Archive for Monday, March 27, 2006

Award-winning playwright’s painful life became muse

March 27, 2006


"American Experience" (8 p.m., PBS) presents "Eugene O'Neill," a film by Ric Burns. The only American playwright to receive a Nobel prize, O'Neill's painful family life would become the source for his many acclaimed dramas.

O'Neill's father was a study in professional and artistic frustration. His mother plunged into despair after her infant son caught a fatal case of measles from his 7-year-old brother, James. James would never be forgiven for "killing" his brother, and by the time Eugene arrived as an unplanned and unwanted baby, his mother was already a morphine user.

O'Neill's attempts to confront this dreadful emotional landscape honestly also would destroy his relationships with a series of wives and alienate him from his children.

"O'Neill" includes conversations with contemporary dramatists John Guare and Tony Kushner, director Sidney Lumet and the late actor Jason Robards, in one of his final interviews. Actors, including Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer and Liam Neeson, perform scenes from O'Neill's dramas.

¢ The two-part, four-hour miniseries "Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King" (8 p.m., Sci Fi, concludes Tuesday) sets out to reiterate the German myth of the Nibelungen Saga for a new audience. The myths inspired Wagner's operas as well as Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Benno Furmann stars as Eric, a foundling child raised as a blacksmith. His story echoes that of the Greek myth of King Oedipus and the Old Testament's Moses. Like them, Eric slowly comes to learn of his true lineage and destiny. In Eric's case, he is Siegfried, the orphaned heir to a ravaged kingdom.

An impressive cast includes Alicia Witt, Julian Sands and Max von Sydow. In his more excited moments as Eric/Siegfried, Furmann may remind viewers of a young, pre-"Terminator" Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The plot is too vast and complex to digest here. Suffice it to say it involves a search to find treasure, slay dragons and discover destiny. "Dark Kingdom" features impressive special effects and near-constant action and swordplay. Like many films of its type, it suffers from portentous and often laughable dialogue that is supposed to evoke the pagan ways of yore.

¢ The culinary travelogue "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" (8 p.m., Travel) returns for a second season with a two-hour trip to Japan and China. The tour incorporates both refined gluttony and spiritual quests.

In and around Osaka, Japan, Bourdain attends a moving holiday honoring the deceased, visits a sacred grove of trees, eats to excess with two emerging comedians and experiences the mania of Japanese baseball. His Chinese sojourn takes him to the roots of Sichuan cooking as well as the center of Taoism. As always, Bourdain is opinionated, passionate and hungry for more. We'd follow him anywhere.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The new series "The Daily 10" (6:30 p.m., E!) offers viewers a quick digest of pop culture's most-talked-about items of the day, or the moment.

¢ Michael mulls a new escape plan on "Prison Break" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A beauty queen and a tattooed lady participate on "Wife Swap" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ At long last, "Everwood" (WB) returns with two episodes: a novel experience for Andy (7 p.m.), Amy's mentor (Leslie Hope) offers advice (8 p.m.).

¢ Recent revelations drive Jack to extreme measures on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ Richard takes note of Christine's dating spree on "The New Adventures of the Old Christine" (8:30 p.m., CBS).

¢ Wisecracking crooks plan a major score on the pilot episode of "Heist" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Two hearts in need on "Miracle Workers" (9 p.m., ABC).


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