Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

ABC show features Shatner then and now

August 23, 2007


ABC has spent the week showcasing its Emmy-nominated series. Tonight it will repeat a special episode of "Boston Legal" (9 p.m., ABC), featuring scenes from a 50-year-old episode of the CBS program "Studio One," with an appearance by a young William Shatner.

Shatner appeared in that 1957 "Studio One" episode called "The Defender," with co-star Ralph Bellamy. They played a father-son legal team defending a murder suspect portrayed by an up-and-coming actor named Steve McQueen. It would later inspire the series "The Defenders," starring E.G. Marshall, which was notable in its time (1961) for discussing controversial topics including abortion, mercy killing and political blacklisting.

This brief video cameo is not only a salute to Shatner's early work, but clearly an effort by "Boston Legal" writer/producer David E. Kelly to place his show in the long tradition of topical television.

¢ ABC will also repeat the series pilot of the Emmy-nominated "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC). Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) offers a fish-out-of-water take on the high-strung world of fashion. Of course, the only reason this plain girl from the outer boroughs gets to enter the beauty business's city of Oz is because the boss's father hires her to keep his randy son in line. She's the only assistant he won't proposition.

It's interesting to compare and contrast the exaggerated gender roles and casual harassment found on the contemporary "Betty" and the new cable drama "Mad Men" (9 p.m., AMC), set in the advertising industry in 1960.

While "Mad Men" is much more upfront about the bigotries and inequalities of its era, both shows seem to center on the powerful taboo of sleeping with the boss, a subject at the center of tonight's "Mad Men."

And while their stories are separated by decades, both "Men" and "Betty" depict the lower rungs of office life as a cruel estrogen jungle - a gruesomely strict social order in which a catty remark or awkward glance can mean trouble. On tonight's "Men," the new girl, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), shows an aptitude for turning a phrase that may elevate her in the ranks of Sterling Cooper.

The attitudes on "Mad Men," where the male managers disparage female employees as "chickens" and "morons" may be a tad harsher than the realities of the time. Professional women were certainly a factor in both advertising and publishing in the 1950s and 1960s - at least in the movies. Haven't the writers on "Mad Men" ever seen the 1961 comedy "Lover Come Back," in which ad execs Rock Hudson and Doris Day bicker and battle over the VIP account?

Tonight's other highlights

  • A blessed event for Joy on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • The Green Bay Packers host the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Jack faces the scrutiny of a bigger big shot (Rip Torn) on "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
  • Kids get their first or fifth chance to sing along with "High School Musical 2" (7 p.m., Disney), the cable sequel that attracted a monster-sized (17 million plus) audience last Friday.
  • A defective product sparks a crisis on "The Office" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A blackjack dealer draws a fatal hand on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Christiane Amanpour conducts the final interview with Jerry Falwell on the conclusion of the three-part series "God's Warriors" (8 p.m., CNN).
  • Embarrassing facts emerge on "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" (8 p.m., Sci Fi).
  • A rough negotiation on "Burn Notice" (9 p.m., USA).
  • Kids set the agenda on "Ace of Cakes" (9 p.m., Food).


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