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Archive for Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Skip ‘Money’ and run to another show

August 2, 2011

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The new hybrid drama/reality series “Take the Money and Run” (8 p.m., ABC) must have seemed like a good idea to somebody when it was dreamed up. Jerry Bruckheimer and company, the producers of “The Amazing Race” and “CSI,” mangle genres here.

Two brothers are given a briefcase filled with cash and told they have 60 minutes to hide it. If nobody can find it in 48 hours, the loot is theirs to keep. At the end of their hour, they’re taken to what looks like a jail, locked up and told they have to face a team of interrogators.

They’re obviously not in a real prison, or facing a real police grilling, so the decision to make it look “real” is a curious one.

Viewers are willing to suspend disbelief and assign real dramatic tension to shows like “The Closer” or “Law & Order,” made-up stories featuring good acting. And we’re willing to give ourselves over to the high stakes of “Survivor” or an NFL game.

But in blending a game-like scenario with a realistic- looking cops-and-robbers setting, “Take” makes everything look fake and robs the situation of any actual stakes. As a television critic and as a viewer, I have a fairly sensitive “Why Should I Care?” alarm. In this case, it started ringing right away.

• People love lists and apparently enjoy being told the things they should do before they die. So the new weekly series “50 Documentaries To See Before You Die” (8 p.m., Current) should be a favorite.

Over five weeks, Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) reviews the best nonfiction movies of the modern era, from “Hoop Dreams” to “Paris Is Burning” to “Brother’s Keeper” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”

• Some of the films celebrated by Spurlock probably first appeared on television on “POV” (9 p.m., PBS).

Tonight that documentary series offers “Steam of Life,” an exploration of the special relationship between Scandinavians and their saunas. Both haunting and melancholy (these are Scandinavians after all!) and often amusingly quirky, “Steam” is a decidedly Finnish take on “Men of a Certain Age,” a look at the ways men converse, or fail to communicate, while sitting naked together in extreme heat.

Tonight’s other highlights

• If you confuse “Hell’s Kitchen” (7 p.m., Fox) and “MasterChef” (8 p.m., Fox), you’re not alone.

• “Live From Lincoln Center” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) attends the opening night of the Mostly Mozart Festival.

• Live performances on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC).

• “Billy the Exterminator” (8 p.m., A&E) enters a new season.

• Local bank customers held hostage on “Memphis Beat” (8 p.m., TNT).

• Undercover with a fetching Egyptologist on “White Collar” (8 p.m., USA).

• Rebecca’s rash decision has consequences on “Combat Hospital” (9 p.m., ABC).

• A rat cleanup leads to even dirtier work on “True Grime” (9 p.m., ID).

• A professor’s life as a spy emerges on “Covert Affairs” (9 p.m., USA).

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