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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 23.0° F  Partly Cloudy
Arts
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Unhappy meal
A famous restaurant falls on hard times in Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven
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Sirio is so doleful that his customers are reduced to bucking him up.
Sirio is so doleful that his customers are reduced to bucking him up.

Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven (Monday, 7 p.m., HBO) goes behind the scenes at the elegant New York City restaurant Le Cirque. That may not sound too dramatic, but you haven't met owner Sirio Maccioni and his sons. Italian-born Sirio is a legendary figure in New York culinary circles, having risen from lowly waiter to maitre d' to owner of a high-society establishment in the 1970s and '80s. Restaurants go in cycles, and Le Cirque faded in the late '80s and early '90s. Sirio still circulated among the tables in his tuxedo, chatting up gray-haired personages like Henry Kissinger and Rudolph Giuliani, but the younger crowds ate elsewhere.

Enter Sirio's sons, who want to bring Le Cirque into the 21st century. The documentary explores the tensions as the restaurant closes in one location and opens in another. The sons are all about attracting a new clientele and making money any way they can. Sirio, on the other hand, still insists on old-school restaurant values: prosciutto with melon, jackets required, comps for celebs and a dismissive attitude toward everybody else. The sons plead; Sirio won't budge; tempers flare. The planning process for the new restaurant is raw and painful, with the dynasty threatening to crumble at every stage. Sirio is a melancholic worrywart at the best of times, and these certainly aren't the best of times. He's so doleful that his customers are reduced to bucking him up.

The documentary climaxes as the family waits for a make-or-break New York Times review of the new restaurant. The chef hopes for three stars because, he says, "I want to see Sirio smile."

Good luck with that.

Ghost Whisperer
Friday, 7 pm (CBS)

A ghost who believes he is Santa Claus has lost touch with the true meaning of Christmas, and Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) must help him rediscover it.

This is the first time I've ever felt the need for a stronger term than "jump the shark."

A Kiss at Midnight
Saturday, 8 pm (Hallmark Channel)

Amy (Faith Ford) runs the dating service Hearts 'n' Flowers. She's bright, witty and beautiful, but also lonely. She's a genius at making matches - for everyone but herself. She resolves that, by next New Year's Eve, she will have found the perfect man.

Josh (Cameron Daddo) runs the dating service Romance4You.com. He's bright, witty and handsome, but also lonely. He's a genius at making matches - for everyone but himself. His precocious daughters hatch a plan to secretly find him the perfect woman through his own dating service. Meanwhile, Amy covertly signs up for Romance4You.com to see what the competition is up to.

Sadly, on the way to their first date, both Amy and Josh are flattened by a two-ton wrecking ball.

Okay, that last part isn't true. But a guy can dream.

The Family Classics
Sunday, 11 am-midnight (TCM)

This marathon features one of the oddest of late-20th-century movie genres: the Disney live-action family film. It's heavy on dogs and cars that act like people in such comedies as The Shaggy Dog, The Shaggy D.A., The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas. On the other hand, the excruciating C-list stars like Dean Jones, Tommy Kirk, Michelle Lee and Ken Berry act almost nothing like people.

Antiques Roadshow
Monday, 7 pm (PBS)

The Antiques Roadshow format never gets boring, even though it never changes. Folks show their old crap to experts, who tell them what it's worth. A greatest-hits episode called "Wild Things" focuses on animal-themed antiques and collectibles, including Steiff stuffed animals ($5,000-$5,500), a 19th-century Charles van den Eycken painting ($15,000-$25,000) and a Dr. Seuss sculpture of a "kangaroo bird" ($25,000).

Hold onto this blurb, folks. It's free now, but who knows - in 100 years it could more than double in value.

Kennedy Center Honors
Tuesday, 8 pm (CBS)

Six performing artists are honored for their lifetime contributions to American culture: actor/singer Barbra Streisand, actor Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and rockers Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. President Bush will be in the audience, and I'm a bit worried that he'll use his veto power to strip prominent Democrat Streisand of her award at the last minute.

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