Who says the "Let's put on a show" spirit of old Andy Hardy movies doesn't exist anymore? All summer, thespian wannabes have been acting their martial hearts out on "Next Action Hero" and tonight, winners Sean Carrigan and Corinne van Ryck de Groot get to appear in their debut shoot-'em-up "Bet Your Life" (7 p.m., NBC), produced by Joel Silver.
Carrigan has the tough job of playing Sonny Briggs, washed up professional quarterback who transferred his gridiron adrenaline rush to a serious gambling addiction. The thin script for "Bet" involves Carrigan's need to hide from loan sharks and bounty hunters (de Groot) and his curious choice to become the hunted human prey of evil gaming gazillionaire played by Billy Zane. Zane's wicked Dr. Zin-type character must have some serious political muscle because his henchmen and henchwomen proceed to blow things up all over town with minimal police interference.
For all of the physical training exacted by "Next Action Star," Carrigan's most difficult task involved delivering the script's hackneyed dialogue. Trite phrases like "chance of a lifetime," and "roll of the dice," spill out like quarters in some cockamamie slot machine. And that's just during Brigg's 30-second introductory voiceover. The real cliches arrive when a helicopter-flying hit man starts spraying the Vegas strip with machine gun fire. Movies this bad (particularly Billy Zane movies this bad) used to be the province of basic cable. But it looks like NBC took a gamble and came up craps.
- What would the fantasy film genre do without the myth of Amazon women? Think of all those Frank Frazetta posters that would never have been drawn. "Secrets of the Dead" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) applies forensic science to determine whether there is any truth to the legends, popularized by Greek writers Homer and Herodotus, of tribes of bloodthirsty blonde ultra-vixens. Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball pursues a trail of artifacts to a remote village in western Mongolia, where she thinks she has discovered a living link to the legendary female marauders. This is narrated by Liev Schreiber ("Manchurian Candidate").
Tonight's other highlights
- On back-to-back season-ending episodes of "Simple Life 2" (Fox), the brats run afoul of the law (8 p.m.), and disrupt a cattle drive (8:30 p.m.). That's all, folks.
- Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): murder claims a Texas tycoon.
- "The Ashlee Simpson Show" (9:30 p.m., MTV) wraps up its first season.
Tom Cruise and Natalie Merchant appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Quentin Tarantino, Andre Tolme and Notorious Cherry Blooms on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).