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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Working stiffs’ travails make for compelling TV

June 15, 2005

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What's it like to live on minimum wage for a month? Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") and his fiance, Alexandra Jamieson, do just that in the debut installment of "30 Days" (9 p.m., FX), a new series inviting participants to experience life in a radical new way for a one-month period.

Morgan and Alexandra embark on their "Minimum Wage" adventure directly after attending the Academy Awards ceremonies in Hollywood. They would soon have bigger regrets than finding out that "Super Size Me" did not win for best documentary.

We won't rehash the gory details here. But suffice to say "Minimum Wage" demonstrates why persistent poverty is so rarely part of the television experience. Marketing folks tell us we watch TV to escape, not dwell on unpleasantness. To use the latest buzzword, advertisers want shows that are "aspirational." No one on television ever works for minimum wage, takes the bus, or lives in a cramped apartment or run-down mobile home park. And shows that do focus on the less fortunate, like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," show us how even the most touching problems can be overcome in less than 60 minutes.

This is precisely why Spurlock's experiment is so interesting and potentially subversive. He clearly has a point of view, and reminds us repeatedly that Congress has not raised the minimum wage since 1997. He also shows the generosity of local volunteers.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): Internet diploma mills; Julliard students; the children of gangster Henry Hill.

¢ A paratrooper needs a parapsychologist to locate him on "Psychic Detectives" (7 p.m., NBC).

¢ Parents feel overwhelmed on "Supernanny" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste is host to "Buggin' with Ruud" (7 p.m., Animal Planet), a new series about insects of the world.

¢ On back-to-back episodes of "Law & Order" (NBC), pedestrian peril (8 p.m.), local casualties in the war on terror (9 p.m.).

¢ A serial killer haunts kinky clubs on "The Inside" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ Cha-cha-cha-changes on "Dancing with the Stars" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ A trio of murders in three boroughs of the Big Apple keep investigators busy on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Kate's mystery deepens on "Lost" (9 p.m., ABC).

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