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Archive for Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tune In Tonight: MacFarlane takes turn at Oscars

February 24, 2013

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It’s official. Seth MacFarlane is now big enough to compete against himself. Fans have a choice between watching him host the Oscars (7:30 p.m. Sunday, ABC) or watching repeats of his creations “The Cleveland Show,” ‘‘Family Guy” and “American Dad” on Fox. It’s a little like when the Emmys ask fans of “Homeland” to choose between watching the show, or watching it win awards. The major difference being that “Homeland” is actually worth watching.

MacFarlane will certainly draw viewers who are curious to see how well, or how badly, he performs. The audience is enormous and the stakes are said to be high, but the consequences of failure are really pretty minuscule. David Letterman, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, James Franco and Anne Hathaway all bombed to some extent while hosting the big show — with little collateral damage to their careers.

In fact, one could take a contrarian view and argue that it’s the really successful hosts who tend to stagnate. Billy Crystal had been in several hit movies when he started hosting the Oscars. Since then, his reputation has pretty much revolved around the golden guy. The job isn’t a launching pad but a sign that one has arrived at the back nine of a long career.

“Masterpiece Contemporary” (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS) offers a repeat of the 2011 drama “Page Eight,” an understated thriller set at the highest levels of British intelligence. When a startling leak threatens to topple the prime minister (Ralph Fiennes), ties both personal and diplomatic come under scrutiny.

A uniformly stellar cast includes Bill Nighy as a dissipated spymaster whose only constant seems to be his longtime boss and former professor (Michael Gambon). Life gets complicated when a fetching new neighbor (Rachel Weisz) suddenly appears, a little too coincidentally. The fact that she’s linked to a Middle Eastern scandal raises a number of red flags. Look for Judy Davis as Nighy’s venomous co-worker.

Sunday’s other highlights

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): the raid on Osama bin Laden.

• Andrea worries on “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC).

• Rosanna Arquette guest-stars on “Girls” (8 p.m., HBO).

• Tyler tries a soft touch to change Amy’s mind on “Enlightened” (8:30 p.m., HBO).

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