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Archive for Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Union: long on drama and decorum

January 24, 2012

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Look for network and cable schedules to make way for the State of the Union address (8 p.m. on CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News). It’s not a TV show, but it is filled with drama.

Among the many burdens of the presidency is the need to combine the practical aspects of the job with the pomp and even majesty of executive office. Great Britain divides these jobs between the prime minister and the king or queen, but here in the United States, it all falls upon the president.

Sometimes people fear the president acts in too “imperial” a manner, and, at other times, folks wish he’d look or behave with more executive flourish. Elected after Watergate, Jimmy Carter made a point of wearing jeans and carrying his own luggage. Four years later he was defeated by Ronald Reagan, who put a more formal stamp on his presidential style.

With or without Hollywood experience, being the president is a tough act. Tonight marks the one time of year that the president reports to Congress with his wish list of policy goals and a litany of missions accomplished. The live address to Congress is a tradition that dates to Woodrow Wilson, and, like any ritual, it is long on show and decorum. With rare exceptions, everybody is on their best behavior.

That may prove a bit harder tonight, since we’re already knee-deep into an election year and partisan feelings are running high. However, there have been years when the addresses were even more awkward. In 1974, Richard Nixon delivered an address to a Congress all but certain to vote on his impeachment. (It did.) And in 1999, Bill Clinton addressed House members who had just voted to impeach him and Senate members about to vote on a conviction that would remove him from office. (They did, but the vote did not carry.)

• As the second season of “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” (8 p.m., WE) opens, the famously foul-mouthed comic Joan Rivers now lives in her daughter’s basement. She thinks nothing of spouting obscenities around the kids and wasting everybody’s time obsessing about yet another round of plastic surgery. It’s contrived and predictable, even by the low standards of this tired genre.

• Perhaps the only way to stand out amid the glut of auction and memorabilia programming is to specialize. “All-Star Dealers” (7 p.m., Discovery) focuses on sports collectibles and items belonging to famous athletes. First up: a visit to Dennis Rodman’s storage locker and a search to discover if a jersey said to belong to Dan Marino was actually owned by the famous Miami Dolphin.

• “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” (9 p.m., HBO) meets with the NBA’s Van Gundy brothers; visits a high school football team that never punts; and returns to the story of Barret Robbins, an NFL player who failed to show up for a Super Bowl game.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Schuester’s boot camp opens on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A glance back at odd clips on “Dirty Jobs” (8 p.m., Discovery).

• Embezzlement is on a high school’s curriculum on “White Collar” (9 p.m., USA).

• Tang and Cooper come under attack on “Southland” (9 p.m., TNT).

• An officer’s murder investigation makes for strange bedfellows on “Justified” (9 p.m., FX).

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