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Archive for Friday, May 9, 2008

TV comedy saluting its past

May 9, 2008

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Television would never survive a truth-in-packaging rule. I'm not sure what words would describe "Most Outrageous Moments" (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., NBC), but I'd have to guess that at least two out of three would have to change if honesty were the only policy. OK, I guess there are some "Moments" there, but "Most" and "Outrageous" just don't cut it.

Perhaps I've been reviewing television too long, but whenever I hear or read a superlative in a show's title, I assume it's a lie. Or worse, a perverse take on the truth that is more revealing than intended. I have no doubt that the makers of "TV's All-Time Funniest" (7 p.m., ABC) are sincere in making a show with funny clips from old TV programs. But it's the "All-Time" part that gets me. When somebody tries to tell me that a two-hour, one-off special is a show for the ages, I can rest assured that it will be forgotten almost immediately.

Perhaps I should not be too harsh on a show celebrating TV comedies. There are so few to celebrate. "Funniest" presents the results of a poll by the Nielsen Media Research people. And we're not talking Leslie Nielsen here. The folks who tabulate ratings asked viewers to choose TV sitcoms' funniest fathers, wackiest neighbors and most amusing children.

"All-Time" offers interviews with comedy stars past and present (mostly past), from Rainn Wilson of "The Office" to Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper, who played best pals Mary and Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Rue McClanahan ("The Golden Girls"), Brad Garrett ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier") and Marion Ross ("Happy Days") also provide anecdotes.

For the record, this past TV season saw the launch of the fewest new sitcoms in recent memory. And of the new batch, only "Samantha Who?" and "Back to You" enjoyed even minimal success, and even that has to be attributed to the fact that both series featured stars from popular sitcoms from the past, "Married with Children," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Frasier."

"All-Time Funniest" may rave about the sitcom, but this has been a very bad year for the half-hour comedy, a year when the GEICO caveman commercials were considered an inspired idea.

¢ A Texas Ranger (Tommy Lee Jones) investigates a cheerleading cabal in the 2005 comedy "Man of the House" (7 p.m., Fox), co-starring Cedric the Entertainer.

¢ In a similar theme, a "True Hollywood Story" (7 p.m., E!) investigation of cheerleading looks into tales of extreme competition, cruel peer pressure and eating disorders beneath the surface of pep rallies and cheer.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Brothers embark on an outer-space adventure in the 2005 live-action fantasy "Zathura" (7 p.m., Cartoon Network) directed by Jon Favreau ("Iron Man").

¢ A kidnapping strikes Mick's circle of friends on "Moonlight" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ Bear navigates dangers in Namibia on "Man Vs. Wild" (8 p.m., Discovery).

¢ Hip-hop performances add up on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): tire safety; one woman's remarkable memory.

¢ The road home inspires strange alliances on "Battlestar Galactica" (9 p.m., Sci Fi).

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