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Death, rebirth and…death?

12/5/2012

‘Hunted’ comes to a stunning conclusion

While other critics were obsessing on “Homeland,” I urged you to watch “Hunted,” an even better spy series about a troubled female heroine. After this week’s thrilling conclusion (Friday, 9 p.m., Cinemax), I know you will want to thank me in some way. Chocolates are always nice.                 

Sam Hunter (Melissa George) is an operative for a private company specializing in espionage. She’s gone undercover in the home of a ruthless tycoon, trying to undermine him right under his nose. Though Sam is a cold-blooded professional, her mission is complicated by human feelings — specifically, her concern for the tycoon’s innocent, young grandson who might end up in the line of fire. This vulnerability could well be her undoing.                 

Indeed many things could be her undoing. Sam is haunted by memories of horrible events she can only dimly remember which threaten her effectiveness. She is in danger of being betrayed by her own company, which cares more about pleasing its client than about keeping her alive. After 45 minutes of bombs, gunfire, poison, betrayal, regrets, revelations and changes of heart, the series comes down to a heart-wrenching last few minutes, involving death, rebirth… and maybe death again.                 

I’m dying to tell you what happens to Sam, but the bylaws of the TV Blurb Writers Association forbid it. All I’ll say is that, when the credits rolled, I involuntarily whispered, “Wow.”

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‘It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!’ 

Thursday, 7 p.m. (Nickelodeon) 

“SpongeBob SquarePants” takes a turn for the tactile with this holiday special, which renders the cartoon characters 3D via stop-motion animation. Luckily the series’ inimitable combination of cynicism and innocence doesn’t get lost in the translation.                 

Set in the underwater community of Bikini Bottom, the story finds the villainous Plankton-dosing fruitcakes with an element called jerktonium. It causes everyone to turn into a jerk, thus making Plankton look comparatively good to Santa (voiced by John Goodman). The transformations are hilarious, with the characters developing stubble and mean-looking eyes. Only SpongeBob is immune, due to his “small brain and pure heart.”                 

If you’re not smiling by the final musical number, I suggest checking for jerktonium in your own system.

 

‘The Mistle-Tones’ 

Sunday, 7 p.m. (ABC Family)

Tori Spelling camps it up as a comic villain in this enjoyable Christmas movie. She’s a larger-than-life mean girl named Marcy, in charge of a singing group that plays a holiday show at the mall every year. Sweet, talented Holly (Tia Mowry) really wants to join the group, affording Marcy the pleasure of turning her down. But Holly goes on to form her own singing group, the Mistle-Tones, which might just take the mall by storm.                 

I know this plot sounds dumb, but “The Mistle-Tones” knows it, too. It makes fun of the holiday-movie genre while also delivering a perfect specimen. Mowry is an appealing presence, and the musical numbers put some funk in the fa-la-la.                

Then there’s Spelling. Anyone who can upstage Scrooge at this time of year deserves our respect.

 

‘Christmas with Holly’

Sunday, 8 p.m. (ABC) 

Most of the time I love TV’s new commitment to ambiguity and moral relativity in such series as “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” but during the December holiday season, I really want to see things turn out the way they ought to. That’s what Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movies are for.                 

In “Christmas with Holly” a hunky-but-sensitive Tom Cruise look-alike named Mark (Sean Faris) raises the 6-year-old daughter of his recently deceased sister. Holly has been mute and withdrawn since her mother died, but she starts to come out of her shell when she wanders into a magical toy store run by Maggie (Eloise Mumford), a blond cutie who was left at the altar by her fiancé. Will Holly ever speak again? Will Mark and Maggie get together despite his serious girlfriend?                

My lips are sealed. All I’ll say is: Happy December. CV

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