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Archive for Saturday, July 24, 2010

A few laughs go a long way on BBC monster sitcom

July 24, 2010

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I can’t be the only one bored with the whole vampire thing. The one-note dreariness of “Twilight,” and Bella’s character in particular, is actually kind of funny. But it’s pretty clear these movies weren’t written for laughs.

Which is why the BBC series “Being Human” (9 p.m., Saturday, BBC America, second-season premiere) stands out. Grafting the popular mythology of ghosts, werewolves and vampires onto the twentysomething roommate sitcom format, “Human” has fun with monsters and their very particular personalities and predicaments.

In addition to sharing an apartment and trying to “live” as normally as possible, the werewolf, vampire and ghost trio of George (Russell Tovey), Annie (Lenora Crichlow) and Mitchell (Aidan Turner) must contend with a violent vampire army driven over the edge by the death of their evil leader. Things get more complicated when mortal researchers discover the existence of “monsters” among us and set out to expose and destroy them.

• We love a choice, or the illusion of choice. For some, life boils down to a battle of red vs. blue, Coke vs. Pepsi, Mac vs. PC. Now, prepare to settle the ultimate question on “Dogs vs. Cats” (7 p.m., Saturday, Animal Planet). Filled with facts and anecdotal observations from self-described “cat people” and “dog people,” this special will survey 5,000 years of human history and stories of our interaction with canines and feline.

It also invites viewer input, and votes will be counted at Animalplanet.com/dogsvscats until the last half-hour of this hour-long program.

• Grownups rejoice: Television’s most literate soap opera returns. “Mad Men” (9 p.m., Sunday, AMC) enters its fourth season with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) on top of the advertising world while still settling the details of his divorce from Betty (January Jones), who has taken up with a dashing older man (Christopher Stanley), an aide to New York’s tycoon Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

The episode begins with a trade journalist asking, “Who is Don Draper?,” a question our hero has been doing his best to avoid for four seasons. Like every season-opener since the show’s knockout premiere, this episode is both slow-moving and decidedly dark. Divorced Don has decamped for a dimly lit and decidedly ungroovy Greenwich Village apartment, where he passes the most depressing Thanksgiving imaginable.

Meanwhile, up in Westchester, Betty and the kids make a mess of the big meal and fall under the scrutiny of her disapproving new mother-in-law. The older woman has no illusions about the effect Betty’s Grace Kelly looks have on men. But she’s also frank about the emotional toll Betty’s behavior is taking on her young children. This should get interesting.

Almost alone of the group, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has most embraced the spirit of the 1960s. She has made the most strides in her personal and professional life and in this episode makes a gimmicky gamble with rather messy results.

Much like “The Sopranos” in its later years, “Mad Men” has decided to put rather ugly marital discord at the center of the proceedings. And where love lost gives way to legality and questions of property, the devil is always in the details. And “Mad Men” revels in the specifics so that the more painful atmosphere can better emerge in soft focus.

The hour opens with a short waltz through the cramped new offices of the upstart firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, whose decor reflects the mid-1960s love affair with all things modern. Having spent so much time checking off some of the really big moments of 1960, 1962 and 1963, we’re given only a fleeting reference to one event from 1964, where the show now takes place. It’s a relief to see the producers avoid leaning on images of the Beatles, Goldwater or the Gulf of Tonkin to establish period. There’s more than enough story and character development to keep us coming back for more. I just can’t wait for 1965!

• Also entering its fourth season, “My Boys” (9 p.m., Sunday, TBS) has the gang scouring Chicago for a poker player to replace PJ’s brother (Jim Gaffigan, not seen), who has departed for China.

Along the way, they glance back at how and when they met each other.

Saturday’s highlights

• A restaurant robbery descends into a hostage crisis on “The Bridge” (7 p.m., CBS).

• Wrestler-turned-one-note-actor Dwayne Johnson stars in the 2007 comedy “The Game Plan” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Trapped in the Pandorica on the season finale of “Doctor Who” (8 p.m., BBC America).

• Radha Mitchell stars in the 2006 shocker “Silent Hill” (8 p.m., Syfy), adapted from a video game.

• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): Johnny Depp fights to free three convicted teens.

• Jon Hamm hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Michael Buble.

Sunday’s highlights

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): a myth that leads to jihad; harvesting body parts; Tyler Perry.

• “Poirot: Appointment with Death” airs on “Masterpiece Mystery” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).

• Sookie fears for Bill on “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO).

• A wedding inspires an investigation on “Cold Case” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Donald Trump appears on “Design Star” (9 p.m., HGTV).

• Ray mulls an executive decision on “Hung” (9 p.m., HBO).

• Turtle frets on “Entourage” (9:30 p.m., HBO).

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