Love, Marilyn (HBO)
A new biographical documentary on the legend of Marilyn Monroe. What makes this one different from the scores that have come before is that two boxes of her very personal papers were found not too long ago. Interspersed with film clips from her life and archival interviews with people who knew and worked with her are actors reading these papers. They provide a wonderful insight into the troubled mind of this fascinating woman. I highly recommend this film if you are at all interested in Monroe or in old Hollywood.
Sex: How It Works (National Geographic)
A two hour documentary about sex in which nothing new is discussed. There are interviews with virgins, married couples, homosexuals, bisexuals, people who classify themselves as asexual, doctors, you name it. If, however, you are an adult who has been in an adult relationship of whatever sort, nothing discussed will come as news to you. Hard to believe, but the producers of this documentary managed to make sex dull.
Blood and Oil (Discovery)
This is a reality series about a family who found oil on their land thirty years ago. The eldest son, CJ, thinks it is still there and decides to drill again. The situations in this pilot were so obviously scripted and so obviously contrived that it was almost comical to watch. CJ is going to drill in his sister’s backyard without her permission? He is going to tear down a 160 year old house belonging to his mother without her permission? If he did so, their reactions would be a shrug and an acceptance that “CJ has turned up the crazy?” Give me a break.
The Soup Investigates (E!)
A spin-off of The Soup, Joel McHale hosts this show that is a spoof on investigative shows. For satire to work, it needs to be funny. This most decidedly is not. It is mean spirited and McHale is just nasty. My DVR cut off the show about two-thirds of the way through. I did not miss the rest.
Dave Foley: Relatively Well (Showtime)
Like so many comics I have watched for this column, Foley has some interesting, even profound, things to say. Unfortunately, those nuggets get lost in the noise of the rest of this act. He did one section on the power of language that would have been fascinating if he had used different words. I understand that he was trying to make his point by using the most offensive language possible, but it was difficult to listen to. I lost all respect for the man, however, when he spent ten minutes talking about his ex-wife. Calling the mother of your children a cunt is way over my personal line.
Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret (Lifetime)
It is, perhaps, inevitable that Lifetime would make a movie from this story. Two really troubled people who were on a collision course from the start, this movie plays up the drama that led to that fateful morning. It’s not a bad movie, just a very sad one.
Thirteen amateur sleuths (many with law enforcement backgrounds) have gathered in a house to solve a string of staged murders. Each week, those furthest from the actual solution will take part in staging his or her death until one remains and wins $250,000. I love a good murder mystery and I have been known to take part in a murder mystery dinner or two. The problem with this show is that these amateur sleuths are also being asked to act as everything that I saw was obviously staged. Brian Lowry in Variety called it bad local dinner theater -- he’s right.
Crimes of the Century (CNN)
A documentary series about the worst crimes in recent history. The episode I watched was about the DC snipers. It was a compilation of interviews by the members of law enforcement who were involved as well as members of the media who reported on it at the time. While it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, it was nicely balanced and interesting to watch. There was a fascinating section about how law enforcement was stymied by all the media speculation, especially interesting in light of the channel that showed this documentary.
Devious Maids (Lifetime)
I didn’t think it was possible to shove so many stereotypes into one hour of television. The maids are all Hispanic, loving mothers, and talented. The people for whom they work are all white desperate housewives (same creator, folks) and predatory men. I rolled my eyes constantly, willing the hour to pass quickly. The actresses all do a fine job, but they are given nothing to work with. The plots are so cliche that the twist at the end is given away in the first five minutes; the dialogue is laughably wooden and re-tread. Someone needs to tell the people who write this stuff that a guilty pleasure has to be, how shall I put this, pleasurable and not painful to experience.
Naked and Afraid (Discovery)
Yet another “survival” show in which two strangers, a man and a woman, are sent into a harsh environment with no water, no food and no clothes. As I’ve said before, I would take these shows much more seriously if a camera crew were not accompanying the participants. I did learn that I would not relish twenty-one days in the jungle, but other than that, it is pretty much what you would expect.
Inside Man (CNN)
A newsmagazine, hosted by Morgan Spurlock, that promises to take on the tough issues of our time. The episode I saw was about medical marijuana and the conflict between the State of California and the Federal Government. It was interesting in that Spurlock was able to access and interview many of the people involved in the production and sale of the drug, but finally the show didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. This one is watchable, but nothing too exciting.
Crossing Lines (NBC)
This show has a really interesting premise. An Inspector from the International Criminal Court (played to perfection by Donald Sutherland) joins forces with a French detective to solve crimes that cross country lines in the EU. The team is comprised of an international group of law enforcement types, including one washed up NYPD detective (played by William Fichtner). The problem is that Hickman, the American, is a carbon copy of Sherlock Holmes up to and including an addiction to opiates and an ambiguity towards women. I liked the two hour pilot well enough, but finally it was all too predictable and rote. Shame. This one should have been a great summer show.