Archive for Thursday, July 9, 2009

‘Big Brother’ turns the dial up to 11

July 9, 2009

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In the checkout line of life, I always choose the slow cashier. That affords me plenty of time to catch up on magazines like “In Touch” and “Us.” Whenever I’m confronted with their Pepto-Bismol color schemes and type sizes I haven’t encountered since I was a “Weekly Reader” subscriber, I begin to wonder, “Who reads this stuff, anyway?”

They’re probably the kind of people who would kill to appear on “Big Brother” (7 p.m., CBS), now entering its 73rd season. OK, it’s really the 11th season, but it feels much longer.

If you’ve seen this show once, you’ve seen every episode. A dozen self-absorbed people who talk too much enter a bland-looking house and can’t leave. They’re forced to play stupid games and encouraged to gossip about each other. Worse, they don’t seem to be able to read books or magazines or to watch TV — the kinds of things normal people would do if forced to dwell in a perverse Petri dish. So they’re subject to more adolescent mischief than usual.

All this ugly suburban incarceration takes place during the summer, no less, a time when my mother convinced me that it was unhealthy to stay inside all day doing nothing. To this day, the phrase, “Why don’t you go out and play?” fills me with a vague sense of guilt and dread.

And a vague sense of guilt and dread pretty much sums up the “Big Brother” experience. This season, the unhealthy dozen have been divided into teams based on high school cliques: brains, jocks, the popular and the offbeat. What about the clique that wouldn’t be caught dead watching something as dull as “Big Brother”?

As she has since the dawn of time, Julie Chen will host “Big Brother” and feign wonder and surprise about the winners and losers of banal challenges and obvious eliminations.

This season, CBS breathlessly announces there will be a big surprise. A 13th guest. Wow. I don’t know if my blood pressure can handle that kind of excitement.

• “Inside Track: Refueling the Business of NASCAR” (8 p.m., CNBC) looks at the sport and some of its economic peculiarities. According to “Inside,” NASCAR is still controlled by essentially one family. And though it demonstrated meteoric growth over past decades, its attendance and TV ratings have begun to slip at the same time that the American automobile industry has suffered staggering losses. “Inside” also looks at the unique relationship between NASCAR drivers and corporate marketers whose logos festoon every participating car.

Tonight’s other highlights

• On two episodes of “30 Rock” (NBC), sullenly single (7 p.m.), Jack can’t balance love and work (8:30 p.m.).

• On two episodes of “The Office” (NBC) Pam becomes Michael’s driver (7:30 p.m.), Michael goes on a corporate speaking tour (8 p.m.).

• Nightclub bouncers overdo it on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Two dancers are eliminated on “So You Think You Can Dance” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Michael keeps corporate secrets out of dangerous hands on “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA)

• Card tricks can be murder on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Toby bonds with a victim’s sister on “The Listener” (9 p.m., NBC).

• Hank and Evan search for a tycoon’s high-tech island retreat on “Royal Pains” (9 p.m., USA).

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