of obsessive-compulsive employees. Much of the action involves the hectic juggling of viewings, embalming, burials and other mortuary matters. The sisters go about their business with the sassy detachment of beauticians. Given its colorful characters and thought-provoking subject matter, it's a shame the producers chose to mess up the opening half-hour with wacky editing techniques and kooky music.

  • All is not well at Rocco DiSpirito's eponymous pasta joint as "The Restaurant" (9 p.m., NBC) returns for a second helping. Rocco appears to be living in the fool's paradise of celebrity-hood, appearing at book signings and doing charity work at a Harlem grammar school while his employees grumble about his absences.

Meanwhile, restaurant owner and all-around dark eminence Jeffrey Chodorow descends on Rocco's to inform his high-flying chef that the place is hemorrhaging dough. And we're not talking gnocchi.


Tonight's other highlights

  • "Secrets of Zion and Bryce" (7 p.m., Travel) kicks off a week of programs on America's National Parks.
  • On back-to-back episodes of "Bernie Mac" (Fox): girlie magazines (7 p.m.), a less-than-manly sport (7:30 p.m.).
  • Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star in the 2000 thriller "What Lies Beneath" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Ray bonds with Amy's mom on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • A mystery man and a peeping shutterbug stalk the hotel halls on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • Make-believe soldiers re-enact the 1775 battle of Lexington and Concord on "Patriots Day" on "American Experience" (8 p.m., PBS).
  • A slain cop was less than a hero on "CSI: Miami" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Bill Kurtis is host of "Investigating History" (9:15 p.m., History), employing new technology to solve some of the great riddles of the past. Tonight: the Holy Grail.

Late night

Tom Hanks and N.E.R.D. appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Joe Rogan and Dakota Fanning on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Quentin Tarantino appears on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

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