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Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hidden Howie’ has no ‘Curb’ appeal

August 18, 2005

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Further proof that Larry David is the most influential man in television comedy arrives in the form of "Hidden Howie: The Private Life of a Public Nuisance" (10 p.m., Bravo), a show so brazenly patterned on David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" that it almost amounts to a case of intellectual property theft.

Just as "Curb" chronicled David's misanthropic misadventures, this new series follows comic Howie Mandel, as himself, through the ups and downs of his life and career. Julie Warner plays a character based on Mandel's real-life wife and Estelle Harris (George Costanza's mother on "Seinfeld," a show co-created by Larry David) plays Mandel's grandmother. And just to confuse fiction and reality even further, Mandel's real-life son plays Alex, his real-life son.

"Hidden" follows Mandel in "unscripted" fashion as he plays hidden-camera tricks on unsuspecting civilians. His idea of humor is to rummage through a craft shop in search of heavy-duty tape to mummify his grandmother. A helpful clerk offers advice, unaware that Mandel has a small camera hidden in his glasses. The resulting hilarity unspools on "The Tonight Show," whose host, Jay Leno, appears frequently here.

In between pranks, "Hidden" retreats into fictive comedy involving Howie's relationship with his family and the outside world. In tonight's episode, he performs a comedy routine for Holocaust survivors, and in episode two, his needy cousin exposes himself in public. Laughs not included.

"Howie" will air on Monday nights beginning Aug. 22.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The New Orleans Saints host the New England Patriots in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jackie Chan star in the 2003 action comedy "The Tuxedo" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Murder matriculates at a coed dorm on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ On back-to-back episodes of "Scrubs" (NBC), malpractice malaise (8 p.m.), battles with the ice queen (8:30 p.m.).

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