Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2007

CSI,’ ‘Without a Trace’ join for sweeps stunt

November 8, 2007

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November sweeps, once the province of ratings-grabbing miniseries, special movie events, stunt casting and other extravaganzas, has become rather subdued in recent years. In an era of reduced audiences, networks tend to play up their highly rated shows and put nonperformers on hiatus.

Tonight's biggest and only example of sweeps-week razzle-dazzle occurs when an episode of "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS) begins with a story about a homicide in Las Vegas and wraps up on "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC) spoofs the weeklong "Green" theme of NBC-Universal programming. David Schwimmer ("Friends") guest stars as an out-of-work actor hired by Jack (Alec Baldwin) to play "Greenzo," an earth-friendly superhero out to spread an environmental message and plug GE products at the same time. Jack's plans unravel when Greenzo allows his mission to go to his head. He insults Meredith Vieira (as herself) on the "Today Show" and attacks corporations for ruining the planet. Look for Al Gore in a cameo.

I admire this show's combination of the silly and the clever, but proof that "30 Rock" may be clever to a fault can be found in "Greenzo's" acting resume. His only other gig was as an actor in a campaign ad for Rick Lazio, Hillary Clinton's Republican opponent in the 2000 New York Senate race. If you limit your audience to people who get Rick Lazio jokes, you're not exactly going to break out of the ratings box.

¢ Political history of another sort can be found in "The Deal" (8 p.m., HBO). The 2003 drama offers a prequel of sorts to the Oscar-winning film "The Queen," and features director Stephen Frears, producer Christine Langan and writer Peter Morgan, the team behind that acclaimed movie.

"The Deal" offers a dramatic exploration of the political relationship between Tony Blair (Michael Sheen, "The Queen") and his chancellor and successor, Gordon Brown (David Morrissey).

The action begins in 1994, when the two friends and rivals came to a power-sharing arrangement, and then flashes back to the early 1980s, when they met and bonded as young Labor MPs during that party's wilderness years. Morrissey steals the show as Brown, a bear of a man given to dark moods. But his political passions stand in contrast to the more facile and calculating man who would eventually become prime minister.

The promise and disappointments of the Blair years have inspired a spate of recent films and books. Perhaps the team behind "The Deal" and "The Queen" should turn their sights on one of the central trans-Atlantic relationships of our times - the bond between Blair and George W. Bush.

¢ "Iconoclasts" (9 p.m., Sundance) looks at the friendship between actor Mike Myers and author and philosopher Deepak Chopra.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The warden (Craig T. Nelson) asks Earl to stage a "Scared Straight" production on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).

¢ Wilhelmina prepares for her wedding on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Banished by Ryan from a corporate retreat, Michael goes into the wild on "The Office" (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ Callie's status comes under fire on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ "Biography" (8 p.m., Biography) profiles the band Fleetwood Mac.

¢ "Larry King Live" (8 p.m., CNN) invites a panel to discuss UFOs.

¢ The hospital goes green on "Scrubs" (8:30 p.m., NBC)

¢ Power shortages shock Chicago on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

A brash corporate upstart (Topher Grace) dates the daughter (Scarlett Johansson) of the older manager (Dennis Quaid) who now reports to him in the 2004 comedy "In Good Company" (8 p.m., TBS).

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