Archive for Thursday, April 16, 2009

‘Park’ gives no reason to linger

April 16, 2009

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Jackie Gleason once created a show (“You’re in the Picture”) so bad it was canceled after one episode. In an act that made TV history, The Great One showed up the following week to apologize for its failure.

It would be unfair for Amy Poehler to take all of the blame for “Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m., NBC), the dreadful new “Office” clone.

It’s not entirely her fault that she’s woefully miscast. Poehler has always stood out, in the “Upright Citizens Brigade,” on “SNL” and in films, as an over-the-top character. In “Parks,” her character, Leslie Knope, is merely sad, clueless and delusional, with none of the inadvertent sweetness that often redeems Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the “Office” character she is so clearly imitating.

And it’s not entirely Poehler’s fault that the script calls for her character to carry most of the scenes or the fact that none of the other characters is remotely sympathetic or fully developed.

“The Office” was not sold as “The Steve Carell Show,” and nobody would be watching it if it were all about Michael Scott. The best comedies — be they clearly scripted or improvisational and documentary-style — always feature strong ensemble casts that share the laughs and camera time with the star. Nobody watched “Seinfeld” just to watch Jerry Seinfeld. and he was smart enough to know it.

In contrast, “Parks” has been conceived and sold as “The Amy Poehler Show,” an unfair burden on even the strongest performer — something Jackie Gleason learned all those years ago.

So it would be a little unfair to ask Poehler to announce the cancellation of “Parks and Recreation” and apologize for its failure. But at least that would be memorable. Which is far more than you can say about the show.

• “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS) has a history of setting episodes in particular cultural niches and subniches. Remember the “Furry” episode? Fans of “Galaxy Quest” should enjoy it when Hodges (Wallace Langham) and Wendy (Liz Vassey) run into each other, in an unprofessional capacity, at a convention for one of their favorite cult TV shows. The far-out setting and uniforms fuel Hodges’ imagination, setting the stage for some memorable costumed daydreams.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Death Metal can be deadly on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• “Bear Attack!” (7 p.m., Discovery) looks at three unpleasant Alaskan encounters.

• Dwight feels conflicted on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• The documentary “My Car is My Lover” (8 p.m., BBC America) looks at mechanics who take their work just a little too personally.

• Liz struggles to fill her down time on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

• The body count reaches three on “Harper’s Island” (9 p.m., CBS).

• An abandoned infant provokes emotional reactions on “Southland” (9 p.m., NBC).

• Erica revisits a complicated college friendship on “Being Erica” (9 p.m., Soapnet).

Cult choice

Ex-Confederate soldiers turned bank robbers hide out on a haunted plantation in the 2004 shocker “Dead Birds” (9 p.m., The Movie Channel), starring Henry Thomas (“ET”).

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