Archive for Monday, September 7, 2009

‘Durham County’ bleak, pretentious

September 7, 2009

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The Ion Network, best known for broadcasting movies, introduces the new Canadian-produced drama “Durham County” (9 p.m., Ion).

To call “Durham” dark is the understatement of the year. I’ve seen more violent shows and more disturbing series, but this import about “a place full of secrets” strains to set some new bleak benchmark.

In the first scene, Det. Sweeney (Hugh Dillon) drives his family from Toronto to a new home, leaving the city after his partner’s murder. During the drive, his wife, Audrey (Helene Joy), vomits from her chemotherapy. The smell makes their miserable teenage daughter, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), even more miserable. For reasons never quite explained, the youngest daughter spends all of her time beneath a giant mask of a Japanese anime character. Later, she finds a similarly disguised child, and they share disturbing secrets about the suicide that took place in the Sweeney’s house just before they moved in.

Cancer, vomit, disturbed children, suicide: We’re just getting warmed up.

Their new home is located in a faceless, sterile development surrounded by high-tension wires and a chemical plant. Seriously, it makes the development in “Poltergeist” look like the sunny setting of an Olive Garden commercial. This place is grim.

Their neighbor Ray (Justin Louis) is a sadistic bully whom Sweeney knows and hates from his school days. Ray, a brooding, frustrated jock, oppresses his gorgeous wife and talented son. And that’s the least of his horrible traits.

“Durham” clearly wants to push some kind of envelope but the cascade of miserable rushes by without any of the respite, humanity or humor that characterize edgy series like “The Sopranos,” “The Shield” and “Rescue Me.” Like a pretentious teen, it seems to think being depressed and angst-ridden makes it interesting. We know better.

• Labor Day marathons include “Dirty Jobs” (8 a.m. through 2 a.m., Discovery”) and “Cake Boss” (3 p.m. through 2 a.m., TLC), shows about people who actually work. There’s also “The Golden Girls” (7 a.m. through 2 a.m., Hallmark Channel) and “Ghost Hunter” (7 a.m. through 10 p.m., Syfy). Don’t forget “Hoarders” (7 p.m. through 10 p.m., A&E).

MTV offers eight hours of “16 and Pregnant” (10 a.m., through 6 p.m., MTV). The network has announced a “16” spinoff series titled “Teen Mom.”

Tonight’s other highlights

• A deaf teen shows unusual symptoms on “House” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A habitual liar may be the inspiration for a serial rapist on “Lie to Me” (8 p.m., Fox).

• “Manson” (8 p.m., History) recalls a paranoid cult and the Hollywood murder that shocked America.

• “The Last Truck” (8 p.m., HBO) chronicles the closing of a GM SUV plant in Monroe, Ohio.

• Tony samples the cuisine of New York City’s outer boroughs on “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (9 p.m., Travel).

• “Everybody Hates Chris” (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Nick) joins the Nick-at-Nite lineup.

Cult choice

Not long before his death, a famed animator looks back at his youthful inspirations in the 2009 documentary “Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood” (6:30 p.m., TCM).

Series notes

On two episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS), mistaken identity (7 p.m.), a brief encounter (7:30 p.m.).

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