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Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Actor shoulders ‘Death’ alone

September 7, 2006

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Brad Garrett returns to prime time in "'Til Death" (7 p.m., Fox). He's Eddie Stark, a cynical high school history teacher married for more than 20 years to Joy (Joely Fisher). Their life together has become a comfortable rut of midlife mutual co-existence. Or, as Eddie puts it, "marriage is having someone to drive you to the hospital."

To Eddie and Joy's fascination and annoyance, newlyweds Steph (Kat Foster) and Jeff Woodcock (Eddie Kaye Thomas) move next door. Married but 12 days, Jeff is the new vice principal in Eddie's school. Eddie quickly disabuses him of his idealistic notions about students and warns him of what games they will play with his last name. He takes a similar approach to marital issues, instructing Jeff on the strategies of manipulation and retreat in the Great Game played between men and women.

Apart from Eddie, none of the other characters are terribly well developed or interesting. Joy seems wary of Eddie's games and immune to his grouchy attitude. She's little more than a sounding board for his many gloomy asides, one-liners and well-honed zingers. The kids next door are merely ciphers. You'll forget their names and faces by the end of a half-hour. This leaves "Death" all up to Garrett.

¢ "Happy Hour" (7:30 p.m., Fox) is a perky, if crude, comedy based on a simple and eternal premise. Henry (John Sloan), a country boy, moves to Chicago and finds himself lost after his hometown Missouri girlfriend, Heather (Brooke D'Orsay), dumps him in order to "blossom" in the big city.

Henry moves in with a stranger named Larry (Lex Medlin) living in the same apartment building. Larry, a latter-day swinger by way of Dean Martin and Vince Vaughn, takes Henry under his wing and tries to turn him into a player. Larry's best friend and bank manager, Amanda (Beth Lacke), hires him on the spot, and together they throw a wild cocktail party for him.

Larry's lesson for Henry, and any viewers who care to listen, is simple. You go around only once; live it up before you settle down. As such, "Happy Hour" is often funnier and less suffocating than the all-too-aptly named "'Til Death."

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Miami Dolphins in NFL Football action (7:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ On two episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), Meredith learns about Derek's wife (7 p.m.), Izzie steams (8 p.m.).

¢ A reality TV crew chronicles Grissom's team on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ The remaining seven perform on "Celebrity Duets" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ A skating star vanishes on "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).

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