Archive for Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Does America care about its talent?

June 17, 2008


In a field crowded with reality contests and amateur hours, "America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., NBC) has been on top of the heap for the past two summers. So, can America tolerate another summer of auditions? Will they still turn out for the singing, dancing and other exotic fare, and the snappy bickering between Piers Morgan, Jerry Springer, David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne?

So far this summer, reality fare has been beaten by repeats of scripted comedies and dramas. If "Talent" does not return to form, it may be a long, hot summer for the networks that have loaded their schedules with throwaway unscripted series.

¢ Mid-June brings us weddings and movie countdowns from the folks at the American Film Institute. Having presented as many lists of 100 as they can think of, they've now used some short division to come up with "AFI's 10 Top 10" (7 p.m., CBS), a countdown of the top-10 movies in an assortment of genres, from romance to gangster flicks. This offers a whole new way to skin the "100" cat and address America's shrinking attention span at the same time.

As a critic and a fan, I can't get enough of these spectacles. But why can't they offer us a few negative categories, like worst casting, weakest dialogue, ugliest costumes, most intrusive score, movie most in need of serious editing or just plain overrated? I'd pay to see a discussion and countdown of the 100 most overrated movies, and I'd kick off the discussion with "No Country for Old Men."

¢ With the Olympics fast approaching, look for plenty of news and documentary shows about the host country. "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents "Young & Restless in China," a profile of a number of 20- and 30-something Chinese filmed over a period of four years.

All of their lives have been affected dramatically by their nation's rapid economic growth. It's impossible to watch this and not be staggered by the scale and rapidity of change in China, where skyscrapers seem to rise before your eyes. More than 1.5 million residents were displaced to make room for the Olympic stadiums, athlete housing and other structures. That's the population of a mid-sized city.

We meet an American-educated go-getter out to franchise an Internet-cafe chain. We also spend time with a young woman from the provinces, driven to the cities to find work. A man, radicalized by the student demonstrations of 1989, still fights the system as a public-interest lawyer, and a former street kid channels his personal and political feelings into a Chinese variation on hip-hop.

¢ Tori Spelling and husband Dean McDermott leave their inn to return to Tinseltown as the former "Beverly Hills 90210" star awaits her new baby and launches her tell-all book on "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood" (9 p.m., Oxygen).

Having been raised amid extravagant wealth and emotional reticence, Spelling wants to carve out a normal life for her growing family. And she does a good job of convincing viewers of her levelheaded take on her decidedly unique public image. One word of advice for Spelling: If you want to reconcile with your mother, stop talking about her on television.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The Celtics and Lakers meet in Game 6 of the NBA Finals (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ Bleak backyards get a makeover on "Desperate Landscapes" (8 p.m., DIY).

¢ A hunter and animal-rights activist join forces on "30 Days" (9 p.m., FX).


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