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Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heche, McDowell star in ‘Science Fiction’

August 18, 2007

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A whim becomes a controversial cause when a decadent woman befriends a cyborg servant slated for the scrap heap on "Masters of Science Fiction" (9 p.m., ABC), starring Anne Heche and Malcolm McDowell.

Heche has fun as a spoiled socialite in a future given to idle hours and ridiculous hairstyles. If her dim boy toy is any clue, the legacy of Duran Duran will linger long into the new century.

McDowell plays a brilliant industrialist tormented that his genius has been wasted on devising clever, freakish playthings for the rich.

Based on a story by Robert Heinlein, and written and directed by Michael Tolkin ("The Rapture"), this clever trifle muses on people and their creations and the possibility that the artificial can be endowed with humanity.

¢ Music stars have always been larger than life. From Elvis Presley's pink Cadillac to Liberace's candelabra-mania, pop stars have never been understated.

But no musical genre has embraced conspicuous consumption with the gusto of rap and hip-hop. As the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy put it, "It's all about the Benjamins." So it's hardly surprising that a top business magazine and E! should conspire to present "Forbes Top 20 Hip-Hop Cash Kings" (5 p.m. today, E!), featuring interviews with Big Boi, Lil Jon, T.I., Swizz Beatz and Scott Storch, among others.

¢ Once upon a time, Americans used to disdain royalty. Complaints about the arbitrary rule of an incompetent king were written right into one of our most sacred documents, the Declaration of Independence.

But over the past few generations, our sentiments towards the sceptered set have been transformed from disdain to admiration and envy.

How else do you explain something as vulgar and obvious as "American Princess" (9 p.m. Sunday, WE)? Now in its second season, this eight-episode series takes a dozen American women and "trains" them to walk, talk, dine and dance in a manner upright and presentable enough to impress British royalty. After a series of eliminations, one lucky girl gets an instant title, a tiara and the whole shebang.

The notion of transformation and uplift is a natural one, having been used to good effect from Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion to its adaptation, "My Fair Lady" and, more recently, "Pretty Woman." But, as my wife observed while I inflicted this on her, "There aren't any Julia Roberts in this bunch."

The makers of "Princess" resorted to the dregs of reality central casting and arrived at a desperate mix of vixens, with the balance skewed toward skanky exhibitionism. There are a few shy wallflowers in the group, but most appear to have learned comportment from hip-hop videos and professional wrestling.

Tonight's highlights

  • The Rams host the Chargers in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., CBS).
  • Lou Gossett Jr. stars in the 2006 Canadian-made shocker "Solar Attack" (8 p.m., Sci Fi).
  • The 2007 sequel "High School Musical 2" (7 p.m., Disney) repeats tonight and Sunday night.

Sunday's highlights

  • The Ravens host the Giants (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Barb's mother (Ellen Burstyn) plans to remarry on "Big Love" (8 p.m., HBO). "Love" moves to Sunday nights for the last two episodes of the season.
  • Game night with some "perfect" neighbors on "Brothers and Sisters" (9 p.m., AB).
  • One more load on "Ice Road Truckers" (9 p.m., History).
  • Frank prepares to leave in three days on "Army Wives" (9 p.m., Lifetime).
  • An airport encounter all but sinks the band on "Flight of the Conchords" (9:30 p.m., HBO).

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