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Archive for Saturday, March 27, 2010

TLC courts gullible family members with ‘Paranormal’

March 27, 2010

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TLC, a network dedicated to multiple births and spunky people of diminutive stature, now ventures into seriously creepy territory with “Paranormal Court” (9 p.m. today, TLC).

Robert Hansen, a psychic medium famous among people gullible enough to believe in psychic mediums, will mediate disputes between family members squabbling over possessions left behind by the deceased. Hansen goes right to the source and communicates with the “owners” to set things straight.

Professional illusionists from Harry Houdini to today have attacked so-called mediums for their callous exploitation of the bereaved. Former TV psychic John Edward appalled many people when he claimed to “speak” with victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2005, in a vulgar stunt held on the brazenly idiotic “Fox & Friends,” Edward claimed to communicate with the soul of the coma-bound woman at the center of the Terri Schiavo political firestorm.

Now “Court” returns conflict resolution and property disputes to medieval times. Let’s hope this show fails as quickly as “Past Lives,” the quickly canceled Fox drama about reincarnation detectives. If it’s a hit, we can expect only more superstition and ignorance passing as entertainment on the network formerly known as The Learning Channel.

• Kevin James hosts the 23rd annual Kids’ Choice Awards (7 p.m. today, Nickelodeon). The awards show provides celebrities and performers with plenty of opportunities to sell a young audience on their forthcoming movies, CDs and TV shows.

Look for Tina Fey and Steve Carell to tout their new comedy “Date Night.” Other guests include Chris Rock, Jackie Chan, Robert Downey Jr., Jonah Hill and recent Olympians Shaun White and Apolo Anton Ohno, to name a few.

• “Amish Grace” (7 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime Movie Network) is not a big movie or a great movie, but it tackles a big subject with an honesty that make it memorable and admirable.

Based on two true events, “Grace” recalls the 2006 schoolhouse shooting that took the lives of seven Amish girls by a deranged man who then killed himself. Following the grim tragedy, the elders of the community, including the father (Matt Letscher) of one of the slain girls, visited the widow (Tammy Blanchard) of the murderer to extend their condolences and offer neighborly forgiveness. Their gesture made nationwide headlines and drew attention to their faith.

A lesser film would merely celebrate this uplifting act with Hallmark-movie production values, but “Grace” focuses on one Amish mother, Ida (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), and her difficulty in accepting such public generosity. Already shaken by the community’s shunning of her sister for marrying an outsider, Ida can’t understand how they can banish a woman for love but forgive a man for murder. Her qualms distance her from her husband, Gideon (Letscher), whom she all but accuses of being more interested in public piety than in mourning their daughter.

Blanchard, known for her remarkable performance in “Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” is quite good as the bewildered and distraught widow, but the movie belongs to Williams-Paisley, who makes the most of a complex and difficult part and a chance to break out of the shadow cast by her participation in the “Father of the Bride” remake movies and similarly “cute” fare.

The film also allows Gideon to make an eloquent case for the Amish philosophy. Rather than a remarkable gesture of bravery, their forgiveness really boils down to an act of humility. As he explains to a surviving daughter in an intimate and moving scene, the judgment of good and evil is the Lord’s work and not man’s. And those who presume to pronounce God’s judgment can be so overwhelmed as to be consumed with hate, “a monster with many teeth.” It’s a rather simple and powerful message that resonates far beyond this fine little film and the events that inspired it.

• “Masterpiece Classic” (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS, check local listings) returns to a photogenic favorite with “Sharpe’s Challenge.” This marks the second installment, based on the popular “Sharpe” books by Bernard Cornwell. Sean Bean stars in the title role as Sharpe comes out of retirement in 1817 to help stifle a revolt in British-controlled India.

Today’s highlights

• A crusty loner (Clint Eastwood) strikes up an unusual bond with his immigrant neighbors in the 2008 drama “Gran Torino” (7:30 p.m., HBO), directed by Eastwood.

• Crusaders battle demons unleashed in the Holy Land in the 2010 shocker “Dark Relic” (8 p.m., SyFy).

• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): a mother’s secret life exposed.

Sunday’s highlights

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): the complicated case of Nada Prouty; a profile of the Russian tycoon who wants to buy the N.J. Nets; South Africa’s great white shark.

• Flanders leads a trip to the Holy Land on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Scheduled on “Life” (Discovery), mammals (7 p.m.) and fish (8 p.m.).

• Marines enjoy a little rest and recuperation in Melbourne on “The Pacific” (8 p.m., HBO).

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