Archive for Friday, January 15, 2010

Will ‘Law’ benefit from Leno leaving?

January 15, 2010


You can’t say “Law & Order” (7 p.m., NBC) is afraid of making enemies. When not ripping stories from the headlines, the long-running series likes to rip aspects of the media that its writers find wanting. Several weeks ago, it attacked and named cable-news personalities for fomenting violence and hatred against immigrants. Tonight, the venerable drama vents about vapid daytime talk show hosts and tabloid Internet sites.

Samantha Bee, a regular fake newscaster on “The Daily Show,” has a great time as the host of a “View”-like series who finds herself blackmailed by journalists working for a site called “CitySmear,” clearly modeled on sites like Gawker and TMZ. Lupo and Bernard get involved in this dirty business when one of the alleged blackmailers ends up dead.

It’s nice to see “Law & Order” retaining its sense of moral outrage after all these years. We can only hope that the show will soon move back to 9 p.m., a more suitable hour for its content. Tonight’s show, airing during what was once quaintly referred to as “the family hour,” includes scenes of a brutalized corpse, a callous morgue attendant and a graphic depiction of violent sex.

The move to 9 p.m. becomes possible and indeed probable after NBC’s recent and all-too-predictable move to end the Jay Leno experiment. Most recent media attention has been focused on the new late-night wars. But after the circular firing squad of the Jay vs. Conan vs. NBC spat is settled, the beleaguered network will still have to come up with programming to fill Jay’s 9 p.m. void. Having thrown away series like “Medium” and “Southland,” NBC will have a bare cupboard for some time. For all of his high dudgeon, “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf must be a very happy man right now.

• Awards-show fans who can’t wait for the Golden Globes can gorge on “The 15th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards” (8 p.m., VH1). How did I miss the first 14?

Host Kristin Chenoweth is no stranger to awards, having recently won an Emmy for her role on the canceled ABC fantasy series “Pushing Daisies.” And in an entertainment world where modestly talented hosts like Billy Crystal and Neil Patrick Harris have warbled their way through ceremonies, she represents the real deal. A professionally trained singer, she’s been nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the acclaimed musical “Wicked.”

• Speaking of singers, trained and untrained, the musical competition series “The Singing Bee” (8 p.m., CMT) returns for a second season. Contestants must correctly sing the lyrics to country and pop numbers or face elimination. Host Melissa Peterman is best known for her role on the WB comedy “Reba.”

Tonight’s other highlights

• The new kids in town take on a haunted look on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).

• Competitors from the past return for the “Project Runway: All-Star Challenge” (7 p.m., Lifetime).

• Devalos grieves for his daughter on “Medium” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Echo leads an attack on the corporate mainframe on “Dollhouse” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A student discovers just how far his “green” pitch can take him on “Shark Tank” (8 p.m., ABC).

• A smuggled weapon triggers multiple homicides on “Numb3rs” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Scheduled on “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC): a woman’s “surprise” pregnancy; the daughter of a suicide repeats her mother’s tragic end.


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