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July 2009 Archives

"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (7 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): A shark attack survivor and a coma survivor face off. God, can't we just give both of them the money?

"Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey" (8 p.m., History): I am not making this up. The Marine Vietnam vet and incomparable actor will get "hands-on with some of the world's fiercest firearms." First up: The history of the machine gun, complete with exploding targets in slo-mo.

"Sex Slaves in America" (8 p.m., MSNBC): Be thorough about it. It's followed at 9 p.m. by "Sex Slaves in the Suburbs" and at 10 by "Sex Slaves: The Teen Trade."

"Amusement Park Eats" (9 p.m., Food): Will we finally find out what's in cotton candy? I hope it's not bad for you.

What is "The Mentalist" doing right?

What should have been pleasant filler has become a ratings no-brainer. Reruns on Thursday nights are consistently the most watched programs, with something around 10 million viewers.

So what's the secret?

"Bottom Feeder" (6 p.m., SyFy): The always entertaining Tom Sizemore stars in this horror movie about a mutated monster that targets maintenance workers in tunnels. It's not clear whether Sizemore is the monster or a maintenance worker.

"Moments of Impact" (8 p.m., Discovery): Call it extreme marital therapy. A bickering couple gets thrown from their boat.

"The Real Housewives of Atlanta" (9 p.m., Bravo): For the premiere, you'll meet new housewive Kandi Burruss, a singer-songwriter who wrote TLC's "No Scrubs." But it's Sheree's jaw-dropping verbal altercation with her party planner that is not to be missed. You can thank me later.

"Law & Order" (9 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): Say goodbye to "The Listener," which is being replaced with "L&O" reruns like tonight's, about a child slave-trade ring.

After a marathon conference call with Jillian, Ed, Kiptyn and Reid, we can finally tie up some of "The Bachelorette's" loose ends.

Q. Will Jillian and Ed live in Vancouver or Chicago?
A. She will move into Ed's downtown apartment Sept. 1, and is working on getting a green card for work purposes.

Q. Where will the wedding be?
A. Probably Canada.

Q. Are they open to getting married on TV?
A. Probably not.

Q. Is Jillian sticking with her hot-dog-topping theory of men?
A. Yes. In fact, she's working on a book about how to decide if a guy is a keeper or not based on whether he's a sauerkraut guy or a ketchup monger.

Q. What kind of hot dog topping does Ed prefer?
A. "I am a mustard guy, a hundred percent," says Ed. (So is Jillian's dad.)

Q. Has Ed taken Jillian to his favorite Chicago karaoke bar, the Blue Frog?
A. Not yet.

Q. When the time comes, what will Jillian sing?
A. "Patsy Cline," says the country-music lover. (Ed is on record as [ital]not[unital] being a country fan.)

Q. What was Ed's reaction to the discussion of his temporary impotence?
A. "I was a little stunned but I wasn't too upset, because I knew the outcome of the show," says Ed.

Q. What is Kiptyn's ab routine?
A. "I just try and do something active every day and eat OK," he says.

Q. Was Reid trying to embarrass Jillian with the cut-short question about the fantasy suite?
A. "I was going to ask who she had the most fun with in the fantasy suite," says Reid. "I stopped myself and thought that was an inappropriate question."

Q. Did Reid get a refund from the ring he bought for Jillian?
A. "I was able to return the ring, yes," says Reid.

"America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): More of the Top 40 are announced. Please, can we go easy on the magicians?

"Monsters Inside Me" (8 p.m., Animal Planet): If you're in the mood for a slasher film, try this: The story of how parasites can INVADE YOUR BRAIN.

"CSI: NY" (9 p.m., WBBM-Channel 2): You've gotta admit, they keep the crime scenes creative. This time around, a buzzard drops a human eyeball from its claw.

"The Real World Cancun" (9 p.m., MTV): Jonna's hometown honey visits. These episodes are invariably disastrous. I love them.

"Holidate" (9 p.m., Soapnet): What if your One and Only were out there - but you just haven't found him because he's hanging out in New Jersey? Taking a cue from the Kate Winslet/Cameron Diaz movie "The Holiday," two women swap homes, coasts and dating pools in the name of love.

Last night's "After the Final Rose" special was one more chance to make 'em squirm -- and in that, it was a smashing success.

Reid Rosenthal got the biggest reaction. The fan favorite (but Jillian Harris's second-runner-up) faced her for the first time since she turned down his proposal. There were awkward pauses and closeups.

Reid said he wasn't comfortable asking the questions he had. "One of them was about the fantasy suite," he explained.

Jillian was visibly stunned.

But her reunion with fiancé Ed Swiderski? All squeals and kisses. The couple revealed that she would move in with Ed in downtown Chicago for the rest of the summer, and that they'd be getting married in the next year.

More important, we learned that Jillian likes Ed's "man-kini" shorts. And, oh yes: There are no problems in the bedroom.

--Paige Wiser

"The Superstars" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Season finale. How will they decide the championship? By tug-of-war, of course.

"Paris, Not France" (7:30 p.m., MTV): A documentary about Paris Hilton, complete with commentary by Camille Paglia. If you watch something deep about something shallow, does it cancel out?

"America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): At last, we find out the top 40!

"More to Love" (8 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): I gave the supersized "Bachelor" knockoff two stars because I was too worried the women would get hurt. But judge for yourself.

"Starz Inside: Unforgettably Evil" (9 p.m., Starz): The Sun-Times' Richard Roeper hosts this special about the psychology behind classic villains, with interviews with notable Chicagoans Stan Lee, Daryl Hannah and Joe Mantegna. Bonus: Eric Roberts, who is an honorary Chicagoan in my book.

If there is a moral to this season's "The Bachelorette," it is this: True love knows no barriers.

"The Bachelorette" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Season finale. True love is at stake! Chicago is, of course, on Team Ed.

"National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" (7 p.m., Comedy): How did I miss the sequel? Starring Kal Penn - who now works in the Obama administration.

"The Yes Men Fix the World" (9 p.m., HBO): Two hoaxters play pranks on big business. High jinks with a moral: Greed is bad!

"Charm School With Ricki Lake" (8 p.m., VH1): Season finale. With just Ashley, Risky and Marcia left, who will be named the classiest - and win $100,000? Somehow, I feel more invested in "The Bachelorette."

"Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" (9 p.m., Bravo): The unsinkable Kathy rallies for gay rights in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Just call her Norma Gay.


"Kanye West: Live From the Chicago Theatre" (7 p.m., FUSE): There's footage from his "Stay in School" benefit concert in June, as well as an interview with Kanye talking about his mother's hopes for the Kanye West Foundation.

"Kings" (7 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): The finale for this update of the story of King David. Jack (Sebastian Stan - who's dating "Gossip Girl's" Leighton Meester!) prepares to take his father's place.

"Being Human" (8 p.m., BBC America): The Sun-Times' Misha Davenport highly recommends this import. It's like "Friends," except the roommates are a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire.

"The Tingler" (9 p.m., WCIU-Channel 26): Svengoolie will hold your hand through this 1959 Vincent Price thriller, in which the mad pathologist learns that you can drop dead from fear. Point of interest: This was the first movie to document an LSD trip.


"Cronkite Remembers" (11 a.m., Discovery): In an eight-part series from 1997, the late newsman talks about the last seven decades from his point of view, mixing media and sharing anecdotes.

"The Storm" (8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): When an irresponsible tycoon starts experimenting the weather, it's up to a scientist and a reporter to save the world. The cast is interesting: Luke Perry, James Van Der Beek, Teri Polo, Marisol Nichols, Treat Williams, John Larroquette, David James Elliott, and a token Arquette (Richmond).

"The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl" (8 p.m., Disney): Check out a pre-"Twilight" Taylor Lautner as an un-buff imaginary friend trying to save a distant planet from the forces of darkness.

"Robot Chicken" (10:30 p.m., Cartoon Network): The new season kicks off with goofs on Punky Brewster, Stephen King and "The Giving Tree." We can assume it will be tasteful.

'More to Love'
Two stars
8 p.m. Tuesday, WFLD-Channel 32

Since creator Mike Fleiss also gave the world "The Bachelor" franchise, I guess it's his prerogative to knock himself off. "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have shown remarkable longevity - bringing you hot tub drama since 2002! - especially considering the piddly success rate of its love matches.

(Respect, Trista and Ryan.)

Still, it was startling to see that Fleiss stuck with the same exact formula for his latest project, "More to Love." Our hero this time is a "regular guy" - Luke, 26, a successful real estate investor. He's cute, charming - and, it's repeatedly mentioned, more than 300 pounds, although he wears it well on his 6-foot-3 frame. The phrase "teddy bear" inevitably comes up a lot.

Just like on "The Bachelor," Luke dresses up and waits outside a generic mansion for limos-full of flirty females in formalwear to arrive. Just like on "The Bachelor," everybody has cocktails, and tries to catch Luke's attention, even if it means smooching him before he's learned their names.

But somehow, the routine isn't as fun on "More to Love." In fact, it's hypocritical. The hunk and his harem say over and over that the process will be about what's inside a person, not what's outside. They must mean "up to a point," because all the participants are gorgeous, no matter what their weight.

"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (7 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): Wrestler Bill Goldberg and boxer Sugar Ray Leonard play for charity.

"The Goode Family" (7:30 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Yes, things are bad in Darfur, but sometimes we have to remember that charity starts at home. Gerald gets organized in an attempt to bring public broadcast radio to Greenville.

"Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil" (WLS-Channel 7): Charles Gibson's documentary conceded its Wednesday slot to President Obama.

"Con Air" (8 p.m., TNT) and "Independence Day" (8 p.m., TBS): I can't tell you which to watch in this blockbuster showdown. If only Will Smith had been in "Con Air," too!

"Friday the 13th" (8 p.m., Spike): At least watch until a young Kevin Bacon is dispatched with extreme prejudice.

"The Bonnie Hunt Show" (2 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): A rerun of an interview with Kate Gosselin from last October. Before the breakup, but after the haircut.

"Samantha Who?" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): The last two episodes of the Christina Applegate funfest. Finally, I can ask the question: Why was her hair curlier after her accident? If she lost her memory, wouldn't that make it HARDER to create elaborate hairstyles?

"So You Think You Can Dance" (8 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): Katie Holmes does! She hoofs a tribute to Judy Garland.

"Soundstage: Fall Out Boy" (9 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Chicago's own Mr. Ashlee Simpson and his crew perform "America's Suitehearts."

"16 and Pregnant" (9 p.m., MTV): A special update on "Life After Labor." Before you tune in, make sure you really want to know.

Last year Sarah Symonds made headlines when it was alleged that Chef Gordon Ramsay had cheated on his wife with her -- over the course of seven years. In my review of the new season of "Hell's Kitchen," I wrote that I didn't care for his verbal abuse. I wonder how many fans he's lost because of this scandal?

Sarah e-mailed me this morning to say she agreed with my assessment, and had some more to say, too. She's been on "The View" and "Dateline NBC" recently to promote her book, Having an Affair? A Handbook for the Other Woman.

Does this make you want to boycott "Hell's Kitchen"?

From Sarah:

"I was flabbergasted to recently read that Gordon had suggested I was 'an Extra' brought in for the finale episode of Hells Kitchen Season 5 (aired this April.) so when I was personally invited by Gordon and took along two of my best friends - my hairdresser and his partner - who dined with me all evening. We were given the best table in the house (or so his PA had told me) and Gordon came over to chat to us personally, while my friends insisted on giving him a gift, a special bottle of wine they had brought to thank him for the invite. When filming was done Gordon sweetly arranged for us the luxury of a tour behind the scenes to see where it all happens and to meet his team. We later bid him goodnight, sharing kisses all round.

Any one who knows me knows I have never been an extra in my life. Not withstanding that, I have also read recently that he called me 'deluded' for saying we'd had an affair over a period of seven years. Now, while I am wiling to concede that many men view an affair as just sex and won't accept the actual "A" word, surely Mr. Ramsay is the deluded one here if he doesn't even know his extras from his mistresses?'

Initially I was disappointed when Gordon denied our affair, as I felt he didn't show his bombastic on-camera behavior to own up and move on (I quote, "The good thing about me is that when I make a mistake, I put my hands up and say:" unquote) however after I thought about it all, if he HAD admitted it right away, it would have all been over in 24 hours; this way it will drag on now for months..."

Just finished a conference call with Jillian, God bless her. She could probably use a nice extended breakdown about now.

My mom: "Ask her how much she weighs. She's so tiny!"

I did not. But here were the highlights:

*OK, this is a shocker. Jillian has already downloaded Wes's lame song, "It Don't Come Easy." In fact, she's downloaded the whole CD. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANYONE ELSE TO DO THIS.

*She says she was only full-out drunk three times -- for the first rose ceremony, the second rose ceremony, and the snowmobiling date. But there was a lot of drinking, and she never got a day off. Her big hangover cure? "Coconut water. It's like drinking 10 Gatorades, with no sugar."

*Jillian's recommended toenail polishes: Revlon's Make Mine Mango ("Tanner really loved that color"), and My Chihuahua Bites by OPI.

*For her dream wedding, she would have red and white gingham tablecloths, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and her Aunt Becky's cabbage rolls.

*In trying to keep the guys straight, Jillian called Jesse "Josh." Twice.

*How did she feel about Ed's short shorts in Hawaii? "I loved 'em! Short shorts are huge in Europe right now. I thought they were very fashion-forward."

*Jillian talked to her parents after they met the final two, and asked them if she should be ready for an engagement. Her dad said, "Babe, you signed up for this, it doesn't mean you're walking down the aisle right then. A proposal in this case signifies I'm ready, I like you, I love you, I'm happy that we went from 0 to 60, let's start a life together, and a year from now see where things are, and get married."

*She clarifies the overnight visit with Ed: She says it was sweltering hot, and talking awkardly about his ex-girlfriends. "I think he was ready to throw up," she said. And that sexy oil-rubbing scene? She said it was just aloe vera, because they were burnt to the point of blistering. "We both passed out, and in the morning, I was very stressed out that we hadn't used our time to see if we had a physical connection."

*Her pick for the next Bachelor: Michael Stagliano, the breakdancing instructor, and his twin brother!

In general, Jillian made it sound like there's not necessarily a chosen guy, much less a proposal, at the end...

"Black in America 2" (7 p.m., CNN): A year ago, Soledad O'Brien explored the topic of "The Black Woman and Family." For tonight's installment, she tackles the problem of saving black marriages. Probably wouldn't hurt for other ethnicities to take some notes, too.

"America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): If President Obama's press conference doesn't cut in, we'll see the last round of auditions - as well as Susan Boyle's first interview, with Meredith Vieira. Here's a tease: Boyle likens sudden fame to "a giant demolition ball."

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (8:02 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): The perfect counter-programming for "America's Got Talent." The shameless contestants catch dead fish with their mouths.

"Toddlers & Tiaras" (9 p.m., TLC): Cameron, 7, stares down Eden, 4, at the Universal Royalty Pageant in Texas. Now, play nice.

"Ruby and the Rockits" (7:30 p.m., ABC Family): The show rates only two stars, but the premiere is still worth watching for two reasons: 1. Brothers David and Patrick Cassidy co-star, and brother Shaun writes for it. (You missed your chance to watch David's hot daughter Katie -- she starred in "Harper's Island" -- but maybe she'll cameo.) 2. David and Patrick play former '80s pop stars, so there will be parachute pants jokes.

"Medium" (9 p.m., WBBM-Channel 2): Patricia Arquette settles in for her first night on CBS.

"The Colony" (9:01 p.m., Discovery): Ten volunteers will navigate an experimental post-apocalyptic world. Why does this sound like the Stephen Baldwin/Pauly Shore vehicle "Bio-Dome"?

"Rescue Me" (9 p.m., FX): Tommy is finally confronted about his alcoholism. No very special cross-over episode with Dr. Drew Pinsky?

I'm not a fan of Chef Gordon Ramsay. For me, verbal abuse is not entertaining -- or appetizing. In fact, I was at a Subway recently when the manager barked at an employee for using chicken breast instead of turkey breast, and I vowed never to go there again. I don't care how fancy Ramsay's sandwiches are, I'd boycott them too.

And the chef¹s not the only one with a temper on this show. This is one of the most volatile "Hell's Kitchens" ever, with an easygoing Texan almost immediately getting into a scuffle with refined maitre d' Jean-Phillipe. Then there are teasers that Chef Ramsay just may get a faceful of fist this season. Dare we hope?

So what did we learn from last night's "The Bachelors Tell All" episode?

1. Chicago's Ed Swiderski, who's in the final two, is a good time. After footage of him, um, interpretive dancing in a hotel hallway, Jillian Harris declared, "Ed is the happiest, funniest drunk that I've ever met in my life." Later she gushed, "I love that Ed's a little bit of a nerd."

2. In the previews for next week's "emotional" conclusion, Reid was shown fondling a gold band. Host Chris Harrison teased, "Reid wasn't able to make it tonight due to a prior engagement."

3. Last season's sensitive-but-indecisive bachelor Jason Mesnick has inspired a new expression. "Pulling a Mesnick" is defined as "a grown man who leans over a hotel railing and cries."

There was much bashing of record-pushing, girlfriend-having Wes, who also must have had a prior engagement. But as for clues as to how next week's finale turns out? Not so much.

This is the point at which the Bachelorette should say something like, "I'm in love with a wonderful guy." Does she choose too-perfect Kiptyn? Workaholic Ed? Or late bloomer Reid?

All Jillian would give up was, "It all turned out good in the end."

"Torchwood: Children of the Earth" (8 p.m., BBC America): Whatever you were planning to do this week, back out of it. Nothing is more important than watching this four-star miniseries, which airs five nights in a row. When the world's children all freeze at once and start chanting, "We are coming," Capt. Jack Harkness and his crew scramble to thwart the aliens. Jack is played by John Barrowman, who went to high school in Joliet and is seriously attractive. It's thrilling, funny and poignant. If you don't get BBC America, pretend to be friends with someone who does.

"The Wanted" (9 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): The premiere of the controversial show that follows a Green Beret, a Navy Seal and an investigative reporter as they hunt down war criminals.

"Dating in the Dark" (9 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Is true love blind? Don't bet on it.

Two and a half stars
9 p.m., WLS-Channel 7

I am not being sarcastic when I say that I watch reality television for insights into human behavior. That and the catfights, obviously. But I think it's fascinating what we can learn from these contrived situations. If this is how people behave when they know the country is watching, how do they act when unsupervised? The mind reels.

Yes, having cameras present would affect the results of any social experiment. And yes, the kind of people who go on reality shows should count as their own species. But from a psychological point of view, the premiere of "Dating in the Dark" should not be missed.

Beyond that, you're on your own.


"The Bill Engvall Show" (8 p.m., TBS): It's a new season for this family sitcom, with Nancy Travis and Tim Meadows. And if you can't get enough, Engvall's standup special "15 Degrees Off Cool" airs at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.

"Mending Fences" (8 p.m., Hallmark): Angie Dickinson ("Big Bad Mama"), Laura Leighton ("Melrose Place") and many horses star in this new movie.

"Dirty Sexy Money" (9 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): God, I loved this (now-canceled) show. In this new episode, Letitia Darling (Jill Clayburgh) hosts a Ferragamo fashion show while under house arrest.

"Swamp Thing" (9:30 p.m., WCIU-Channel 26): Svengoolie brings you the touching story of a green monster with romantic needs. Starring Ray Wise, Louis Jordan (shirtless) and Adrienne Barbeau (not shirtless).


"Labor Pains" (7 p.m., ABC Family): Lindsay Lohan's two-star movie - originally intended for theaters - has a cast that's too good for it: Cheryl Hines, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Parnell, Tracee Ellis Ross . . .

"AFI Life Achievement Award" (8 p.m., TVLand): Michael Douglas is honored, and Catherine Zeta-Jones performs. Like he doesn't get enough of that at home.

"Masterpiece Mystery!" (8 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): "Miss Marple, Series IV: They Do It With Mirrors." Joan Collins and Brian Cox get tangled up in a musical revue, a juvie center - and MURDER.

"Design Star" (9 p.m., HGTV): For the fourth season of the reality show, the contestants invade Rodeo Drive.

"Most Popular" (9 p.m., WeTV): Graham Norton hosts this new game show, where seven women get judged each week by 100 audience members, based on nothing but first impressions. Dare we hope that feelings will be hurt? The winner gets up to $10,000.

"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (7 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): "Jungle" Jack Hanna and a between-projects Star Jones match wits for charity.

"SpongeBob SquarePants" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon): Forget everything you thought you knew about SpongeBob. In this new episode, he shrinks his square pants in the dryer, and must find new ones.

"Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana" (7 p.m., Disney): A three-episode cross-over special that combines "Wizards of Waverly Place," "The Suite Life on Deck" and "Hannah Montana." I hope there's some sort of soundtrack or commemorative DVD I can buy so the magic doesn't have to end.

"Martin Lawrence Presents First Amendment Stand Up" (10 p.m., Starz): Among the comedians highlighted in the fourth season: Deon Cole, James Hannah, Lester Berrie and Ray Lipowski of Chicago, and Buddy Lewis of Gary, Ind.

The Emmys don't exist to reward quality television so much as to transform passive viewers into passionate critics.

For instance: If the Emmy glass is half full for you, you are blissfully basking in the glory of proto geek Jim Parsons' nomination. If the Emmy glass is half empty for you with smudges around the rim, you are so embittered at the snub to "Battlestar Gallactica" that you just might start another online petition.

Maybe you are smug that "30 Rock" could run away with the whole ceremony because, after all, you discovered it first. Or maybe you are just now realizing how important "America's Next Top Model" is to you now that it's missing from the list.

I understand.

And with that in mind, I've categorized my reactions to the nominations into The Good, The Unexpected and The Snubs. Of course the last category was the easiest to write. And once I get some more signatures, I think we'll hear about some important changes to the Emmy process next year.

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of "Family Guy," already was honored with some pop-culture props this year, when he filmed an ad for, along with the likes of Alec Baldwin. And now comes further confirmation of his comedic genius: "Family Guy" is the first animated show to be nominated for best comedy since "The Flintstones" in 1961.

And so completes Phase One for Stewie Griffin's diabolical plan for world domination.

A few other surprises:
*Cult hit "Flight of the Conchords" got some unexpected love, with a nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series and Jermaine Clement's nod for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy.

*Critics can't be complaining too much. Each show in the Outstanding Drama Series is a solid entry.

*Two fan favorites scored nominations: Simon Baker for "The Mentalist" and Jim Parsons (who also announced the nominations) for "The Big Bang Theory."

*Zach Braff was snubbed for his years of "Scrubs" duty.

*Sci-fi fans will be using the word "frak" a lot to complain about the absence of "Battlestar Gallactica" nominations.

*My biggest disappointment? No recognition for "Gossip Girl's" Leighton Meester. But mark my words, she will have her revenge.

*Sarah Silverman was a surprise pick for "The Sarah Silverman Show."

*The numbers: "30 Rock" has 22 nominations; "Mad Men" had 16; "Grey Gardens" has 17 and "Into the Storm" has 14.

"J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Cameras even follow the "Harry Potter" mastermind to the church where she once worked as a janitor.

"Primeval" (7 p.m., FX): A news team travels to Burundi to capture a legendary 25-foot-crocodile. Starring Dominic Purcell, Orlando Jones and Brooke Langton. If you need to get in the mood, it's preceded by "Snakes on a Plane" at 5 p.m.

"Are We Alone?" (8 p.m., Discovery): Explorers travel to the "strangest, harshest" parts of our planet to look for clues that there are others out there. Careful what you wish for.

"Royal Pains" (9 p.m., USA): I'm recommending because it showcases a doggie "bark mitzvah."

"Soundstage: Billy Idol" (9 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Gosh, he's aging well.

"The Fashion Show" (9 p.m., Bravo): Part one of the season finale.

3. Jeff engaging in an intense verbal altercation with Russell, without ever taking his attention off the pace of his elliptical trainer.

2. Lydia's curly-mustache necklace.

1. Laura complaining that no one likes her: "It's not my fault I have big boobs!" (They're implants, which I believe does make her culpable.)

'Labor Pains'
Two stars
7 p.m. Sunday, ABC Family

In extreme cases, I have a hard time separating the actor from the role. This is why I can't watch Woody Allen movies anymore - for the fear that he might write himself another part where he kisses a young starlet. Too close to reality for comfort.

And Lindsay Lohan has reached that point for me, too. Clearly I have read too many Us magazines. As I was watching "Labor Pains," my mind kept wandering, as I scrutinized her for self-tanning streaks, or hair extensions, or hickeys. It was hard to hear Lindsay say, "I'm officially a pathetic loser," or to have another character say, "I didn't want people to think that you're a wayward skank." Too close to reality for comfort.

But "Labor Pains" - originally intended for theaters - deserves an open-minded review, and so I will try.

"Porn: The Business of Pleasure" (8 p.m., CNBC): If you need further motivation, porn artiste Jesse Jane is interviewed. Point of interest: Usual sponsor Charles Schwab has pulled its name from the project.

"Leverage" (8 p.m., TNT): Timothy Hutton's steal-from-the-evil-rich-and-give-to-the-righteous caper series is back for a second season. Sadly, supporting actor Christian Kane still hasn't cut his hair.

"Dark Blue" (9 p.m., TNT): If Nicolas Cage were starring in this, it would be a bad movie. As it is, Dylan McDermott's new drama about a ridiculously troubled cop turned deep cover rates two and a half stars, and is eminently watchable during your summer brain vacation. Sample line: "I haven't seen 7 a.m. since 1992."

"Michael & Michael Have Issues" (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central): Michaels Showalter and Ian Black debut their sketch series.

"The Superstars" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): World-class athletes and alleged celebrities take on the cruelest sport of all: bowling.

"Miami Social" (9 p.m., Bravo): My increasingly favorite channel premieres another "docu-series" custom-made for me. Plot? Young, lightly toasted professionals love the night life. Watch for Hardy, who was a sweetheart on "Big Brother 2," return to the screen as a slick operator.

"Big Brother 11" (8 p.m., WBBM-Channel 2): Will nominated Lydia win the Power of Veto? I hope so, because I have a girl crush on her, and she's made it known that she doesn't discriminate genderwise.

"Sqaure Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants" (8 p.m., VH1): Required viewing.

"P.O.V." (10 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): "Law & Order" is just a warmup for this episode, devoted to the International Criminal Court.

Chicago's Ed Swiderski is one of the last two men standing on "The Bachelorette," but there have been "bumps in the road," as he puts it, to everlasting bliss with Jillian Harris.

Last night's episode was nothing short of a gaping pothole.

I am watching the 1999 pilot for "SpongeBob SquarePants," which features some menacing anchovies. Loved it. There was no Sandy in the first episode, but Gary got in a good line ("Mrow").

Nickelodeon pays respect to the absorbent hero by dedicating this weekend to him, July 17-19. There will be...

*A top-10 countdown of celebrity-picked episodes.

*A marathon of 10 fan-picked favorite episodes.

*11 new episodes.

Also, VH1 will debut the documentary "Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants." (Square roots! I get it.)

Coming up this year: Episodes with guest voices from Ricky Gervais, Craig Ferguson and Robin Williams. (Davids Bowie and Hasselhoff have already had their turns.)

"Anytime you get a sponge who wears pants, you got me." -- Will Ferrell

"The Wendy Williams Show" (3 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): The first guest on the couch for the new talk show is the host's personal Oprah, Vanessa Williams.

"Teddy: In His Own Words" (8 p.m., HBO): A tribute to the 46-year Senator, through archival materials and never-before-seen home movies. Say what you will about the man, but Kennedy can make a speech.

"History Detectives" (9 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Were premature babies on display at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago? Local urbanist, writer and architecture critic Lee Bey helps investigate.

"Here Come the Newlyweds" (9:02 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Season finale. But before a couple wins the big prize, the finalists visit a retirement home to get advice on sustaining a long, healthy marriage. Rule 1: Stay away from reality show humiliation.


"Keyshawn Johnson: Tackling Design" (11 a.m., A&E): The NFL ego has turned interior designer, and isn't afraid to take on a client who asks for Old Hollywood.

"Harper's Island" (8 p.m., WBBM-Channel 2): Season/series finale. Find out who the killer is. Can't be Abby's dad, because they killed him off. Can't be Abby's on-again off-again boyfriend, because that would be so "Scream." Theories?

"Eli Stone" (9 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Season/series finale. Eli has a vision that leads him to believe a loved one will die in a plane crash. At least the show's not going out with a whimper.

"Berserk" (9 p.m., WCIU-Channel 50): Svengoolie's selection this week is 1967's traveling-circus murder mystery. Star Joan Crawford was on the board of directors for Pepsi-Cola at the time, so watch for the gratuitous ad.


"Meteor" ( 8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): Put things in perspective with this miniseries about "an extinction event," or doomageddon. It stars Marla Sokoloff, Christopher Lloyd, Jason Alexander, Billy Campbell and Michael Rooker. The two-parter finishes next Sunday.

"Drop Dead Diva" (8 p.m., Lifetime): What happens when a hot shallow blond dies and returns to earth in the form of a "real-sized" lawyer? Luckily assistant Margaret Cho can help her bluff in the courtroom. Upcoming guest stars include Paula Abdul, Elliott Gould, Liza Minnelli, Delta Burke and Tim Gunn. WARNING: Blondes may be offended.

"Music and Lyrics" (7 p.m., TBS): If you didn't catch this in the theaters, you missed Hugh Grant's truly sublime '80s-era video for "Pop Goes My Heart." Hugh is on keyboards.

"Beyond the Sea" (7 p.m., TV Guide): Taking letterboxing to the extreme, the TV Guide Channel is devoting approximately 60 percent of the screen to Kevin Spacey's nigh-unwatchable impersonation of Bobby Darin.

"On the Waterfront" (7 p.m., TCM): Tonight's lineup is dedicated to the late Karl Malden. "Waterfront" is followed by "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Birdman of Alcatraz."

"The Goode Family" (7:30 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Gerald discovers there is meat in a restaurant's "meatless" chili. Boycott? Love-in? Self-immolation?

"Eureka" (8 p.m., SyFy): Is Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) truly fired? Find out during the premiere of the channel's most-watched show.

Three stars
9:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO

Over the last five seasons, fictional box-office heartthrob Vincent Chase has seen his career gain cred with the indie "Queens Boulevard," go blockbuster with James Cameron's "Aquaman," and flop with the self-indulgent "Medellin."

I've always suspected that it was an industry in-joke that the fates of this group of friends depend on the talent of a character played by Adrian Grenier - who is by far the worst actor in the ensemble. All he ever really has to do is hang out in his mansion, and even that he does awkwardly.

But with the start of this season, blue-eyed Vinnie is back on top as the star of Martin Scorsese's "Gatsby." If you can swallow that one - and I chose to shrug and believe - then you'll have plenty of fun with the boys.

"Samantha Who?" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): In the first of new back-to-back episodes, Chicago's favorite son Billy Zane plays Sam's boss and ex-love. If you're as confused as amnesiac Samantha, that could be because Zane replaces Timothy Olyphant, who couldn't return due to scheduling problems.

"Inside: Rolling Stones in Rio" (8 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): A free concert on Copacabana Beach. The next best thing to being there.

"So You Think You Can Dance" (8 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): Kelly Rowland, who co-hosts "The Fashion Show," performs in an effort to remind us that she's more than Isaac Mizrahi's sidekick.

"Ghost World" (8 p.m., Lifetime): Remember the good old days - 2001 -- when Scarlett Johansson was a second banana and Steve Buscemi was a romantic lead? No?

"Pitchmen" (8 p.m., Discovery): A tribute to Billy Mays. Presumably more low-key than Michael Jackson's.

At moments like this, I wish I were a hornist.

"Extreme Miami Hotspots" (7 p.m., Travel): Highlighting a fairy-tale hotel for adults, an underwater cemetery, and the largest Cuban sandwich in town. I shudder to think what Chicago's largest sandwich is.

"The Conscience of Nhem En" (7 p.m., HBO2): Brace yourself for photographs of the men, women and children doomed by Khmer Rouge atrocities in this Oscar-nominated documentary.

"The Real World: Cancun" (9 p.m., MTV): Girl-on-girl action alert.

"Top Chef Masters" (9 p.m., Bravo): Neil Patrick Harris, who can do no wrong, guests. Also: The chefs have to cook an egg with one hand tied behind their backs.

"Ascent of Money" (9 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Let's get nostalgic about the days when we had some. This is the start of PBS's documentary about coins evolving into credit, treasury bonds and hedge funds.


I don't know Wes's last name, and I don't want to, because then he will have gotten his publicity and he will have won. Texas should be ASHAMED of you, Wes. Good luck in Chihuahua, Mexico, where you are apparently worshipped as a god, and please don't ever set foot again in America, much less Canada, because you are OUT. I'm not sure if leading sweet Jillian Harris on is grounds for treason, but it should be.

Poor Jillian finally picked up on the body language -- ie, he sat as far away from her as possible, even though we know from Reid that she smells good -- and he smirked his way through the rose ceremony. "If it's me, you boys will know that I'll be back home, having lots of sex," he remarked to a visibly stunned Kiptyn.

After he was dismissed and sent home in the limo -- which was driving in circles, so as to get Wes's finest drunken commentary -- he opined that he was "the first guy ever on 'Tthe Bachelorette' to make it to the top four with a girlfriend." And then, sarcastically, "You know, I think it's going to take a long time for me to get back on my feet again...." He confessed, "My acting days are over." And we learned that both his Wes's dog and his band are waiting for him back home. "I'm cutting off the chains," he said.

Publicity stunt complete! And with style! Because so many of us are dying to buy a romantic single from THE SLIMIEST MAN ALIVE.

"Great American Road Trip" (7 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): Root for the Cootes family of Lockport to win the $100,000 on Route 66.

"Scaramouche" (7 p.m., Turner Classic Movies): If you've ever wondered what Freddie Mercury was singing about in "Bohemian Rhapsody," check out this 1952 film about an 18th-century Frenchman (Stewart Granger) who poses as a clown.

"Jail" (8 p.m., WPWR-Channel 8): Take a break from the usual travelogues to tour the jails of Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Tacoma, Wash.

"Warehouse 13" (8 p.m., Syfy): The Sci Fi Channel officially rebrands itself to incorporate more fantasy with this "thrillerodomy" about "America's Attic," which has many strange and fantastical artifacts. I will watch anything with Saul Rubinek in it.

"P.O.V." (10 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): A profile of Jason Crigler, a guitarist who survived a near-fatal brain hemorrhage.

The success of any reality show is in the casting, and for the 11th season of "Big Brother," the producers are conducting a noble experiment: They have invited two bonafide intellectuals to be among the housemates -- and a third is described as "educated."

This is new. And risky.

My theory is that "smart" contestants don't make it onto reality shows often because, as they are thinkers who consider repercussions, they are less likely to hook up. Who wants to watch someone thinking? MTV learned this long ago. Even on "Beauty and the Geek," there was no guarantee the guy was brilliant. Just geeky.

But of course strategy is a big part of the game, so the occasional brain breaks through the vetting process. "Big Brother" is the perfect breeding ground for geniuses, since so much of the show is about mind games. In fact, during the 2006 "all-star" season, one contestant faked intimate feelings for a woman just to get her vote. Yes, he won the prize -- but on principle, I refuse to categorize him as "smart."

In fact, in conducting my own scientific research, I would judge that only three of the "Big Brother" winners over the last 10 seasons could be considered "intellectual." You can see where a bikini model, for instance, might prove more popular.

Past housemates have included a retired FBI agent, a lawyer, and a UN communications director. None of them won. But the flamboyant exception to the rule was Season Two's Will Kirby, or "Dr. Evil," as he preferred to be called. The smirking dermatologist intentionally lost competitions, made promises he didn't keep, confessed to everyone that he was lying and should be hated -- and won. He has since capitalized on his modest fame by hosting NBC's "Love Shack," competing on "Battle of the Network Stars," and appearing on "Dr. 90210" and "The Doctors."

"Big Brother" loyalists worship Dr. Evil.

Will smarts prove to be a blessing or a curse this season? Let's take a look at the competition.

I recently caught a cable showing of "Fred Claus" -- go ahead, judge me -- and truly enjoyed the scene where Vince Vaughn, as the brother of Santa, ends up in therapy with other brothers of famous people.

There was Frank Stallone, of course, and Roger Clinton. Stephen Baldwin had a great bit where he got upset at someone, who yelled, "I'm not Alec!"

It reminded me of the 1999 sitcom "Movie Stars," which had a similar premise: brothers of famous guys hang out together, and with Harry Hamlin, for some reason. Frank Stallone, Don Swayze, Joey Travolta... It was canceled, but I swear to you I would have watched it.

Isn't it a time for a reality show or talk show starring the estranged mothers of stars? You could have Jennifer Aniston's mom, and Meg Ryan's mom, Drew Barrymore's mom, Candy Spelling of course... I think it could be cathartic, as well as dishy. The moms are definitely available. Maybe Britney Spears could fight with her mom again, so we could have Lynn Spears, too.

"The Bachelorette" (7 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Chicago Ed is back in the game, along with two preps and a slimeball. How to choose? Jillian takes her dates to Spain and Hawaii.

"One Tree Hill" (7 p.m., WGN-Channel 9): It trades time slots with "Gossip Girl," which now airs at 8 p.m.

"Cake Boss" (7 p.m., TLC): Marathon! My favorite cake is featured at 8 p.m., the one that looks like a fire engine and emits smoke. Mmmm.

"Bite Me With Dr. Mike" (8 p.m., Travel): There are only four words you need to know: "leech therapy" and "cranky monkeys."

"The Great Debate" (9 p.m., VH1): Definitive answers to tough questions like, "'Star Wars' or 'Star Trek'?" "Boobs: real or fake?" and "Which alien would you rather party with, Alf or E.T.?"

'10 Things I Hate About You'
Three stars
7 p.m., ABC Family

I'm not sure why anyone would turn a teen movie into a TV series 10 years after the fact. All its original fans are still bitterly living at home with their parents, unable to get their careers started because of the economy, and disillusioned by the death of the movie's star, Heath Ledger. They will probably not be watching.

But a new audience will enjoy this smart high school series, which makes light of the eternal hell of high school. In a very loose update of "The Taming of the Shrew," Bianca Stratford is a sophomore new at the school, determined to become popular by kissing up to the head cheerleader.

But she can't date until her older sister Kat dates. And considering that Kat wears a beret and worries about universal health care, that's not going to be anytime soon.


"A Capitol Fourth" (7 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Jimmy Smits hosts the Independence Day concert, possibly because he was on "The West Wing." With Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Natasha Bedingfield and more.

"Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" (8 p.m., WMAQ-Channel 5): Boom! With Rob Thomas, Jewel, Jordin Sparks, Kenny Chesney and more.

"Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" (9 p.m., WBBM-Channel 2): Really? They also went with "spectacular"? What's wrong with "extravaganza"? Hosted by Craig Ferguson, and featuring Neil Diamond.

"Mothra" (9 p.m., WCIU-Channel 10): Mightiest monster in all creation! Ravishing a universe for love! Son of Svengoolie will protect you.

"Can't Hardly Wait" (8 p.m., MTV): For connoisseurs of teen movies, this one's a classic. The 1998 graduation party free-for-all starred everyone from Donald Faison to Jaime Pressley. Best part: Jenna Elfman, dressed as an angel hooker, reminiscing about her crush on Scott Baio.


"Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?" (6 p.m., Lifetime): You must see this entry in the Tori Spelling oeuvre.

"Masterpiece Mystery!" (8 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): A new Miss Marple movie, with the senior-citizen snoop trying to solve nursery-rhyme murders.

"Family Guy" (8 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): The guys from "How I Met Your Mother" guest-voice.

"Angel and the Badman" (8 p.m., Hallmark): Enjoy the talents of "I'm a Celebrity" winner Lou Diamond Phillips, who stars in the new movie about Quirt Evans, notorious gunslinger, hiding out with a family of Quakers. With Luke Perry and Deborah Kara Unger.

"Privileged" (7 p.m., WGN-Channel 9): Check out star Joanna Garcia, who's been cast as Chace Crawford's new cuddle bunny on "Gossip Girl."

"Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (7 p.m., WFLD-Channel 32): It's back, with a hot-dog-eating-champion competing for $1 million.

"Chicago's Summer Blast" (8:30 p.m., WGN-Channel 9): Paul Konrad and Steve Cochran host the Taste of Chicago fireworks, with correspondents at the Columbia Yacht Club and the Adler Planetarium.

"Honor Flight Chicago" (9:30 p.m., WGN-Channel 9): Volunteers ensure that World War II vets can travel to D.C. to see the memorial in their honor.

"Good Night Chicago" (12:37 p.m., CBS-Channel 7): Host Steven Saltz has "Saved by the Bell" on his resume, which is all I need to know. The first episode is an interview with "The Sopranos'" Frank Vincent, and new episodes are in the works for fall.

The New York Post reports that Cablevision is pioneering a 24/7 wedding channel, inspired by the success of "Bridezillas," "Amazing Wedding Cakes" and "My Fair Wedding."

I would so watch that.

I would watch a show with people's home wedding videos; flower girl hissy fits; bridesmaids gone bad; awkward wedding toasts; and definitely a special on wedding hookups.

Any other suggestions?

"The Dirty Dozen" (7 p.m., American Movie Classics): There's no better way to be patriotic. Impress your friends by pointing out who's in Judas's seat in the "Last Supper" scene. And did you know that John Wayne was originally offered the Lee Marvin role?

"I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" (7 p.m., TLC): It's a marathon!

"In the Motherhood" (7:30 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Naughty Rosemary (Megan Mullally) plans a "living wake" for herself.

"She's Got the Look" (8 p.m., TVLand): You wouldn't think a competition for "mature" models would be so rife with catfights. My pick for this week's freakout: Shelly.

"Soundstage" (9 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): A showcase for Sugarland.

"Assignment Afghanistan" (9:30 p.m., WGN-Channe; 9): WGN News's Tom Negovan, who was embedded in the heart of the Afghanistan war zone, profiles Illinois soldiers.

Here's hoping that Chicago's not too scandal-ed out by fall, because our political corruption is at the core of CBS's upcoming drama, "The Good Wife."

In the opening moments of the pilot, which airs Sept. 22, a politician and his wife present a united front at a press conference, where he resigns as State's Attorney of Cook County - and apologizes for his "personal failings."

We learn that's a euphemism for dalliances with prostitutes, possibly in return for political favors.

The wife looks the part, in pearls and a crisp houndstooth jacket. But after the announcement, in the hall when they're alone, she slaps him across the face.

Then the show fast-forwards to six months later. The politician is in prison, and his wife has gone back to work at a prestigious law firm to pay the family's bills.

Sound familiar to you? The plot rips several scandals from the headlines, and then purees them together in what promises to be an addicting show - especially for Chicagoans. Judging from the first episode, "The Good Wife" has many real-life inspirations...

"Manhattan Melodrama" (7 p.m., Turner Classic Movies): What was the movie John Dillinger saw just before he was gunned down in front of the Biograph? This one! With Clark Gable and William Powell as pals on opposite sides of the law, who both fall in love with Myrna Loy. Watch for Mickey Rooney as Gable's character as a boy.

"World Music Awards" (7 p.m., MyNetworkTV): An encore of the 2006 ceremony, when Michael Jackson received the Diamond Award from Beyonce, 25 years after "Thriller" was released. Watch for Chris Brown, years before we hated him.

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (8 p.m., WLS-Channel 7): Ping pong balls and foam hammers.

"American Masters" (8 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): A year in the life of Garrison Keillor, traveling from town to town with "A Prairie Home Companion."


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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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