Archive for Wednesday, November 3, 2004

American television is knee-deep in John Bull

November 3, 2004

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New offerings with a decidedly British accent dominate the dial tonight.

Apparently, nobody in America knows how to raise children anymore. Half of the parents appearing on "Wife Swap" speak in New Age gibberish, sleep late and write poetry. The other half are fitness-obsessed shopaholics. Who is raising the youth of America? Fox chimes in with "Nanny 911" (8 p.m., Fox), a comic advice lifestyle series featuring a team of English nannies with differing styles and areas of expertise. Head nanny Lillian assesses each family's strengths and needs and assigns the proper nanny to work her "Mary Poppins"-like magic.

  • In a mix of "Masterpiece Theatre" and reality television, "Regency House Party" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) invites 10 thoroughly modern men and women to spend nine summer weeks recreating a 19th-century social season. Plucked from their 21st-century stations and occupations, will the players be able to navigate the strict social mores of England's Regency Era (1811-1820)?

In the first installment, the men are taught the finer points of swordplay, horseback riding and falconry, and, most important, the fine art of walking. The women's lessons are more limited, but they do learn that, when held and wielded in the proper manner, a simple fan can speak volumes.

"Regency House Party" airs every Wednesday night through Nov. 24.

  • The story behind the 2003 fantasy "The Young Visiters" (7 p.m., BBC America) is remarkable. In 1890, when Daisy Ashford was 9 years old, she decided to write a novel. And did. The manuscript to "The Young Visiters" sat in a drawer until 1919, when it was published. It has never gone out of print.

As you might expect, "The Young Visiters" proceeds with childlike logic, not unlike "Alice in Wonderland." The "elderly" 42-year-old Alfred Salteena (Jim Broadbent) leads a dull life in a dull suburb until he becomes smitten with Ethel (Lyndsay Marshal), who believes Alfred can introduce her to high society and aristocracy. The production is delightful, and Broadbent brings a larger-than-life sense of whimsy to his character.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS): violence between U.S. National Guardsmen at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Charlie goes cold turkey with unexpected help from Locke on "Lost" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • With Leo out of commission, the staff flounders on "The West Wing" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A worker dies in a tunnel deep below the city streets on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • A fitness freak and a pleasantly plump Earth mother trade families on "Wife Swap" (9 p.m., ABC).

Late night

Tom Brokaw and Mischa Barton appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Samuel L. Jackson on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Adam Brody and Ben Stein appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

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