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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Overcast
Arts
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How I did it
Steven Spielberg looks back on his career
on
Daddy Spielberg might have done things differently.
Daddy Spielberg might have done things differently.

In Spielberg on Spielberg (Monday, 8 p.m., TCM), Steven Spielberg discusses his career movie by movie. He begins with a great yarn about sneaking into the Universal lot as a teenager, determined to find a way into the film business. He crept away from his tour group and hid in a bathroom when no one was looking. The tour moved on without him, leaving him free to explore on his own. He wandered through soundstages, made a few connections and convinced the powers-that-be to let him stay. The rest is history.

Looking back on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg recognizes it as the work of a young man. "I don't think today, being a dad of seven kids, I would have let the Richard Dreyfuss character get on the mothership and abandon his family to this alien obsession. But in my 20s it absolutely would have been my choice."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hide in the Universal bathroom.

Doctor Who, Friday, 8:30 pm (Sci Fi)

The season begins as a hospital breaks loose from its moorings and lands on the moon. Luckily, the Doctor is in the house: the mysterious time traveler with a penchant for joking in a crisis.

And this is definitely a crisis. Rhino-like aliens arrive in spacesuits, flashing their ray guns. Will these monsters wipe the goofy smile off the Doctor's face?

Nope. And they won't wipe the one off yours, either.

Greek, Monday, 8 pm (ABC Family)

It appears that Greek's producers have never seen a show about fraternities and sororities before. And they assume we haven't either. How else to explain their giddy enthusiasm for serving up every cliché as if it were a fresh nugget of comic gold? Hey, guess what? Sorority girls can be snobby bitches! And fraternity guys can be obnoxious horndogs!

Our hero, Rusty (Jacob Zachar), is a nerd looking for a fraternity that will accept him. How do we know he's a nerd? Well, it's subtly conveyed through his bad haircut, his stammer and his dorky clothes. And would you believe that he's majoring in engineering? And loves science fiction?

It's a given that, at a rush party, Rusty tries alcohol for the first time and gets sick. By the end of normal'>Greek's first episode, I wasn't feeling so well myself.

Simon Schama's Power of Art, Monday, 9 pm (PBS)

Schama's series continues with a moving portrait of Rembrandt. The episode centers on a late painting called "The Conspiracy of the Batavians Under Claudius Civilis," created when Rembrandt was old, poor and out of step with local fashion. The Amsterdam establishment gave him one last chance to prove himself, commissioning a painting for the new city hall. They expected something refined and conventionally beautiful.

"But he isn't into refinement and conventional beauty," Schama says. "It bores him. He does us - flesh and blood, you and me, art that exists to tell the truth about the human condition."

Schama thinks "Batavians" is the greatest triumph of Rembrandt's visual imagination. But Amsterdam was scandalized by the painting's ugliness and deformity - its refusal to flatter those who commissioned it. The city ultimately rejected the painting, and Rembrandt chopped it to pieces. Schama calls the surviving part "the most heartbreaking fragment in the entire history of painting."

By the end of the episode, I was more pissed off at the 17th-century Dutch than I ever have been in my life.

American Masters, Wednesday, 8 pm (WHA)

At first, it's hard to believe that the amiable 92-year-old on the screen had a hand in creating rock 'n' roll. American Masters profiles Les Paul, the inventor/guitarist who devised the solid-body electric guitar and the multitracking recording technique. But he looks nothing at all like a rocker.

Indeed, Paul began his career playing country music in Waukesha, Wis. When customers at a tavern complained that they couldn't hear his guitar, he set to work on the problem. He cobbled together his dad's phonograph needle, his mom's radio and a wooden plank from a railroad track. And there it was: the first electric guitar.

Little did he suspect that he'd bear ultimate responsibility for "Smoke on the Water."

Li'l Bush, Wednesday, 9:30 pm (Comedy Central)

This animated series portrays George W. Bush and his colleagues as kids. L'il Bush swaggers and sneers as Iraq descends into chaos, civilians are slaughtered and prisoners are tortured.

Thank God it's only a cartoon.

Fill 'Er Up, Thursday, 7:30 pm (PBS)

This Wisconsin Public Television documentary explores the history of the state's gas stations, arguing that they're a symbol of the 20th century the way railway depots were of the 19th.

We learn that early gas stations were built to look like beautiful little houses so they'd fit into residential areas. Then came a period of experimentation in the 1910s and '20s, with gas stations made to look like windmills, log cabins and pagodas. The 1930s saw the rise of the sleek oblong box, scientifically designed for efficiency. These lasted until the 1970s, when high gas prices spelled an end to the full-service station. Fast-forward to today's ugly convenience-store huts.

Wouldn't it be great if we could still buy 15 gallons of gas and a Slim Jim in a beautiful little house?

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