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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 62.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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And the Emmy goes to...
... who cares?

Credit:Joe Rocco

If you're a TV critic, you're supposed to be upset about this year's Emmy Awards (Sunday, 7 p.m., NBC). My fellow writers are wringing their hands over yet another snub of Lauren Graham from "The Gilmore Girls." They're also up in arms about the scarcity of "Lost" and "The Sopranos" in the major categories.

I feel guilty about admitting this, but I don't really care. I only want the ceremony to be mildly amusing and mercifully brisk. And I kind of like looking at the gowns.

Of course, I'm telling you this in strictest confidence. If the president of the Television Critics' Association happens to pass by, I will immediately clutch my breast and cry, "Lauren Graham was robbed!"

TCM Marathons

Every August, TCM runs daily marathons devoted to great actors. The marathons don't usually necessitate changing your life; you watch one or two Burt Lancasters, one or two Ingrid Bergmans. But this weekend, TCM is having a little fun at our expense. On Friday, it's scheduled a James Stewart marathon, meaning we'll have to take the whole day off work. I mean, no one could (or should) get anything done when there's a chance to watch The Shop Around the Corner, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and other Stewart classics.

And just when we're ready to stagger off to bed, TCM hits us with Saturday's Cary Grant marathon. Of course, no normal person (I can't speak for sociopaths) can resist a Cary Grant film, so we'll all be forced to stay up and watch North by Northwest and Suspicion.

On Sunday, the entire nation will be a wreck. Happy, TCM?


Sunday, 6 pm (BBC America)

In an update of The Taming of the Shrew, Kate (Shirley Henderson) is sharp-tongued and indomitable, just as she is in Shakespeare's play. But in contemporary England, these qualities have propelled her to a successful career in politics. Kate is a member of parliament with a pinched face, smoldering eyes and a feral crouch, as if ready to pounce. The woman, clearly, is dangerous. "If you think I'm going to be intimidated by a feckless nonentity like you, you've got another thing coming!" she snarls at an opponent.

The production deftly recasts Shakespeare's sexual politics. Pete (Rufus Sewell), the man who would "tame" this shrew, is himself a basket case. Yes, Pete comes on strong, but at heart he's a hurt little boy. Kate doesn't submit to him so much as accept him, and with acceptance come feelings of tenderness she didn't know she possessed. The 21st-century ending finds Kate pursuing her career while Pete stays home to raise the kids.

From conception to execution, the production is brilliant. I have a quibble or two, but I'll let them pass, feckless nonentity that I am.

One Week to Save Your Marriage

Monday, 9 pm (TLC)

TV psychotherapist Robi Ludwig offers a dramatic approach to marriage counseling. She brings troubled couples onto her show and puts them through a series of exercises designed to solve their problems. But she has only seven days to save the marriages, because?well, because that's the series' concept. If the counseling took longer, I suppose, the episodes would run over 60 minutes, and TLC would cry bloody murder.

Only in America would a marriage end because of the need for station identification.

Celebrity Duets

Tuesday, 8 pm (Fox)

You know how celebrities like Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow come on "American Idol" to share their expertise, then end up singing worse than any of the contestants? And how the judges aren't allowed to criticize them because they're just guests? And how you're dying to hear someone tell them, at long last, that they can't really sing?

Welcome to "Celebrity Duets." Here, recording stars like Cyndi Lauper, Macy Gray and Michael Bolton finally face the judges, joining with a celebrity not known as a vocalist. After each performance, viewers will vote "American Idol"-style, and the losers will leave the competition.

Here it is, America ' your chance to see Michael Bolton get what's coming to him.

Million Dollar Listing

Tuesday, 8 pm (Bravo)

To me, nothing is more boring than real estate. So "Million Dollar Listing," which follows agents selling Hollywood homes, sounded like a deeply unappealing reality series. I expected to doze off in a haze of contingencies, counteroffers and commissions.

But wait'-note the Hollywood setting. These are toned, tanned real estate agents with movie-star looks. With his sculpted lips and ripped torso, Madison is like a GQ model suddenly obsessed with open floor plans and breakfast bars. Shannon is so striking with her flowing blonde hair and hourglass figure that I listened, rapt, as she explained her open-house philosophy: "I know people are really interested when they start asking really serious questions." Who knew real estate strategy could be so fascinating?

Not only will I watch every remaining episode of "Million Dollar Listing," but I will immediately fly to Hollywood to attend an open house myself. I plan to ask really serious questions.


Wednesday, 8 pm (Fox)

Jerry Bruckheimer's new series follows a media-savvy law firm that will do anything to defend their high-profile clients. They cynically manipulate a jury's emotions; they cynically use market research to test cross-examination strategies; they cynically pay lip service to higher values (justice, fairness) while gearing every move to lining their pockets. The weird thing is, these creeps are presented as heroes.

I wondered why Bruckheimer thought we'd root for such people. Then it occurred to me ' the lawyers in "Justice" remind him of himself. A TV producer cynically manipulates an audience's emotions; he cynically uses market research to test programming strategies; he cynically pays lip service to higher values (quality, morality) while gearing every move to lining his pockets.

At the end of the pilot, we're supposed to be on our feet cheering as the lawyers prevail. But I think the only man on his feet ' wiping away a tear and honking into a handkerchief ' will be Jerry Bruckheimer.

MTV Video Music Awards

Thursday, 7 pm (MTV)

It's settled: MTV has forgotten how to put on an awards show. Every year I watch the MTV Video Music Awards, hoping they'll be as fresh and funny as they used to be. And every year they try so hard to be outrageous that they're just outrageously dumb.

Here's hoping this year's ceremony includes something that will truly shake us to the core. Lindsay Lohan singing on-key, perhaps?

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