By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Gilmore Girls (WB) is my favorite new show, with ex-Townie Lauren Graham as the young mother of a teenage daughter in a quirky, but not too quirky, small town; all the characters get to be right some of the time and have to be wrong some of the time. The dialogue is sharp without being unbelievably clever, the tone well-modulated, the acting uniformly life-size.
The Corner (HBO). Directed by Charles S. Dutton and written by David Simon (Homicide: Life on the Street) and David Mills, this fact-based heroin version of The Days of Wine and Roses set on the streets of West Baltimore was, at six hours, not a minute too long. T.K. Carter, Khandi Alexander and Sean Nelson caught the people inside characters TV usually treats as freaks, when it treats them at all.
That‘s Life (CBS). Less interesting in its premise (30-year-old bartender goes back to school) than for its funky milieu and charming cast; the stories can run to the corny and predictable, but are redeemed by small bits of real-life business, and if some of the cast go consistently over the top, others -- especially lead Heather Paige Kent and especially especially Debi Mazar, who fills a small role to the very brim -- are doing some of the most believable work on television.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO). Seinfeld co-creator Larry David steps into Garry Shandling’s shoes as this year‘s HBO antihero, mixing his old series’ Greek-tragical obsessive-compulsiveness with Larry Sanders‘ semidocumentary style to paint a portrait of a man at war with life on many levels. My critical regards to Cheryl Hines as his long-suffering wife and to Richard Lewis as the long-suffering Richard Lewis.
Brutally Normal (WB). I didn’t realize how much I liked this show, another celebration of high school misfits, until it was taken away. Stylistically broad, but with the operatic, balletic elegance of a Hong Kong martial-arts film. Mike Damus, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Lea Moreno were the goofy yet graceful leads.
Malcolm in the Middle (Fox). Yet another series that stands up for the freaks: a kind of Addams Family without the Halloween gear, or a live-action Simpsons, concerning a peculiar clan that functions, even thrives, on its own unwholesome terms. The show seems to be surviving Frankie Muniz‘s growth spurt quite handily.
Grosse Pointe (WB). Darren Star’s parody of the substance and production of his own Beverly Hills 90210 is a kinder, gentler Action, with an unusually assured tone and lovely, funny performances by Lindsay Sloane, Irene Molloy, Kohl Sudduth and Al Santos.
Belfast, Maine (PBS). Frederick Wiseman‘s four-hour cinema-verite look at a small (but surprisingly diverse) New England town made beautiful music out of the rhythms of ordinary life. Presented, like all his films, without narration, says Wiseman, ”because I don’t like to be told what to think.“
Big Brother (CBS). Survivor‘s less successful cousin, in which contestants were locked in a ”house“ in the Valley for 88 days, didn’t matter to me all that much -- I can‘t even remember who won, if I ever knew -- except when it seemed as if the inmates were about to pre-emptively end the series by refusing to sell one another out. If in the end they continued to play the Man’s game, because that‘s where the money was, for one brief, shining moment revolution was in the air. And at the very least, the show demonstrated that it was possible to live three months without television -- a radical notion, and soon forgotten.
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