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Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2009

Swayze plays beastly FBI agent

January 15, 2009

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Fresh from an interview with Barbara Walters about his career and state of health, Patrick Swayze stars in the cable detective drama “The Beast” (9 p.m., A&E). He’s the grizzled and enigmatic FBI veteran Charles Barker, who mentors a brash young rookie partner, Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel).

Barker’s method involves tough love and constant hazing and an insistence that the kid keep up with the many guises and cons necessary to infiltrate the shadow world of crooks, mobsters, drug pushers and arms dealers.

He offers his advice in terse, epigrammatic shorthand, a style of speaking well-suited to Swayze’s delivery and acting range. It’s hard not to recall the odd mentor role between Swayze and FBI agent-turned-surfer agent Keanu Reeves in the deliciously over-the-top 1991 thriller “Point Break.” Of course, in that one, Swayze was the Buddhist and the bad boy. And without giving away too much here, you have to wonder whether his role in “The Beast” is not similarly bathed in vague spirituality and at least a few hints of the dark side. Take the title, for starters, and the fact that his cell phone handle seems to be “The Devil.” And what do we make of his partner’s last name?

Long on symbolism, “The Beast” is rather meager in the character development department. In the two episodes made available for review, there are scant hints as to Barker’s real past, personality or identity. Apparently, he does such a good job of losing himself in each undercover job that he’s erased all but a cipher of his own personality. We’re assured that his protege finds this fascinating, but it remains to be seen whether viewers will share Dove’s devotion.

• In a milestone episode for “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS), Grissom (William Petersen) announces his departure and offers Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) a more permanent relationship with the team. A repeat episode (7 p.m.) about the Dick-and-Jane killer precedes this original.

To commemorate the occasion, the Spike network will air a 13-hour “Grissom Lives” marathon of “CSI” repeats from 7 a.m through 8 p.m.

• The 11-part adventure series “Treasure Quest” (9 p.m., Discovery) begins with the search for a 17th-century wreck containing millions of dollars in gold coins known as pieces of eight.

• Veterans of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” check into “Sober House” (9 p.m., VH1) for an extended stay.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Erik Estrada (as himself) appears as a reality TV star on “My Name is Earl” (7 p.m., NBC).

• Murder stalks the big top on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox), now on a new night.

• A family problem puts Betty and Hilda at odds on “Ugly Betty” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor star in the opulent 2001 post-modern musical “Moulin Rouge” (7 p.m., E!).

• Angela’s secret leaves Andy ashen on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Liz lobbies for flu shots while Jack has eyes only for Elisa (Salma Hayek) on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

• A violent outbreak appears to be contagious on “Eleventh Hour” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston) returns on “ER” (9 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

A boxer earns a death sentence when he steps between a mobster and his moll in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1955 mystery “Killer’s Kiss” (10:15 p.m., TCM).

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