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Archive for Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eight is more than enough

August 19, 2009

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Fox, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to spend two hours of prime-time broadcasting “Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage” (7 p.m., Fox).

The subtitle fascinates me. When did I miss the “seen” footage? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you who live happily in a trash-free zone, a woman named Nadya Suleman has spent an enormous amount of time and money using her body as a kind of attention-getting project. She has had her face altered in curious ways, and she has employed in-vitro fertilization to turn herself into a sideshow attraction.

Multiple births have long brought news and notoriety. From the Dionne quintuplets in 1934 to the marital death march known as “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” the arrival of a crowded bundle of joy has generally inspired oohs and ahs of joy and sympathy, accompanied by only a smattering of rueful clucks or the softly murmured, “Better her than me.” With Suleman, the smattering has become a deafening groan, a roaring chorus of revulsion.

Which brings us back to Fox. The press release for this needless exercise in cruel voyeurism promises us “incredible footage and private moments.” Not to be a stickler or anything, but my notion of “private” (particularly for a busy mother of 14 children) rarely includes sharing one’s life with a camera crew for six months.

This extra-special tabloid special may purport to be up-to-date — a steaming hot serving of the train wreck du jour — but it’s really a recycling of the old Fox standby, “When Animals Attack.” Only Suleman has been cast as the wounded antelope, and we’ve been set up as the audience of jeering hyenas encouraged to go in for the kill.

• Bravo goes one toque over the line as “Top Chef” (8 p.m., Bravo) moves to Las Vegas for a new season of what they’re calling “Sin City Vice.”

The predominant vice on display here is consumer pornography, a relentless blizzard of product placements. Hardly a minute goes by when we don’t hear a plug for a hotel, a restaurant, for a brand of blender or even a plastic cling wrap. Wolfgang Puck guest-stars as the judge of the first elimination challenge (and of course, to shill for his Las Vegas eatery and the hotel where you can find it).

• A filmmaker documents his father Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia folk artist, in the disturbing film “In a Dream” (7 p.m., HBO2). The film is rather frank about Zagar’s peculiar visions and mental illness, maybe a little more frank than many of us can endure.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Two helpings of “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m. and 8 p.m., NBC).

• Robert Duvall leads a strong cast in the miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel “Lonesome Dove” (7 p.m., AMC).

• The squad serves payback to greedy corporate types who sell tainted food on “Leverage” (8 p.m., TNT).

• Five enterprises buck the trends in “The Fastest Growing Companies of 2009” (8 p.m., CNBC).

• “Black Gold” (9 p.m., TruTV) returns for a second season in the Texas oil fields.

Cult choice

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly take the comic portrayal of adult male arrested development to alarming extremes in the odd 2008 comedy “Step Brothers” (7:22 p.m., Starz).

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