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Thursday, December 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily


Bush vs.Gore vs. democracy

Recount (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO) is an absurd political fantasy about a U.S. presidential election gone wrong. It all comes down to Florida, where the voting apparatus gets weirdly screwed up. Networks call the election one way, then reverse themselves; the Democratic candidate concedes, then retracts his concession. All hell breaks loose, with mass protests, death threats and dirty tricks. The conservative members of the Supreme Court finally hand the election to their fellow Republican in a decision worthy of a banana republic. >More
 American Idol: Wasting your vote

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. >More
 The better to eat you with

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. >More
 Playing the field

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. >More
 Hurricane Bessie

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. >More
 The ex factor

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. >More
 Old Frankenstein

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. >More
 Shake it up baby

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 >More
 Devil's food

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. >More
 Take the money and run

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. >More
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