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Archive for Monday, January 11, 2010

‘Mother’ marks 100th episode with razzle-dazzle

January 11, 2010

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“How I Met Your Mother” (7 p.m., CBS) celebrates a milestone of sorts, peppering its 100th episode with fantasy scenes, an extended musical number and a tantalizingly close brush with the mystery woman who figures in the show’s title. Like many “special” outings, this one tries a tad too hard and emphasizes the comedy’s over-reliance on gimmickry. “How” may not be cutting-edge comedy, but it has a strong cast with chemistry, and they should be allowed be funny for minutes at a time without some distracting trickery or fantasy montage. The musical number “Girls vs. Suits” features Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) singing about his love for fine haberdashery and how he prefers fine Italian styling to the love of any woman. It also sends up the winking irony of casting the musical theater-loving and Tony Awards-hosting Harris as a predatory ladies man.

• “American Masters” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) celebrates one of the most beautiful voices and most prolific pop-music masters of the 20th century with “Sam Cooke: Crossing Over.” Few stories seem more tailor-made for the musical biography. Endowed with too much talent and ambition to remain in the Gospel music circuit, Cooke conquered the largely segregated Top 40 charts rather effortlessly and in the face of discriminatory attitudes. He used his talent and connections to recruit other talents and to make musical statements about the Civil Rights era before dying violently in circumstances linked to his one great tragic flaw.

For all of its potential, “Crossing Over” breaks little ground in the field of documentary biography. Archival photos and footage are mixed with talking-head interviews with family members and musical colleagues, including Smokey Robinson and producer Herb Alpert, to provide a perfunctory biographical sketch and background for Cooke’s greatest hits, “You Send Me,” “Cupid” and “Twistin’ the Night Away,” and his protest anthem “A Change is Gonna Come,” a song that continues to resonate down the decade.

It’s rather easy to get the feeling that this film, narrated by Danny Glover, has been in the making, or on the shelf, for some time. Many of the interviewees — including Jerry Wexler, James Brown, Lou Rawls and Billy Preston — have since gone on to their own rewards, leaving one with the eerie sense that the film’s title, “Crossing Over,” has several meanings.

Tonight’s highlights

• Chuck protects a visiting despot (Armand Assante) on “Chuck” (7 p.m., NBC).

• A sick criminal’s furtive nature may endanger his life on “House” (7 p.m., Fox).

• An unhappy couple (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) do a lot of fighting and complaining in the suburbs in the 2008 adaptation of Richard Yates’ seemingly unadaptable novel “Revolutionary Road” (7 p.m., HBO).

• Filmed in secrecy and in defiance of Chinese authorities between 1996 and 2004, “What Remains of Us” (7 p.m., Documentary Channel) chronicles a vanishing way of life in Tibet.

• Joe’s first date in two decades provides fodder for story-telling on “Men of a Certain Age” (9 p.m., TNT).

• An “American Idol” champion opens up her daily life and recording studio to reality television cameras on “Fantasia for Real” (9 p.m., VH1).

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