Americans love newspapers and love to hate newspapers. But are we fascinated enough to spend time watching a newspaper being produced under deadline? I have my doubts. And none of them are dispelled by "Tabloid Wars" (8 p.m., Bravo).
Much emphasis is placed on celebrity gossip, or "news" stories with a celebrity angle. Was Robert De Niro's domestic a crook? Did Christian Slater "goose" a woman? Does Victoria Gotti have cancer? A more serious story, about a possible bias attack in Howard Beach, N.Y., also goes under the microscope.
"Tabloid Wars" does a good job of showing the amount of time-consuming legwork that goes into getting quotes and confirmation of such stories. Hours of effort can result in one quote that may not even appear in a short article.
But is this interesting? One of the reporters assigned to the De Niro story complains how much he "hates" celebrity stories. While staking out Slater, a reporter is berated by an angry New Yorker who complains that their focus on celebrity news seems obscene when seen in the context of Iraq. The ranter also manages to attack the owner of the rival New York Post, so all is not lost for the Daily News.
With its emphasis on the gossip pages, "Tabloid" seems to have been infected by Bravo's cult of the fabulous. How, after all, can you dissect a tabloid newspaper and all but ignore the sports pages? The makers of "Tabloid" seem to forget that for many of us, newspapers are still read back to front.
"Tabloid" suffers from all of the vain excesses of reality television. Just because we enjoy the product doesn't mean we find the process interesting. Do salad lovers want to watch lettuce grow? "Tabloid" brings to mind German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's oft-quoted observation about legislation and sausages. Nobody really wants to see how they are made.
¢ "Life on Mars" (9 p.m., BBC America) offers a cosmic twist on the detective story. While investigating the kidnapping of his partner and girlfriend, British detective Sam Tyler (John Simm) is hit by a car. When he comes to, he finds himself transported to 1973. He's still a cop, but he doesn't recognize his colleagues, precinct house or apartment.
"Mars" makes the most of the cultural disconnections between 21st-century Sam and his gruff colleagues. When Sam talks about his Virgin cell phone, an operator thinks he's getting smutty. Is this some joke or a prolonged hallucination? Sam begins to concentrate only when his "new" case appears to have links to the 2006 kidnapping of his lover. It's a disorienting mystery well worth checking out, if only for the music and the clothes.
¢ They've had six years to bicker and live in seething rage. Now they appear on "One Week to Save Your Marriage" (9 p.m., TLC). And you've got one hour to watch it. Or one second to change the channel.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Heidi Klum presides over "Project Runway" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ On two episodes of "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox), menus and miscues (7 p.m.), teams combined (8 p.m.).
¢ Country stars old and young converge on "CMA Music Festival" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ Artifacts on "History Detectives" (8 p.m., PBS) may be linked to a famous stunt flier; the opium trade; Nazi leader Hermann Goering.
¢ Brenda investigates a porn star's demise on "The Closer" (8 p.m., TNT).
¢ Nightclub dangers exposed on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ A child killer strikes close to home on "Medium" (9 p.m., NBC).f