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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 70.0° F  Overcast
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Children's Hospital rips dopey doctor shows

Corddry believes - too much - in the healing power of laughter.
Corddry believes - too much - in the healing power of laughter.
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I hereby proclaim Rob Corddry America's most underrated comedian. He killed on The Daily Show; he killed on the short-lived sitcom The Winner; and he killed in Hot Tub Time Machine. So what thanks does he get? A late-night extended-basic-cable timeslot for his latest series, Children's Hospital (Sunday, 9:30 p.m., Cartoon Network).

But don't expect Corddry to slack off just because relatively few people will see Children's Hospital. He turns in a ruthless satire of TV medical dramas, based on his Web series. It's an Airplane-style hit job that perverts the genre's clichés, including the heroic surgeons, philosophical voiceovers and melodramatic relationships. Cast members Megan Mullally, Lake Bell and Malin Akerman play memorably stupid doctors and nurses, though Corddry himself steals the show as a Patch Adams type in clown makeup who believes a little too much in the healing power of laughter. "It used to be that I could pull a quarter out of a kid's ear and poof! leukemia gone," he says.

I don't know if humor can cure leukemia, but Children's Hospital is definitely curing my summertime blues.

Masterpiece Mystery
Sunday, 8 pm (PBS)

Agatha Christie is the author of many creaky mysteries, but Murder on the Orient Express creaks literally, as a train rattles down the tracks with murderers aboard. Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) happens to be on the train, too, with his pointy waxed mustache, cane, bowler hat, bow tie and mincing gait. So much for traveling incognito.

In the absence of rich characters and great actors, the only thing to hold our interest is the question of whodunit. And since many of us already know whodunit, given the novel's familiarity, this Murder on the Orient Express proves to be a tiresome journey. The sole mystery is whether Suchet's fellow actors will be able to keep a straight face as he speaks in his preposterous fake Belgian accent.

The Closer
Monday, 8 pm (TNT)

As the sixth season begins, Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and the squad move into a new multimillion-dollar headquarters. The high-tech gizmos don't work, and the cops can't find their stuff in all the boxes.

This subplot doesn't do much to get you excited about The Closer's sixth go-round. Watching these characters unpack is about as compelling as watching anyone unpack - that is, not compelling at all. There's a murder to solve, but the investigation feels halfhearted, and the perp might as well have P-E-R-P printed in capital letters on a T-shirt.

I hope Chief Johnson unpacks a few good scripts from those boxes, or it's going to be a mighty long season.

Rizzoli & Isles
Monday, 9 pm (TNT)

This new series begins with a disgustingly graphic scene of rape, torture and murder. Enter detective Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and forensic pathologist Isles (Sasha Alexander), who examine the corpse's gory wounds. Then a hunky new FBI man appears on the scene. Rizzoli and Isles shoot him flirtatious looks, and…

…wait a minute. A vicious serial killer has just struck, and these two law-enforcement professionals are making goo-goo eyes at a hunky new FBI man? Welcome to Rizzoli & Isles, which can't decide if it's a gross-out criminal drama or a fluffy romantic comedy. Harmon and Alexander occasionally furrow their brows to signal that they're, you know, concerned about dead women. But mostly they banter about clothes, guys and makeup.

If you're the kind of person who likes your cutesy romance served with mutilated bodies, check out Rizzoli & Isles. And then you might consider calling a psychiatrist.

Turmoil and Triumph: The George Shultz Years
Monday, 11 pm (PBS)

"Ronald Reagan seeks a leader to steer America's foreign policy. He finds a man of unique experience for these troubled times. His name is…George Shultz!"

Did a chill go up your spine when the deep-voiced narrator said the words "George Shultz"? Me neither. But the producers of this three-part documentary treat the 1980s Secretary of State like a combination of Jesus Christ and George Washington, filling the soundtrack with inspirational music that screams out "whitewash!" "His is a very American story grounded in old-fashioned commitment to integrity and service," the narrator continues, with an gullible tone more appropriate for the 1950s than the 2010s. "It's a story of passionate dedication to doing good, and faith in the power of honest hard work."

Apparently, PBS felt it owed this hagiography to conservatives who complain about the network's liberal bias. I only ask that, when PBS finally gets around to making a documentary about me, it takes the same awestruck approach.

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