Archive for Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tune In: Daytime drama now found in prime time

May 15, 2011

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A progressive dinner party allows viewers to catch up with every major character on the two-hour season finale of “Desperate Housewives” (8 p.m., ABC). And the dinner crawl ends with a murder, shocking the residents of Wisteria Lane, or at least those still capable of being shocked after years of multiple murders, disappearances, sudden deaths, storms, plane crashes and other over-the-top calamities.

“Survivor: Redemption Island” (7 p.m., CBS) also wraps up its season, followed by an instant reunion (9 p.m.).

It’s interesting to note that the enduring nature of shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Survivor” has coincided with the decline of the daytime soap opera. While ABC will be washing its hands of “All My Children,” the serial nature and scheming archetypal characters featured on afternoon soaps have been absorbed into both “Survivor” on CBS and on series all over the ABC line-up.

With few exceptions, ABC has become the Soap Opera Network on a bigger budget. “Desperate Housewives” may seem exhausted and creatively bankrupt to some, but it endures because, like the best and worst of daytime soaps, it has developed a passionate fan base. The same could be said of “The Bachelor,” “Dancing with the Stars” and the “Grey’s Anatomy”/“Private Practice” nexus. They don’t matter very much to the non-fan, and in fact they can be repellent to some. But to the devoted they mean a great deal.

• A decade in the making, the documentary “The Storm that Swept Mexico” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) recalls the 1910 Mexican revolution that continues to shape that nation’s society, economy, politics and national identity.

Mexico’s revolt threatened, or promised, to destroy an entrenched landowning elite and bring a voice to long downtrodden ethnic minorities. “Storm” recalls America’s love-hate relationship with the mythic figures of the revolution, Francisco “Pancho” Villa and Emiliano Zapata. The fledgling film industry from Hollywood sent film crews south of the border to document the fighting with a real-life Villa as a “star” of his own silent movies.

Unlike many histories that tend to put the United States’ relationship with Europe and Latin America in separate boxes, “Storm” examines the approach of both world wars from a Mexican perspective. Where period footage cannot be found, the film uses glorious and evocative woodcuts as illustrations.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): an interview with outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

• “South Riding” concludes on “Masterpiece Mystery” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings. part 3 of 3).

• The Targaryens pay the price for the Daenerys’ dalliance with the Dothrakis on “Game of Thrones” (8 p.m., HBO). Spell checking is hopeless in this make-believe kingdom!

• “Killing Bin Laden” (9 p.m., Discovery) recalls the recent secret raid by Navy SEALs.

• A rapper cuts a record deal with Aunt Mimi (Elizabeth Ashley) and Davis (Steve Zahn) on “Treme” (9 p.m., HBO).

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