Archive for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here’s one Britcom not worth importing

September 30, 2008

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Hollywood's food chain is long established. Old TV shows get recycled into blockbuster movies, and recent British comedies (from "The Office" to "Worst Week") are imported and Americanized into new sitcoms.

If anything can destroy this vicious cycle, it might be "The IT Crowd" (9 p.m., IFC), a celebrated Britcom making its American debut tonight. The "Crowd" consists of Jen (Katherine Parkinson), a corporate schemer who lies on her resume and gets promoted to manage two geek technicians, Roy (Chris O'Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade). It soon becomes clear that Jen knows nothing about computers and her grungy staff members know nothing about women, social niceties or any subjects that could contribute to a normal conversation.

As plots go, this story of Beauty and the Geeks doesn't have terribly much on "Big Bang Theory." It doesn't help that this comedy about computers feels as old as a used Kaypro. "The IT Crowd" should be must viewing for American viewers and TV executives with an inferiority complex. Not everything from the United Kingdom is worth imitating.

¢ I find it depressing, if not surprising, that millions of viewers will spend three whole hours watching "Biggest Loser: Families" (7 p.m., NBC), followed by "Half Their Size: The People Magazine Weight Loss Challenge" (9 p.m., ABC). Since when did even dieting become a spectator sport?

¢ Bob Costas holds an extensive conversation with baseball greats Willie Mays and Hank Aaron on "Costas Now" (8 p.m., HBO).

It would be hard to name a contemporary major leaguer as popular or revered as either of these two men. Aaron recalls his quest to break Ruth's record, and Mays ruminates on the changes in the game.

Mays notes that he appeared in 24 All-Star games in a different era. In 11 of those games, he played in all nine innings. He notes that current players show up for three innings and then get paid a handsome sum for their efforts before leaving on private jets. Back then, Mays remembers fondly, players had to catch a train like everyone else. All-Stars "got no money," observes Mays. "We got a ring, and the ring didn't fit."

¢ "Critical Condition" on "P.O.V." (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) follows the plight of four Americans without health insurance. The special "RX for Change" (9:30 p.m., PBS, check local listings) follows, comparing the health-policy plans of the two candidates for president.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ "Hell Girl" (7 p.m., IFC), a new anime import, debuts.

¢ An artist's creations may hold clues to his mystery ailment on "House" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Murder in wine country on "The Mentalist" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ A mysterious cylinder appears after an explosion at a construction site on "Fringe" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ Casey and Frannie's big convention showdown on "Greek" (8 p.m., Family).

¢ A potential abuser visits a toxic Web site on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Claudette encounters a dangerous old rival on "The Shield" (9 p.m., FX).

Cult choice

A professor's wife (Deborah Kerr) befriends a sensitive outcast student in the 1956 melodrama "Tea & Sympathy" (12:45 p.m., TCM), directed by Vincente Minnelli.

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