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Archive for Friday, May 2, 2008

Great white danger hunter returns

May 2, 2008

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Bear Grylls returns with six new episodes of "Man vs. Wild" (8 p.m., Discovery). This is the show in which a former British Special Forces officer is dropped into harrowing locales and forced to survive on the local bugs, plants and other nasty bits.

In tonight's episode, he's plunked down into a raging river in Zambia swollen by a month of heavy rains. His only flotation device is a short board, something a child might play with in a pool or the shallow waves near his sandcastle. In addition to his skimpy equipment, Grylls must endure the unwanted attention of crocodiles, hippos and elephants. And then there's the heat, the mosquitoes, the filthy water and the snakes. It has all the makings of an old-fashioned adventure story.

So why am I so bored?

Because, except for all of the new locations and situations, there's not much here that you haven't seen him do before. You know he's going to survive a terrifying situation - make that a completely contrived and avoidable situation. He's going to do hard things and eat disgusting things. And then he'll move on to the next gross-out.

Much like "The Amazing Race," this show takes viewers to places they'd never otherwise see. But why travel to strange new places only to play games and ignore the locals? Why do we turn other people's countries and cultures into a backdrop for our amusement? Or a venue to display our he-man know-how? There's something a tad 19th century about the Great British Explorer traveling to exotic and underdeveloped corners to prove his superiority over the elements.

¢ "Speed Racer: The Next Generation" (6 p.m., Nicktoons) revs up the ancient cartoon franchise with a whole new, and utterly generic, look. Unlike the original "Speed," which turned several generations on to anime, this "Next Generation" is visually indistinguishable from many cartoons. Even its exciting racing scenes resemble video games. And worse still, most of the intrigue involves the pecking order at a racing academy. Speed's a demon on wheels, but who knows whether he can survive the cruel jungle warfare of the school cafeteria?

¢ The most affable Beatle discusses his musical roots on "Ringo Starr: Off the Record" (10 p.m., HBO), hosted by Dave Stewart. He explains that his distinctive percussive sound may owe more to his left-handedness than any innate genius.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Ice Cube and Nia Long star in the 2005 comedy "Are We There Yet?" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A clerk (Steve Carell) looks for love despite his inexperience in the 2005 comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (7 p.m., USA). A surprising combination of romance and raunch that should give the network censors a real workout.

¢ "20/20" (7 p.m., ABC) examines new interpretations of Michelangelo's masterpiece paintings in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

¢ Humans invade the neighborhood on "Lemur Kingdom" (7 p.m., Animal Planet).

¢ A movie star finds the paparazzi worse than death on "Moonlight" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ A cult denies a cure after a mass-poisoning on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ The roadmap to Earth sparks dissension on "Battlestar Galactica" (9 p.m., Sci Fi).

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