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Archive for Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kristin Chenoweth illuminates ‘12 Men’

December 5, 2009

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Endowed with an inner light and a frenetic chirpiness that borders on the tragic, singer and Emmy-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth is seriously miscast as diehard New Yorker E.J. Baxter in “12 Men of Christmas” (8 p.m., today, Lifetime), a Hallmark movie disguised as a Lifetime movie.

On the other hand, both New York and her urbane status are merely there as a flimsy excuse to get this Christmas eggnog curdled. In TV movies like this, New York in December always looks like Toronto in August, and the city’s cultural riches are represented by the occasional presence of shopping bags.

We all know that the fiance of a multi-tasking perfectionist like E.J. will be toast by the second act. Actually, he departs much sooner, and so does her position as New York’s power publicist, along with her apartment and most of her connections.

Floundering and jobless, E.J. settles for a position marketing a remote Montana city to wealthy tourists. And there, she finds “real” people, particularly those of the male variety. In roughly a New York minute, E.J. discovers the best latte in town and puts the town on the map with a fund-raising calendar that accentuates the uncovered assets of the local volunteer search-and-rescue team. Those are, of course, the 12 men of the film’s title, leaving us to wonder just which month’s hunk will fall for E.J.

• Imagine a reworking of “Alice in Wonderland” with the title character (Caterina Scorsone) as a commitment-phobic karate instructor. Then imagine she falls down the rabbit hole and crashes through the looking glass while searching for her missing boyfriend after he’s been dragged away to some loft-ridden futuristic Canadian slum. Then imagine you could actually watch such a story for four hours, and you’d be the target audience for “Alice” (8 p.m., Sunday and Monday, SyFy).

It’s also helpful to imagine an entertainment universe where the wishes of the costume designers and set directors trump those of the writers. “Alice” is frequently dazzling to behold. I half-wished the recent “Prisoner” looked more like this. Unfortunately, this “Alice” is as incomprehensible as it is visually stunning.

A who’s-who of performers from Kathy Bates to Tim Curry, Colm Meaney and Harry Dean Stanton distract us from some baffling metaphor-laden plot about human “oysters” being harvested to make synthetic drugs that mimic real emotions.

Its one-darn thing-after-another plot will make little sense to those vaguely familiar with Lewis Carroll’s fable and is probably utterly opaque to those who aren’t.

To be fair, the “Alice” I previewed was distributed before most of the digitally enhanced scenes were in place. But even a casual reader of Lewis Carroll knows that the author’s language, word play and loopy conundrums are the real special effects that have made “Alice in Wonderland” endure. This “Alice” has jettisoned all that for dialogue and scenarios much more contemporary and forgettable.

• So fake he may actually be sincere, Capt. Kirk returns to his power chair on the second-season premiere of the odd talk show “William Shatner’s Raw Nerve” (9 p.m., Sunday, Biography). His first guests are Regis Philbin and Rush Limbaugh.

Today’s highlights

• Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson host the 22nd annual “Soul Train Awards” (7:30 p.m., BET).

• Superheroes come out of mothballs in the 2004 animated comedy “The Incredibles” (7:30 p.m., NBC).

• Robin rounds up his archers on the series finale of “Robin Hood” (8 p.m., BBC America).

• Soledad O’Brien hosts “Black in America 2” (8 p.m., CNN).

• Stephen Fry, Annie Lennox and David Gray appear on “The Graham Norton Show” (9 p.m., BBC America).

• Blake Lively hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Rihanna.

Sunday’s highlights

l The last three pairs leg it out in Las Vegas on “Amazing Race” (7 p.m., CBS).

l College bowl slots are filled on the BCS Selection Show (7 p.m., Fox).

l Jewel, Kathie Lee Gifford and Holly Robinson Peete enter a decorating competition on “Celebrity Holiday Homes” (7 p.m., HGTV).

l “Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction” (8 p.m., HBO) marks the comic’s first HBO special in seven years.

l “Invasion of the Christmas Lights” (8 p.m., TLC) puts the accent on wattage. “Chainsaw Ice Sculptors” (9 p.m.) follows.

l “Three Rivers” has been pulled from the schedule, replaced tonight by a repeat “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS).

l Rebecca hides information from Justin on “Brothers & Sisters” (9 p.m., ABC).

l It’s time for the “Robot Chicken Christmas Special” (10:45 p.m., Cartoon Network).

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