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Saturday, August 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fog/Mist
Arts

TELEVISION

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Shear Genius hairstylists say the dumbest things
Cutting remarks
on
'God gave me a gift.'
'God gave me a gift.'

Shear Genius (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Bravo) has a knack for finding the world's least charming hairstylists. The new season features the usual group of crude, arrogant self-promoters, who must create "hot" (read: horrifying) hairdos for a $100,000 prize. They're attended by a mentor who dispenses vapid advice like "make sure it looks like a hairstyle."

The stylists are all puffed up with a sense of their own greatness. "God gave me a gift," says Giacomo, who keeps his shirt half-unbuttoned at all times. All you can do is laugh, especially when you see the haircuts supposedly sanctioned by the Almighty. One monstrous creation frizzes out beyond the model's shoulders while looking like a beanie on top. It's as if a shag carpet had a bad hair day.

Suddenly, "make sure it looks like a hairstyle" seems like wisdom for the ages.

Temple Grandin
Saturday, 7 pm (HBO)

Claire Danes stars as Temple Grandin, the autistic woman who overcame tremendous challenges to be a pioneering animal scientist and a best-selling author. Temple receives support from her mother (Julia Ormond), her aunt (Catherine O'Hara) and her science teacher (David Straithairn), who see potential that others don't. The girl is "different, but not less," her mother insists.

At its best, Temple Grandin looks at the world from Temple's disoriented perspective. Sounds are overwhelming; metaphors are incomprehensible; and reality is a series of shifting diagrams. At its worst, the movie indulges in heartwarming clichés, an overemphatic score and a showy performance by Danes.

Temple Grandin is a decent piece of work, though I wish the filmmakers had the courage to defy TV-movie conventions and be "different, but not less."

Super Bowl
Sunday, 5:30 pm (CBS)

My heart is still palpitating after the Minnesota/New Orleans game, so I need the Super Bowl to be relatively drama-free. Meanwhile, you know that '60s rock has finally worn out its welcome when you're more excited about the new Bud Lite commercials than you are about the Who's halftime show.

Undercover Boss
Sunday, 9 pm (CBS)

In this reality series, CEOs disguise themselves to go work among their underlings. The head of a waste-management company, for example, empties latrines and supposedly learns a valuable lesson about his workers' needs. He thus returns to his luxury suite a better man.

Undercover Boss tries to come across as inspirational, but it can't help condescending to the "little people." The bosses get a chance to pose as heroes who throw a few crumbs to working-class folks while the cameras roll.

Isn't it time for CEOs to concentrate on steering their businesses out of the recession rather than preen for reality TV?

American Experience
Monday, 8 pm (PBS)

At the outset of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt announced that we would not bomb civilian populations. By the end of the war, however, Allied bombing had killed half a million German civilians. What happened?

"The Bombing of Germany" traces the arc of our moral resolve. For several years, the U.S. stuck to its principles, targeting strategic locations. The cost in planes and bodies was staggering, however, and Germany refused to give up even when defeated. Archival footage of savage air battles and mangled American corpses brings home the point that this was far from a polite philosophical discussion.

Roosevelt finally agreed to massive aerial bombardment, and historians still debate that decision. "I see this idea of targeting civilians to be unethical," says one, "though the most unethical act in World War II for the Allies would have been allowing themselves to lose."

NFL Full Contact
Monday, 9 pm (truTV)

When you turn on a football game, you know exactly what to expect: a smooth production in which teams play, sportscasters chat and singers perform. This reality series reveals that armies of people run around like maniacs behind the scenes to create the illusion of ho-hum normalcy. We follow the producers, stage managers, cameramen and security guards, all of whom risk heart attacks to ward off chaos with the clock ticking on live TV. They search for lost children, fix audio problems, investigate bomb scares, deal with surly players and manage tens of thousands of unruly fans.

Compared to all this, scoring a touchdown looks like the easiest thing in the world.

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