Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

Borrowed and blue: John Waters host to ”Til Death’

March 19, 2007

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If somebody told you that cult director John Waters ("Pink Flamingos," "Hairspray") would have a hosting role on a regular TV show, you'd probably assume it would be on the Independent Film Channel or Bravo. But Court TV? Home to Nancy Grace and Star Jones?

With "'Til Death Do Us Part" (9 p.m., Court TV), the network walks into peculiar new territory. The show's darkly comic take on murder between brides and grooms departs from documentary-style shows about legal procedure. "Death" deals in speculative narrative and plays with psychological motivation - and comedy of a deliciously grim sort.

While all of the stories on this narrative series are based on true-crime accounts of one spouse killing another, the dramatic details and quirky kinks of each story have been created for entertainment purposes.

Let's start with Waters. He hosts the anthology series in the tradition of the Crypt Keeper on "Tales from the Crypt" or Alfred Hitchcock from the whimsically macabre series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." In each episode, Waters offers a sly, tongue-in-cheek prelude while seen attending the unhappy couple's wedding. At the end of story, after the guilty party has been apprehended, Waters serves up rueful admonitions as he sums up the whole grim affair. In this manner, he's also like Rod Serling from the "Twilight Zone."

It's fun to see anthology storytelling return to prime-time television.

OK, the demands of rapid-fire exposition can push a basic-cable production to its outer limits, and there are moments here when "Death" seems like a creepy soap opera. But it's also fun to see just how much can be crammed into these 22-minute vignettes.

In the pilot episode (9 p.m.), an older man enters into an impetuous marriage to his young receptionist only to discover they have nothing in common and that's she's become a gold digger. The best-laid plans of a desperate man and his crooked lawyer often go astray.

The second (9:30 p.m.) and better episode concerns a control-freak mortician who feels threatened when his heavyset wallflower wife begins to shed the pounds and blossom. Could she be doing it for another man? Waters excels here, wrapping things up with the wonderful throwaway line: "Well, I'm off to another wedding. Hope it's not yours."

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Sarah puts Michael first on "Prison Break" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Barney loves misery on "How I Met Your Mother" (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ Chris substitutes for a popular DJ on "Everybody Hates Chris" (7 p.m., CW).

¢ Howie Mandel hosts a two-hour "Deal or No Deal" (7 p.m., NBC).

¢ Political struggles on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (7:30 p.m., CBS).

¢ Neesee does her research on "All of Us" (7:30 p.m., CW).

¢ Jack suffers an additional emotional blow on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ David Bromstad hosts the new interior-design series "Color Splash" (8 p.m., HGTV).

¢ Alan mourns Jake's passing childhood on "Two and a Half Men" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ Lynn keeps up her church work on "Girlfriends" (8 p.m., CW).

¢ Veterans of the Iraq war discuss their experiences in the 2004 documentary "Ground Truth" (8 p.m., Sundance).

¢ A memory quilt proves painful on "Rules of Engagement" (8:30 p.m., CBS).

¢ A murder, a widow and secret twins on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Nicky (Kirk Acevedo) hits close to home on "The Black Donnellys" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ British citizens become ensnared in the terror war in the 2006 documentary "The Road to Guantanamo" (9:15 p.m., Sundance).

¢ Before becoming a force in "world music," David Byrne went looking for America in the smug 1986 travelogue "True Stories" (9:30 p.m., VH1 Classic), featuring the music of the Talking Heads.

¢ Bernie Mac, Paula Abdul and Joss Stone appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS).

¢ Andy Dick and Ivanka Trump appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 a.m., ABC).

¢ Tom Arnold, Rainn Wilson and Jesse Malin are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC).

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