Archive for Saturday, March 13, 2004

Confidential’ digs into small-town death

March 13, 2004


The late actor Paul Winfield, who died just last week, narrates a "City Confidential" episode (9 p.m. today, A&E;) that looks at a murder in the bucolic city of Honesdale, Pa. Honesdale is so quaint it barely qualifies as a city. It's the world headquarters of Highlights for Children magazine and a pretty little town with a Civil War memorial on the picture-postcard town square. It's also about 15 miles from my house, so I take a personal interest in this particular show.

"Confidential" revisits the 1986 highway-accident death of Kristen Umstadter, a recent high school graduate, homecoming queen and two-time class president. Her hard-drinking boyfriend Glen survived the accident but faced third-degree murder charges. Still in shock from Kristen's tragic death, the little city was devastated when her protective brother Travis took justice into his own hands and shot Glen to death at point-blank range. Replete with ominous editing gimmicks and Winfield's pulp-fiction voiceover, this "Confidential" demonstrates how even the "safest" towns can become the stuff of lurid tabloid tales.

  • Speaking of small-town gothic, Kirstie Alley stars in the made-for-television drama "Family Sins" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS). She portrays Brenda Geck, a lauded foster mother and homemaker who hides a criminal conspiracy behind her gingham curtains. Her neighbors are shocked to discover that Geck has turned her brood into an army of shoplifters.
  • Fans of classic exploitation movies should sink their teeth into "Snakehead Terror" (8 p.m. today, Sci Fi). Literally a "fish out of water" tale, this horror hoot concerns a bucolic Maryland lake resort town where angry snakehead fish are growing to freakish proportions, eating the locals and slithering onto dry land in search of prey.

Bruce Boxleitner plays the concerned sheriff who tries to close the lake over the protests of a tourist-minded mayor. (Have you ever noticed how the characters in "Jaws"-inspired movies never seem to have seen "Jaws"?) Fortunately, he has a voluptuous biologist (Carol Alt) on his side. Together, they discover that a local scientist has been dumping human growth hormones into the lake to make the fish bigger.

  • Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber star in "Spinning Boris" (7 p.m. today, Showtime) as three cynical political operatives hired by shadowy crime syndicate figures to run Russian president Boris Yeltsin's 1996 election campaign. While this obscure slice of recent history may not appeal to all, the principals are terrific together, particularly in scenes with Yeltsin's hard-to-please daughter (Svetlana Efremova).

Today's highlights

  • Arsenio Hall is host of "Star Search" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • A boy is kidnapped from his bed on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Ben Affleck is host of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest N.E.R.D.

Sunday highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): buying medicine in Canada; photos from deep space; a Philadelphia mob informer.
  • Liz Phair performs as Jackie DeShannon on "American Dreams" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Marge's arrogant prom date, Artie Ziff, returns to Springfield after losing his fortune on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • The Man in Black performed for prisoners in the 1969 concert special "Johnny Cash in San Quentin" (8 p.m., Trio).
  • "Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story" (8 p.m., Discovery) explores the lives of the fighters in the ancient arenas and dispels some of the myths about the sword-and-sandal set.

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