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Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hotel show misses ‘Boat’

July 26, 2007

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"Welcome to the Parker" (10 p.m., Bravo) offers a behind-the-scenes peek at a posh five-star hotel resort in Palm Springs, Calif. We meet the controlling manager whose business mantra is "obsession," as well as his harried staff. In episode one, we encounter a food critic who gobbles her way through thousands of dollars of tasting menus and a rowdy party of table tennis players.

"Welcome" does a good job illustrating the difficulties of the high-end service industry, where you can get a thousand things right and still suffer for one glaring error. But it never quite demonstrates why we should care.

There's a hint of an entertaining show here, but "Welcome" goes out of its way to focus on high-strung drudgery rather than emphasize "The Love Boat" that it could be.

¢ The new six-part series "Mind Control with Derren Brown" (9 p.m., Sci Fi) straddles the line between magic and con-artistry. Brown guesses how much cash pedestrians have in their wallets just by looking at them. He sweet-talks three attractive models by "guessing" the kinds of pickup lines that melt their hearts and then proceeds to get perfect strangers to hand him their wallets, cell phones and other valuables.

While not an illusionist, Brown uses the magic of television editing to good effect. After all, we never see how many guesses fail or how many strangers tell him to buzz off.

Brown's series debuts after the second-season premiere of "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" (8 p.m., Sci Fi). Comic-book creator Stan Lee puts 10 costumed crime fighters through the paces in this highly entertaining game of skill, brazen exhibitionism and elimination.

This year's worthies include a dust-busting orphan named Hygena; Basura the bug wrangler; Braid, a martial artist who puts her hair extensions to good use; and Mr. Mitzvah, who employs a Star of David paddle to repel bullets and mete out justice.

¢ The heartbreaking Oscar-winning documentary short "The Blood of Yingzhou District" (6 p.m., Cinemax) looks at a poor Chinese village where tainted needles have infected impoverished peasants who had resorted to selling their blood for money.

This 40-minute film reveals peasants dying of AIDS in the grimmest conditions. But that pales in comparison to the scenes of their surviving children, left abandoned by their families and taunted by neighbors and classmates.

"Blood" is a powerful, unspeakably sad film about the rawest human experiences and motivations: fear, ignorance and the primal desire to protect yourself and your family from a killer in your midst.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Jenna's film opens on "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ Meredith has a near-death experience on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ Academy-award winner Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") guest stars on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Peggy fends off several male suitors on "Mad Men" (9 p.m., AMC).

¢ Bill Kurtis narrates the documentary "The Execution of Michael Johnson" (10 p.m., A&E).

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