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Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Elvis and Bruce swap songs, stories

January 20, 2010

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“Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ...” (9 p.m., Sundance) wraps up its second season over the next two weeks with an extended conversation with Bruce Springsteen. The Boss relates tales of his early pre-famous years playing on the Jersey shore and discusses his influences, from Bob Dylan to Sam and Dave.

Like many “Spectacle” outings, this is a real mutual-admiration society. Roughly contemporary, both singer-songwriters admit to being influenced by each other during the late 1970s. Springsteen reminds Costello that he had once criticized “Born to Run” as overly romantic, and Costello admits sheepishly that his notions of romance have evolved over the past 30 years.

Springsteen fans should not miss this chance to see their idol in an intimate setting, singing, talking and reflecting on his choices as a songwriter, performer and a person.

Despite a reputation as an electrifying performer and as a songwriter given to a torrent of words and images, Springsteen remains a tentative conversationalist. His words come rather slowly. He speaks in a guarded, almost nervous, fashion. At times, you can almost hear him thinking.

• “Great Performances at the Met” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) offers a high-culture variation on “American Idol” with “The Audition,” a look at the grueling process of selecting aspiring opera singers. Every year thousands of trained singers compete for a cash prize, a chance to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, and, if they’re fortunate, embark on a career in the rarified world of professional opera.

• The Canadian fantasy soap opera “Being Erica” (9 p.m., SoapNet) returns for a second season. “Erica” concerns a frazzled 30-something woman (Erin Karpluk) who embarks on a surreal bout of therapy, time-traveling to key moments in her past to confront the mistakes and misunderstandings that have left her so unhappy, unattached and unsatisfied.

After a year of bouncing through her past, Erica seems happy enough, with a steady beau, repaired relationships with her family and a flourishing career. Now it’s her turn to become the healer. First up: She discovers aspects about the dark past of her very own therapist, Dr. Tom (Michael Riley).

Despite its time-trippy plot, “Erica” remains grounded in its heroine’s humanity. It’s a smart contrast to the bed-hopping, intelligence-insulting fluff that passes for entertainment on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

• Scientists hunt down objects from space and artifacts from far off galaxies that have crashed to earth on “Meteorite Men” (8 p.m., Science).

Tonight’s other highlights

• Patients’ ailments prove illuminating on “Mercy” (7 p.m. NBC).

• Orlando hosts auditions on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A client faces danger aboard an airliner on “Human Target” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A kept woman becomes excess baggage on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Jay takes a second look at an old pal on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• A hot-tub homicide on “CSI: NY” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A power failure proves stimulating on “Ugly Betty” (9 p.m., ABC).

• “Taboo: Fat” (9 p.m., National Geographic) looks at attitudes toward the overweight in cultures all over the world.

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