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Sunday, December 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Overcast
Arts
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Animals say the darnedest things
Critters talk like people in Creature Comforts
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The animals evoke a wide range of American types.
The animals evoke a wide range of American types.

Creature Comforts (Monday, 7 p.m., CBS) is the brainchild of Aardman Animations, creators of the droll Wallace & Gromit series. It takes interviews with ordinary Americans and puts them in the mouths of animals, animated with Aardman's classic stop-motion technique. The quick vignettes emphasize incongruity, with the interviewees' words placed in an absurd context.

Thus, a self-important monologue on a wine's bouquet is given to a dog sniffing another dog's butt. "I'm getting a kind of dry-fruit character."

After a half-hour, I was sore from laughing so hard. The animation is characteristically understated, with a knack for the perfect gesture: a well-placed blink, a turn of the head, a sidelong glance. You'll recognize a wide range of American types here, from the bores to the whiners to the grumps, all of them gently satirized.

Who knew that a show about animals could tell us so much about people?

MTV Movie Awards
Sunday, 7 pm (MTV)

Sarah Silverman will host.

Borat will be honored.

If I happen to find a full box of Teddy Grahams in the cupboard, this could well be the best night of '07 to date.

The Shield
Tuesday, 9 pm (FX)

In the season finale, dirty cop Vic (Michael Chiklis) is set to face the review board and possibly lose his job. To get back in the department's good graces he tries to solve the San Marcos murders, carried out, as he puts it, by "machete-wielding psychos."

Vic tracks down a suspect at a house party and requests - actually, demands - his cooperation. "You can come on your own, or I can drag you through your friends' blood."

I'm starting to think I'd prefer the machete-wielding psychos....

Hidden Palms
Wednesday, 7 pm (CW)

Johnny (Taylor Handley), a hunky high school honor student, witnesses his dad's suicide. Fast-forward one year - a troubled year in which Johnny descends into alcoholism and moves with his mom to a small, wealthy community.

It's one of those communities with deep, dark secrets and very little relation to reality. For starters, everyone Johnny's age is stunningly gorgeous, even the science nerd conducting dangerous experiments in her garage. Johnny's not in town 24 hours when he sees a beautiful girl running barefoot, in slow motion, at night, through a golf course's sprinklers, her white dress clinging to her otherworldly curves. Her name is Greta (Amber Heard), and she and Johnny immediately engage in pornographic flirtation. This continues over the next few scenes, in which the filmmakers keep finding new ways to get Greta wet. In between dousings, we learn that a murder has been committed and that Greta has something to hide.

No, Hidden Palms doesn't bear much relation to reality. In other words, it's a perfect series for summer. I don't plan to miss an episode.

Traveler
Wednesday, 9 pm (ABC)

Will (Aaron Stanford), Jay (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler (Logan Marshall-Green) graduate from Yale and take a road trip to New York City. "We're living between the east of our youth and the west of our future," Will says.

But suddenly their future goes south. Will convinces Jay and Tyler to prank an art museum by rollerskating through its hallways. Just as they roll out the door, the building blows up.

Suddenly, Jay and Tyler are terrorism suspects. Will, in the meantime, has disappeared. Did he set them up?

To this point, Traveler is pretty absorbing. But then the contrivances kick in. Jay and Tyler can't make the credible move - turning themselves in and explaining that they're innocent - because that would end the series after 15 minutes.

So they begin a set of incredible moves. They go on the lam in the hopes of finding the mysterious Will, with the FBI hot on their trail. Soon they're making bomb threats to get themselves out of various jams.

I'm happy to buy a fantastical scenario if it's done well, but Traveler gets way too silly way too soon. It's living between the east of ridiculous and the west of jejune.

The Starter Wife
Thursday, 8 pm (USA)

This miniseries takes us behind the scenes in L.A.'s film community: the phony conversations, the wretched excess, the self-regard. It's the same place Entourage takes us, but that series has raised the bar for inside-Hollywood satires. The Starter Wife resorts to clichés in showing us this microcosm from a female point of view.

The story offers no surprises: Molly (Debra Messing) is a Hollywood big shot's wife who creates the perfect life for him, then gets dumped. We hear the expected jokes about getting the right table in the right restaurant and staying thin. "Of course I'm cranky!" Molly shouts. "I haven't eaten in 12 years!"

I'm cranky too. I've been watching The Starter Wife for two hours.

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