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Archive for Thursday, January 21, 2010

‘Deep End’ won’t tax any gray cells

January 21, 2010

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What can you say about “The Deep End” (7 p.m., ABC)? For starters, it’s anything but deep, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

On the plus side, the pilot features a cameo by veteran actor William Schallert, whose credits date back to the days when he was the dad on “The Patty Duke Show” and a teacher on “Dobie Gillis.”

“Deep” is not the worst soap opera ever made. But it follows the lamentable trend of condescending to its audience from start to finish. Apparently, we’re too dumb or impatient to follow a story that doesn’t involve first-year lawyers who are both really good-looking and perpetually randy.

And the creators insist that we believe that these libidinous litigators hail from the top of their class at the country’s most elite schools. Are we really so picky that we couldn’t follow a B student from the University of Nowheresville? Or are the writers just too unimaginative to make him or her interesting? John Grisham has created a cottage industry (and made a tidy fortune) by asking readers to root for intrepid young lawyers with undistinguished degrees.

The comic-book plotting continues by pitting the generically gorgeous young crew against older associates who are soulless, mean, disenchanted, grasping and cruel. And not as good-looking.

At the top of this evil pyramid sits Cliff Huddle (Billy Zane), known as the Prince of Darkness. He’s locked in a battle for the soul of the firm with its namesake, Hart Sterling (Clancy Brown), who suggests they can do a few charity cases along the way.

But don’t get distracted by this titanic struggle. The legal battles remain incidental to the story, which involves young lawyers sleeping with the clients, sleeping with the subordinates and sleeping with each other.

For a show obsessed with sex, the characters treat their manic coupling with a depressing nonchalance. To them, it’s like flossing. Apparently, you’re supposed to do it every day.

• “Food Tech” (8 p.m., History) examines the vast industry that supplies us with a cheap and plentiful supply of meals. Don’t go looking for an expose of the ills of agribusiness in the Michael Pollan vein. “Tech” unfolds with an enthusiast’s zeal. Its prevailing philosophy is, “Gee, I didn’t know that ...”

Along the way, we discover how they get the ketchup in all those little packets and how sesame seeds stick to a burger bun as it’s transported from industrial baker to your pantry.

Tonight’s menu includes the secrets behind burgers and fries, a meal Americans consume 7 billion times a year. Next Thursday’s “Tech” tackles the history and evolution of Chinese take-out. Bobby Bognar hosts.

Tonight’s other highlights

• “Married to the Eiffel Tower” (7 p.m., BBC America) examines people who develop erotic and romantic attachments to famous landmarks, from the Berlin Wall to the Golden Gate Bridge.

• Corporate suitors visit the Scranton branch on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Death on the fairway on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• A flu threatens Peter and Olivia on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A morale-building trip goes astray on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

• A mayor’s aide checks out on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Contestants try to make it work on “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime).

• A widow needs help on “Burn Notice” (9 p.m., USA), returning for its winter season.

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