Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Survivor’ faces tough competition

February 8, 2007

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A new tropical locale beckons fans of "Survivor" (7 p.m., CBS). Fiji becomes home for 19 contestants on the 14th season of the reality competition.

The greatest survivor on "Survivor" has to be the show itself. Few other entertainment franchises could withstand 14 seasons over seven years and not burn out. And while "Survivor" is not the dominant show it once was, it still attracts an enviable audience. Like many shows on CBS, "Survivor" remains popular without generating much buzz. Do you know who won the last round? Do you care?

When "Survivor" debuted, it seemed to be filling an entertainment void. Now, "Survivor" itself seems like a tired, if comfortably familiar, distraction from newer ("Ugly Betty") and clearly superior ("The Office") shows.

¢ "Final 24" (9 p.m., Biography) looks at the series of mistakes and errors in judgment that resulted in the deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and his sister-in-law in a small-plane crash on July 16, 1999.

The death of the late president's son also resulted in some strange moments for the media. Cable news held a 'round-the-clock vigil from the moment the plane was reported missing until its final discovery some days later. A friend of mine who worked at a cable news outfit at the time confided with much chagrin, "We've got more hours of more footage of empty, open ocean than any other network." It wasn't so much a boast as a journalist's cry of pain.

On radio, Rush Limbaugh "entertained" his audience with a graphic and gruesome contemplation of the state of decomposition of the bodies on Kennedy's airplane. And in the New York Post, TV critic-turned political columnist John Podhoretz speculated that Kennedy's death was a pre-ordained retribution for a deal his grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy had struck with Satan. This dreadfully timed and tasteless essay earned a rare rebuke from media baron Rupert Murdoch.

Like the death of Princess Diana only two years before, the Kennedy tragedy resulted in "news" at its very worst: hours to kill and little if nothing to report except speculative commentary about the obvious.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ As her trial approaches, Joy discovers a long-lost family member on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).

¢ Making the best of a fashion-week catastrophe, Betty plays peacemaker on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Phyllis's wedding reminds Pam of her own dashed plans on "The Office" (7:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ Grissom returns just in time to help solve a double homicide on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ New challenges confront the interns on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ Cupid and food poisoning on "30 Rock" (8:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ A celebrity party girl may have been hounded to her car-accident death by overzealous paparazzi on "Shark" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ An obnoxious comic (Freddy Rodriguez) undergoes tests for a mystery ailment on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Help from an unlikely handyman on "Men in Trees" (9 p.m., ABC).

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