American Idol: Wasting your vote Dean Robbins on Friday 05/16/2008 We began the American Idol journey in January full of hope. The singing competition promised that this would be the year of deep talent - no silly Sanjayas in the final 12. At first blush, most of the contestants did look solid. But it soon became clear that they weren't much more than that. None of them could make your hair stand on end, à la Fantasia Barrino. So each week you'd vote for your favorites with an uneasy sense of their limitations. >MoreThe better to eat you with Dean Robbins on Friday 05/09/2008 Survivor took a turn for the macabre at the end of April. The women banded together against the men in what they gleefully called "the Black Widow Brigade." Suddenly, the series didn't seem like a harmless game anymore. The women were treating it like a bloody sacrificial rite, with murder in their eyes. >MorePlaying the field Dean Robbins on Friday 05/02/2008 Farmer Wants a Wife (Wednesday, 8 p.m., CW) cooks up a reality-show fantasy about city women finding true love with a hunky farmer. Matt is right out of central casting, with a square jaw, chivalrous manner and 200 acres in the middle of Missouri. The women clomp through his fields on high heels, hoping to be the fish-out-of-water he chooses. They take hayrides, engage in farm-wife competitions and giggle inanely. None of them can fairly be called a city slicker. Even Matt's chickens seem more urbane. >MoreHurricane Bessie Dean Robbins on Friday 04/25/2008 With The Mighty B (Saturday, 9:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon has created another cartoon masterpiece on the level of Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents. Unlike those, it's girl-oriented - man, is it ever. Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live is the co-creator and voice of 9¾-year-old Bessie, a badge-crazy member of the Honeybee scout troupe. Bessie is a ball of tweener energy and desire, with maniacal round eyes, a toothless grin and excitable pigtails. She speaks with a lisp so juicy that you can practically feel the spittle flecking your cheeks. She's relentless, as is the series itself. >MoreThe ex factor Dean Robbins on Friday 04/18/2008 The furor dies down in the final episode of John Adams (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO). The British have been defeated, the United States has been created, and Adams' epic struggles as ambassador and president are behind him. He is an old man puttering about his farm with stringy white hair, bad teeth and an ever-present scowl. Very little happens over the course of the hour, and yet this is perhaps the richest of the seven episodes. >MoreOld Frankenstein Dean Robbins on Friday 04/11/2008 One of cable's deadliest traditions is the interview with a faded old star, conducted by a starchy James Lipton type. The only drama in such shows is waiting to see if either interviewee or host lapses into a coma. >MoreShake it up baby Dean Robbins on Friday 04/04/2008 In Step It Up & Dance (Thursday, 10 p.m., Bravo), 12 dancers face weekly challenges and eliminations, hoping to shimmy their way to a $100,000 prize. The host is Elizabeth Berkley, who became an international laughingstock for her role in Showgirls. But Berkley proves an appealing presence here, clearly relishing the chance to harshly judge others rather than be harshly judged herself >MoreDevil's food Dean Robbins on Friday 03/28/2008 Hell's Kitchen (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Fox) has always gone over the top, but the cooking show's new season finds a way over the top of the top. In the intro, mean English chef Gordon Ramsay is styled as "The Dark Lord" and the contestants as "warriors" who must battle him in the bowels of hell. Demonic music blares, and flames erupt on the TV screen. You'd never know that the series is really about seasoning veal correctly. >MoreTake the money and run Dean Robbins on Friday 03/21/2008 The Riches'
new season (Tuesday, 9 p.m., FX) is pure pleasure. Our heroes - if you want to
call them that - are a family of "Travelers." They're con artists who move from
place to place, fleecing the locals for as long as they can. Inevitably the
scams go sour, but that's when this crew are at their best. They improvise,
work the angles and squirm free. They're so good that we can't help but root
for them and against the innocent victims. >MoreFoundering father Dean Robbins on Friday 03/14/2008 I'm a major John Adams fan - one of those who think the brilliant revolutionary leader got cheated out of a spot on Mount Rushmore. So I'm the perfect audience for HBO's John Adams (Sunday, 7 p.m.), a seven-part dramatization executive-produced by Tom Hanks and based on David McCullough's biography. >More