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Archive for Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another long day for Jack Bauer

January 16, 2010

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Fans of great/bad horror schlock have been flocking to SyFy Saturdays since the days when it was Sci Fi. No matter how meager or no-name the talent, low the budget or Bulgarian the location, these films offer shocks, laughs and groans in equal measure and in tidy formulaic packages. Tonight’s offering, “House of Bones” (8 p.m., today, SyFy), is no exception.

In this era of media saturation, it’s not enough to produce a haunted-house tale. You’ve got to make it a story within a story with elements of parody and self-reference.

A spooky place with zero curb appeal and a grim history attracts the attention of a cynical crew of a cable ghost-hunting series. The show’s host (Corin Nemec, “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” “Stargate: SG-1”) is the most jaded of all. His character is all but written out of the movie, appearing largely for comic relief. Was it something he said in “SS Doomtrooper”?

Charisma Carpenter (“Greek,” “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and “Veronica Mars”) plays Heather, a local psychic who struggles to convince them that the house is haunted for real. She doesn’t have to try (or act) very hard, particularly after the old Victorian begins to suck objects and people into its gooey walls.

After a slow start, the movie delivers more than its share of shocks and shivers before the wheels fall off in a weak third act. There’s plenty of sudden violence and attendant gore. Beware of open windows, and don’t try to climb over an iron gate with a mind of its own.

• There’s a fine line between brash and overconfident, between self-assured and obnoxious and, for that matter, between network and cable. And the new comic book-inspired action series “Human Target” (7 p.m., Sunday, Fox) walks them all.

Mark Valley (“The 4400,” “Keen Eddie” and “Fringe”) stars as Christopher Chance, a special contractor hired to solve problems others won’t dare handle. He’s a cocky guy with a way with words that amuse and confuse bad boys and seem to be catnip to the ladies.

In the first scene of the pilot, he coolly faces down a hostage situation and lives to pour himself another stiff drink. He’s then hired to protect an executive under a death threat. The fact that she’s the director of a bullet-train project allows most of the hour to unfold in the confined spaces of a speeding train that threatens to become a runaway commute. The action is martial and the pace frenetic.

Chi McBride plays his world-weary partner and all-around voice of reason, a role similar to his part on “Pushing Daisies.” Jackie Earle Haley rounds out the team as the quasi-illegal Guerrero, a mystery man, possible killer and corporate sleuth.

For all of its derring-do, “Target” has a less-than-fresh feel to it. It’s easy to get the sense that Fox has one too many highly articulate and obnoxiously opinionated expert guys on a roster that includes “House” and “Lie to Me.”

• Jack Bauer’s back. But he’s a grandpa now, and retired to boot. “24” (8 p.m., Fox) returns Sunday and Monday, offering four quick hours of nail-biting tension kicking off with an assassination plot on the leader of a Muslim nation brave or foolish enough to make a peace deal with President Taylor (Cherry Jones).

Not only is Jack preparing for his rocking-chair years, Chloe is a tad rusty and out of the loop, too slow at keyboard clicking to keep up with the new regime at CTU.

Taylor often seems detached and wooden enough to attract termites. It might have something to do with the dreadful lines she has to deliver. Speaking of her ex-husband as if he were dead, she says, “Achieving a comprehensive peace agreement with the Islamic Republic was something he and I talked about years ago.” Now that’s what I call pillow talk.

On the plus side, the action moves to New York City this year. And look for Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Galactica”) as a CTU team member with the temerity to condescend to Chloe. Nothing good can come of that.

Sunday’s highlights

• Bridget Jones meets supernatural time travel in the enjoyable Canadian import “Being Erica” (10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Soapnet), airing a marathon in anticipation of season 2, which begins Wednesday.

• Foreign press influence domestic grosses on the Golden Globe Awards (7 p.m., NBC).

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