Archive for Wednesday, April 16, 2008

At any age, other people’s parties dull

April 16, 2008

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I once worked for an ultra-cheap publisher who hired more publicists than editors. Needless to say, we sold more sizzle than steak.

I drag my sorry resume into the picture only to judge TV Land's direction with some sympathy. The network once known for fun reruns now seems to be in the thrall of a marketing department whose honchos have clearly dictated that demography is destiny.

Hot on the heels of "High School Reunion" and targeting the 37-ish set, the new six-episode series "The Big 4-0" (9 p.m.) promises to show "real" people (imagine the alternative!) planning for their milestone birthday.

The first episode features Derrick, a former running back for several NFL teams. He wants to celebrate his big birthday with a game between himself and a number of "old school" NFL buddies and a team of young talent from Georgia Tech, where he works as a mentor and team chaplain.

"4-0" shows Derrick getting back into shape as his wife and children plan a little party. It's all very sweet and about as dull as television gets. It may lack the loathsome voyeurism of "Super Sweet 16," but it has the entertainment value of watching somebody else's home movies.

What do you expect when you put the marketing people in charge?

¢ VH1 star Flavor Flav stars in his own scripted sitcom, "Under One Roof" (7 p.m., MyNetwork). He plays an ex-con who moves in with his rich and stuffy brother (Kelly Perine). Despite requests, a screener of "Roof" was not made available in time for review. Never a good sign.

¢ According to the harrowing documentary "Illicit: The Dark Trade" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings), the cheap knockoff Prada bag you buy on the street corner is really the tip of a black-market iceberg that involves drugs, human trafficking, counterfeit medications and even terrorism.

Simply put, this ambitious film tries to cover too many mafias, crimes and horror stories in its 60 minutes. And its verdict, that only an end to demand will slow the growth of the black market, is premised on a radical revolution in consumer behavior and social attitudes. Who is the villain and who is the victim when a rich American or European buys a fake designer bag manufactured by a Chinese peasant just trying to feed his family? Who is driving the "Dark Trade"? Evil traffickers? Or Westerners who have turned shopping into a religion and have placed the pursuit of "low, low prices" above any sense of social responsibility?

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos moderate a presidential debate (7 p.m., ABC) live from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

¢ David Alan Grier hosts a look at the best clips from "In Living Color" (7:30 p.m., My Network).

¢ Mariah Carey performs on the results show of "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ The wife of a cancer victim interviews patients and doctors battling the disease in the documentary "The Truth About Cancer" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).

¢ Chatty shadows on "Ghost Hunters" (8 p.m., Sci Fi).

¢ Evidence washes ashore on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Marin encounters Julia on "Men in Trees" (9 p.m., ABC).

¢ "The Real World" (9 p.m., MTV) enters its 20th season.

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