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Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The new reality: ‘Must Love Kids’

July 15, 2008

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How do you up the emotional ante on "The Bachelorette"? How do you make all the players more vulnerable and create a show that's twice as awkward and packed with more cringe-worthy moments? The folks at "Must Love Kids" (8 p.m., TLC) may have the answer.

"Love" profiles three single mothers who explain, over predictable montages of hugs and play dates at the park, how the marriage part of their lives just didn't work out, and how they have come to define themselves as mothers first and foremost. Each of the three women uses the same phrase - "I've come to a place in my life" - to express a sense of contentment. But we all know there's something missing.

Why else would they submit themselves to reality television? "Love" is "The Bachelorette" without a host or a safety net. There's no Chris Harrison around to keep the conversation flowing or to initiate rose ceremonies. These women are on their own as they confront six men at an informal mixer.

As you can imagine, the conversation does not go smoothly. One nervous gent insists on doing a "Milli Vanilli" dance. An earnest Californian makes an awkward gift of a personal diary. One blurts out, "So, what are you looking for in a man?" Another nervously tries to impress. He insists that he once had lunch with "Doogie Howser."

Most of these guys are in their late 30s, and some have kids of their own. This all makes for a dating chemistry that is more serious, sober and slightly desperate. These guys have loved and lost. They have lost hair. Don't go looking for the divas and gamesmanship of "The Bachelor."

This is a reality show with more than a whiff of real life. Anybody who has been on a bad first date can relate to and possibly even enjoy "Must Love Kids."

¢ Benjamin Bratt ("Law & Order") returns to episodic television in "The Cleaner" (9 p.m., A&E). He plays William Banks, a former struggling addict who makes a deal with the divine. To beat his demons, he will devote his life to helping others kick the habit. A self-styled "extreme interventionist," Banks goes way above and beyond the normal to help the addicts who cross his path.

It's interesting to note that this is A&E's first original scripted drama in six years - and the first to arrive in the wake of the network's popular reality series "Intervention."

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Major League Baseball begins to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium at the 2008 All-Star Game (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Scheduled on "Wide Angle" (8 p.m., PBS): midwives in Mozambique.

¢ Arctic ice makes for a difficult passage on "Deadliest Catch" (8 p.m., Discovery).

¢ Scheduled on "Primetime" (9 p.m., ABC): family secrets.

¢ A statue to a Spanish hero divides El Paso, Texas, in the film "The Last Conquistador" on "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS).

¢ Fonzworth Bentley hosts the male-makeover show "From G's to Gents" (9 p.m., MTV).

Cult choice

A woman passes ordinary hours while awaiting crucial news in the 1961 French drama "Cleo From 5 to 7" (6:25 p.m., IFC), directed by Agnes Varda.

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