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On The Tube

Pretender to the throne

5/21/2014

tv 5.22Give Fox credit for a diabolical dating-show conceit. “I Wanna Marry Harry” (Tuesday, 7 p.m.) features a dead ringer for Prince Harry, fourth in line to the British throne. His real name is Matt, and he works as a ditch digger. But when installed in a castle with a retinue of servants, he can pass for the real thing — at least to 12 American women convinced they have a chance at being “Harry’s” lover in a “Bachelor”-style elimination contest.

“I Wanna Marry Harry” is a deliriously enjoyable stunt. And it’s not as frivolous as you might expect. By transporting the women to England, it reveals something about the American character — something awful, that is. As a fine British citizen, Matt displays good manners, an educated perspective and beautiful elocution, even when he’s out of character in behind-the-scenes interviews. The women, by contrast, are the sort of cocky, cackling nincompoops familiar from other American dating series. They shout profanities, apply bronzer to their cleavage, and proclaim themselves “bangin’ in a bikini.”

“American girls don’t seem to have inside voices,” Matt gently observes after a night of squealing and screaming.

These women all hope to be princesses, but the sad fact is that they’re not even worthy of a British ditch digger.

 

Labyrinth-tv-key-art“Labyrinth”

Thursday & Friday, 7 p.m. (CW)

In medieval France, a beautiful young woman named Alais (Jessica Brown-Findlay) is entrusted with the secrets of the Holy Grail as Crusaders threaten her village. Flash forward to the present day, when an equally beautiful young woman named Alice (Vanessa Kirby) finds mysterious artifacts related to the Grail. Her discovery leads her into an underworld of secret societies and ritual murder.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But the miniseries “Labyrinth,” from executive producers Ridley and Tony Scott, is anything but. The production takes its sweet time between plot points, padding the four hours with long scenes of people glumly walking around. The dialogue consists almost solely of small talk. “I should go,” Alice tells one of the many faceless characters she meets during her journey. “I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

If only “Labyrinth” had been similarly courteous.

 

tv-gang-related01“Gang Related”

Thursday, 8 p.m. (Fox)

Ryan (Ramon Rodriguez) was an orphan brought up by criminal chieftain Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), and now he’s secretly working for his surrogate father as a member of a police unit targeting gangs. Ryan is conflicted about his dual role as a policeman and a gang member — you can tell by the perpetually guilty look on his face. The fact that his colleagues have failed to pick up on this obvious clue does not speak well of their detective skills.

We’re supposed to sympathize with Ryan, but that’s not easy to do when his partner is killed and he covers up for the psychopathic gang-banger who did it. Indeed, it’s hard to sympathize with anyone in “Gang Related,” given the unpleasantness of all involved. Do we root for the brutal gang members who torture their victims with knives? Or do we root for the brutal cops who torture their victims with Tasers?

Luckily, there are other choices — for example, watching a show on some other channel.

 

normal heart“The Normal Heart”

Sunday, 8 p.m. (HBO)

Larry Kramer adapts his Tony-winning 1985 play about the onset of AIDS in New York City. After seeing friends die of a mysterious “gay cancer,” Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) fights to get the public and politicians to care about an epidemic affecting homosexuals. As anyone who lived through the 1980s can tell you, it wasn’t easy.

“The Normal Heart” is more of a political pamphlet than a play, and the actors in the movie version (including Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons and Alfred Molina) struggle with the awkward expository dialogue. Nevertheless, the movie serves its purpose as a time capsule, evoking a benighted era when gay people were routinely treated as subhuman. And it can’t help but touch those of us who lost loved ones to AIDS.

(This blurb is dedicated to Bob Breslo.)

 

night shift“Night Shift”

Tuesday, 8 p.m. (NBC)

At San Antonio Memorial Hospital, the night shift is like a fraternity party. Doctors strip off their shirts to reveal hot bods, and a plastic surgeon demands sexual favors in exchange for an MRI. “Forget all the stuff you learned in medical school,” counsels physician/party hound TC (Eoin Macken).

I would have been happy to forget all that stuff, but “Night Shift” keeps flipping from “Animal House” to “E.R.” It turns out that TC — when he’s not hung over — has the compassion of Gandhi and the medical skills of Marcus Welby, M.D. One minute he’s flirting with the night shift’s cute supervisor (Jill Flint), the next reattaching a boy’s spinal cord to his brain at an accident scene. The boy survives, but this show’s credibility doesn’t.

On the other hand, who needs credibility when you’re having this much fun? “Night Shift” boasts an appealing cast and a thrill-a-minute script. My only regret is that I can’t visit San Antonio Memorial in real life. It’s the only hospital I know where having your spinal cord reattached to your brain would be a sexy good time. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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