Archive for Monday, January 30, 2006

Monday TV fights terrorists, real and imagined

January 30, 2006


"Flight 93" (8 p.m., A&E;) is the second cable movie to depict the horrible events of 9-11 in a moment-by-moment fashion. The Discovery Channel aired a similar film some months ago about the same subject that was watched by a wide audience. This new version is not the better of the two.

Next to the choice to air "Flight 93" at all, the most curious decision by A&E; is to broadcast it on a Monday night opposite "24" (8 p.m., Fox).

Like "Flight 93," this superior weekly drama offers viewers the cathartic experience of watching Americans take decisive actions to confront terrorists. Both take place accompanied by a ticking clock. But "24" operates in the realm of fiction and melodrama, freeing the viewer to watch it without feeling that one's patriotism and emotions are being exploited.

Viewers are well-aware that "24" operates in a formulaic universe, where every hour unfolds in real time and ends with a cliffhanger worthy of a silent serial. The show is so well-established, popular and self-aware that it has begun to comment on its own peculiarities.

Was anyone surprised that Chloe would be "punished" for her one-night stand and discover that her furtive lover was a mole? But the real kicker came when Edgar, Chloe's partner in computer wizardry and emotional dyslexia, asked her to open up and express herself. Our heroine's response was one for the ages, delivered with characteristic squinting, eye-rolling and shoulder shrugging: "OK, Edgar, after we find the nerve gas and the terror level is dropped, we'll have some chamomile tea and I'll tell you my secrets, OK?"

Jack Bauer's strong, silent, type-A personality is also the central reason why Kiefer Sutherland, the actor and producer at the center of this excellent series, probably will never win an Emmy for his work on "24." The folks who hand out statuettes prefer more forthcoming characters, like those on "The West Wing," where clever dialogue often gives way to mere wind baggage. But this nonrecognition puts Sutherland in the proud tradition of actors like Steve McQueen, who were admired in their day and remembered and revered decades later after mere prize-winners were long forgotten.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Rinky-dink entertainment on "Skating with Celebrities" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Opposites detract on "Wife Swap" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Comic-book fans bug out over Monica on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ Bold-faced names and product placements abound on "In Style Celebrity Weddings" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ A script written in blood on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Allison imagines herself a mental patient from the 1950s on a memorable episode of "Medium" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ L'amour le merrier on "The Bachelor: Paris" (9 p.m., ABC).

Cult choice

A dysfunctional fraternity feels the wrath of a despotic dean in the 1978 comedy "Animal House" (7 p.m., AMC).


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