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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 80.0° F  Mostly Cloudy


Stomp the presses
Newspapers try to destroy each other in 'Tabloid Wars'

The New York Daily News races against time.
The New York Daily News races against time.
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"Tabloid Wars" (Monday, 8 p.m., Bravo) plunges us into the center of a tabloid-newspaper tornado. It follows the barking editors and notebook-toting reporters at the New York Daily News, which is locked in mortal combat with the New York Post. The News is desperate to beat the Post to every story, and the competition between the two papers is (literally) cutthroat. "We put our foot on their throat every day and press down till their eyes bulge," the News' editor says of his rivals.

"Tabloid Wars" gets you so close to the News' daily operation that you start feeling ruthless yourself. As each show counts down the hours to the 10:30 p.m. deadline, you root for the reporters to nail their facts and quotations before the Post catches up. Will a story about a racially motivated beating be solid enough for the front page? Will sources in a celebrity scandal go on the record?

I urge you to watch "Tabloid Wars" to find out. And if you don't, I will put my foot on your throat and press down till your eyes bulge.

HGTV Design Star
Sunday, 8 pm (HGTV)

This reality series features 10 contestants aiming to impress the judges with their design skills. The winner will get a series on HGTV and, presumably, enough color swatches to last a lifetime. Last week's premiere offered everything you want in a reality series: hubris, backstabbing, bad judgment and a host so snarky that you longed to see a can of mauve paint dropped on his head.

For their first task, the contestants were asked to design the New York townhouse in which they temporarily live. They all got right to work showing how tasteful they are - all except my favorite contestant, Ramona. While the others worried about complementary colors and appropriate accents, Ramona headed to the street to scavenge junk. She came back with a ratty vacuum cleaner, smeared it with putty, and called it "sculpture." The judges were horrified, and I'm already feeling wistful about the HGTV show that might have been: "Home Putty Solutions with Ramona."

Sunday, 8 pm (PBS)

Mystery! has soared this summer, thanks to the "Miss Marple" series. But this week it plummets back to earth with the start of "Inspector Lewis."

Gone are the high style and drollery of "Miss Marple." Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) is a bland British detective with few distinguishing characteristics. (He does like crossword puzzles, but does that even count as a characteristic?) In the debut episode, Lewis investigates the murder of a college student at a sleep clinic. He interviews suspects and follows leads, performing his duties so perfunctorily that you yearn for the excitement of a crossword puzzle. To spice things up, the writers toss in a math-oriented subplot.

The good news is, you won't need to visit the sleep clinic yourself after watching "Inspector Lewis." It's the best cure for insomnia you'll ever find.

One Ocean View
Monday, 9 pm (ABC)

In this reality series, a bunch of twentysomething hardbodies shack up together in a Fire Island beach house. And that's pretty much it for concept. The opening voiceover promises "crazy drama," but the premiere is mainly concerned with playing Frisbee, baking cookies and walking on the beach as mellow guitar pop oozes from the soundtrack.

Yes, the housemates finally get into the hot tub together, but all they do is talk. And talking, it turns out, isn't really this group's strong suit.

"I'm rich, I'm good-looking and I know a lot of models," says one obnoxious guy.

"The guys I'm attracted to are blond and short," says one empty-headed gal.

Excuse me, but I'm off to trim my toenails for some more "crazy drama."

Europa: Mystery of the Ice Moon
Tuesday, 9 pm (Science Channel)

Scientists have found evidence of life on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. It's possible that water lies below the icy surface, and researchers have proposed using a probe to burrow into the ice and find the life forms that may exist beneath it.

I hate to halt the march of science, but haven't these people seen "The Twilight Zone" or "Star Trek"? If the probe burrows into the ice and releases bloodthirsty aliens bent on destroying the human race, don't blame me.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Wednesday, 9 pm (TNT)

I've had a love-hate relationship with this limited-run horror series, based on Stephen King stories. This week, I'm experiencing love and hate within the same episode. I love the setup of "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band": a married couple (Kim Delaney, Steven Weber) land in a creepy small town that appears stuck in the past. (It's such a "Twilight Zone" scenario that even the characters have to admit it.) And I love the rapport between Delaney and Weber, whose teasing relationship got me through the first half-hour.

Then came the second half-hour. The small town is called Rock and Roll Heaven, populated by people who look like deceased rock 'n' rollers. And guess what -- THEY ARE DECEASED ROCK 'N' ROLLERS! Janis Joplin is a waitress in the diner, Elvis Presley is the mayor, and Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison glare menacingly at our freaked-out protagonists.

We're supposed to be freaked out too, but there's just nothing scary about decades-old hit makers. Now if the town was populated by rejected "American Idol" contestants - that would be horrifying.

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