Another Christmas come and gone, and I hope everyone out there managed to take in his or her federally mandated allotment of fruitcake, eggnog, and soul-crushing familial strife. Fear not, we've still got New Year's Eve to look forward to, with opportunities aplenty to drown some brain cells in a sea of bad booze and morning-after regrets. Cheers!
So, in the spirit of the impending New Year, let's take a look at some of the more promising televisual treats that await us in the opening days of 2005.
MEDIUM (Mondays on NBC, premieres 1/03.) Patricia Arquette stars as titular medium and profiler (hee hee...I said "titular) Allison Dubois, based on the real-life woman of the same name. Finding herself gifted with the ability to see dead people--nuts, I promised myself I wouldn't go for the cheap SIXTH SENSE reference--Allison realizes that with great power comes great responsibility and sets out to help troubled souls on both sides of the grave. Kelsey Grammar, flush with all the tossed salad and scrambled eggs eleven seasons' worth of fat FRASIER paychecks will afford, will be exec producing along with creator Glenn Gordon Caron. Caron's resume includes NOW AND AGAIN and MOONLIGHTING, so that's a promising vintage. Just so long as he and his writers can find a spin on the "psychic/paranormal-sensitive detective" trope that hasn't already been done to death by MILLENNIUM or PROFILER or HAUNTED or...
UNSCRIPTED (Sundays on HBO, premieres 1/09) The
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Fridays on Sci-Fi, premieres 1/14) Opinions on last year's mini are still sharply divided, but it's at least promising to see another serious SF series on Sci-Fi, which often manages to ignore the implications of its name and instead just fork out a steady supply of Z-grade on-the-cheap horror and miscarriages like MAD MAD HOUSE. FARSCAPE has gone into the great beyond, ENTERPRISE is improving but still nowhere near TREK's glory days, and both BABYLON 5 and FIREFLY have left the small screen for the big one, so right now BSG is our last, best hope (if you'll pardon the expression) for a smart, well-crafted "space" SF show. Showrunner Ron Moore has gone on record with some very lofty goals for the show, and early word from England, where the show has been running for several months now, is positive, so fingers crossed.
JONNY ZERO (Fridays on Fox, premieres 1/14) ER and WEST WING's John Wells taps THE ITALIAN JOB's Franky G to star as a con fresh out of the pen and looking for a little FDA-approved redemption by solving the crimes he once committed. Wells has no shortage of TV experience, but the show's in a Fox Friday night slot, which usually means death.
POINT PLEASANT (Thursdays on Fox, premieres 1/19) Fox
And that takes us through to the end of January, never mind the eagerly awaited returns of such favorites as 24, ALIAS, and CARNIVALE. Happy New Year indeed!
Share tales of your drunken New Year's revelry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...
MONDAY, DECEMBER 27
HOUSE (7 PM CST, Fox) "Paternity." Doc House deals with a teenager with night terrors. Followed, appropriately enough, by the episode "Maternity", where House leads a Solomon-esque investigation of two sick infants. (Repeat)
BLUNDERFUL WORLD OF SPORTS (7 PM CST, ABC) Jim Belushi cashes a paycheck while hosting a series of embarrassing sports foul-ups, whoopsies, and severe bodily injuries. (Repeat)
VERTIGO (7 PM CST, TCM) Jimmy Stewart plays against type as an ex-detective who has a thing about heights.
BLACK NARCISSUS (7 PM CST, Trio) What do you get when you combine five Anglican nuns and a Himalayan village? You get this, a fine film that would be even better if it featured a Yeti rampage.
HELL: THE DEVIL'S DOMAIN (8 PM CST, History Channel) Historians and theologians take us on a tour of Dante's old stomping grounds.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (8 PM CST, Comedy Central) Not Kevin Smith's finest hour, but the GOOD WILL HUNTING 2: HUNTING SEASON segment actually is a high point in Ben Affleck's career.
KILL BILL: VOL. 1 (8 PM CST, Starz) Cue up "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" and watch Uma open up a six-pack of righteous Whoopass.
THE THING (9 PM CST, Encore) Twenty years later, this flick still gives me the willies.
ROPE! (9:30 PM CST, TCM) Hitchcock shot this thriller entirely in 10-minute takes, but I don't recommend watching it in 10-minute chunks.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28
REBEL BILLIONAIRE: BRANSON'S QUEST FOR THE BEST (7 PM CST, Fox) The remaining contestants enter the final frontier as they are charged with creating a commercial to promote space travel.
FATHER OF THE PRIDE (7 PM CST, NBC) Thanks to NBC's yanking this troubled show during the bulk of sweeps, we're now getting "The Thanksgiving Episode" three days after Christmas. Expect the New Year's Eve episode sometime after Flag Day.
HOUSE (8 PM CST, Fox) "Fidelity." House studies a woman who sleeps 18 hours a day and is constantly cranky when awake. Sounds like my ideal existence.
AMAZING RACE 6 (8 PM CST, CBS) The show turns to the last resort of the shark-jumper with a clip show featuring "highlights" from the first six legs of the race.
MODERN MARVELS (8 PM CST, History Channel) "Doomsday Tech 1." Nothing says "escapism" like a two-part examination of all the multifarious ways our entire planet could be destroyed in the near future.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29
LOST (7 PM CST, ABC) "The Moth." Former Hobbit Charlie gets the spotlight as he tries to rescue Jack from a cave-in. Followed by Sawyer-centric episode "Confidence Man." (Repeat)
SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Perry." Perry White (Michael McKean) makes his first appearance in the SMALLVILLE universe. (Repeat)
DEATHTRAP (7 PM CST, WGN) Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine star in this adaptation of Ira Levin's tale of a playwright trying to revive his stalled career.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS (8 PM CST, WB) Parties, both toga and slumber, are featured.
THE CONGREGATION (PBS, check local listings) The filmmaking team behind 1973's landmark documentary series AN AMERICAN FAMILY turn their lenses on Philadelphia's First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
FUNNIEST COMMERCIALS OF THE YEAR: 2004 (8 PM CST, TBS) They're often more clever and artfully crafted than the programs they interrupt.
ROAD HOUSE (9 PM CST, TNT) Patrick Swayze fights evil using only the power of his mullet.
SHOWGIRLS (10:10 PM CST, TBS) Showing Paul Verhoeven's ode to boobs and crappy acting on TBS, where they will be forced to trim out said boobs and leave only the crappy acting, is almost as crazy as if TBS were to start airing SEX AND THE CITY episodes. Oh, wait...
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30
THE SHADOW (6 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Sure, it's no X2, but this flick gets an undeservedly bad rap. It's certainly better than DAREDEVIL.
HEATHERS (7 PM CST, WB) For the younger generation that's never seen it: HEATHERS was MEAN GIRLS long before there was a MEAN GIRLS. Only a lot meaner.
DRAGONFLY (8 PM CST, USA) Kevin Costner's blink-and-you-missed it thriller about a doctor who believes his dead wife is trying to contact him from beyond the grave. I recommend you blink.
PROBLEM CHILD (7 PM CST, ABC Family) The mere mention of this steamer still gives me violent stomach cramps.
THE PHANTOM (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) You know what I would do if I were a vigilante operating primarily inside a lush rain forest? I'd wear a bright purple costume.
CQ (8 PM CST, Trio) Turns out that other Coppola sibling (Roman) can write and direct, too.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (9 PM CST, TCM) If you only know Alec Guinness as Obi Wan, it's well past time you watched this.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31
THREE STOOGES (11 AM CST, AMC) It's classic Stooges all day to bring in the new year.
HULK (5:30 PM CST, Starz) Director Ang Lee spends a little too much time philosophizing and not enough breaking stuff real good, but I might forgive that if the end of the movie made any damn sense at all.
HOWLING II (7 PM CST, WGN) The presence of Christopher Lee is about the only thing worth recommending in this flaccid werewolf sequel.
ELVIS ON TOUR (7 PM CST, TCM) Following the King's 1972 cross-country tour.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (8 PM CST, Starz) Still gotta find 12 free hours to devote to watching all three extended editions of the films back-to-back.
DICK CLARK'S PRIMETIME NEW YEAR'S ROCKIN' EVE 2005 (9 PM CST, ABC) The title's something of a misnomer, since Clark will still be recovering from a stroke as the big shiny ball descends. Regis Philbin pinch hits as host.
NEW YEAR'S EVE WITH CARSON DALY (9 PM CST, NBC) Much as Regis may annoy me, I would still watch 30 straight weeks of New Year's Eve specials hosted by him before I'd watch one hosted by Carson Daly.
KICKBOXER (9 PM CST, Spike) Where oh where has Jean Claude gotten off to these days?
GHOST IN THE SHELL (9 PM CST, Action Channel) For the twelve of you who actually get this channel, here's your chance to see this classic anime.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 1, 2005 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!
UNCLE BUCK (7 PM CST, WB) One of John Hughes' last good movies.
WYATT EARP (7 PM CST, History Channel) The West was both won and lost in less time than it takes for Costner's lumbering 191-minute opus to unspool.
CASABLANCA (7 PM CST, TCM) Like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.
GHOST WORLD (7:30 PM CST, IFC) Forever remembered as the film that launched my crush on Scarlett Johansson. She plays the best friend of fellow disaffected high-school grad Thora Birch, who befriends a socially inept, fortysomething record enthusiast played by Steve Buscemi.
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Ultimatum." If you missed this episode that's hip deep in SUPERFRIENDS references, here's your chance to catch it again.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 2
TRUE LIES (6 PM CST, Fox) Soon to be remade, 80% more attractive, as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's MR. AND MRS. SMITH.
SMALLPOX (7 PM CST, FX) No one you've ever heard of stars in this tale of bioterror.
TRUE STORY OF HANNIBAL (7 PM CST, History Channel) If Vin Diesel ever gets around to making that HANNIBAL flick he's obsessed with, let's hope it turns out better than ALEXANDER.
DAVID BLAINE: STREET MAGIC (7 PM CST, Discovery Channel) The guy who once froze himself in a block of ice, but then ruined the trick by thawing himself out.
DANTE'S PEAK (7:30 PM CST, Sci-Fi) and VOLCANO (7 PM CST, AMC) They squared off in the cinemas; now they square off on your TV screen. Unfortunately, they both still suck.
DYNASTY: THE MAKING OF A GUILTY PLEASURE (8 PM CST, ABC) Before there was DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, the women of DYNASTY were doing more vamping than a White Wolf LARPer convention. This latest in the spate of nostalgic "behind-the-scenes" movies of the week digs into ABC's long-running soap.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (8 PM CST, NBC) "View From Up Here." I'll be honest: I never watch this show. But it's a new up in a week bulging with repeats, so I'm happy to mention tonight's investigation into the death of a condo-association president.
MASTERPIECE THEATER (PBS, check local listings) It's Shakespeare's OTHELLO reimagined as a modern-day police drama, courtesy of the screenwriter of BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY.
BAD SANTA (9:35 PM CST, Starz) Good movie.
This concludes our broadcast.
TV Wasteland is our weekly Television column. No fantasy characters were harmed (much) during the making of this article.