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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 38.0° F  Fair
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Playing the field
Farmer Wants a Wife camps up rural romance
on
The contestants kiss city life goodbye.
The contestants kiss city life goodbye.

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.

If all of the contestants are stupid on Farmer Wants a Wife, one of them is stupid and scary. "I fight for men like they do in the Middle East," says Josie. "Before someone blows me up, I blow them up."

Even suicide bombers might find that a sick metaphor for courtship. But Josie is just getting warmed up. She suggests that the farm be burned down for the insurance money and urges Jews and Christians to band together to bring on Armageddon.

Farmer Wants a Psychopath?

Ringo Starr: Off the Record
Friday, 10 pm (HBO)

Every second of the Beatles' career has been chronicled in innumerable books, articles and documentaries. But now, 40 years later, someone has just thought to ask Ringo Starr for his view of the matter. The underachieving drummer tells fellow English rocker Dave Stewart what it was like to sit behind three of the most important men in rock.

Will Ringo shed light on the Beatles' greatest music? No, but he will take us deep inside the two songs he wrote for the group. "I'd like to be/under the sea" - how did he come up with that?

The Shell Seekers
Saturday, 8 pm (Hallmark Channel)

It's your basic Hallmark Channel movie about an old woman coming to terms with her life. But this one stars Vanessa Redgrave, and that makes all the difference. Redgrave redeems the sentimental story of Penelope, who tries to make peace with her selfish children following a heart attack. Just standing in the middle of the screen, Redgrave commands your full attention. Then there are her line readings, which reveal all the subtle shadings of the human heart.

If you were a third-tier TV movie director who'd lucked into Vanessa Redgrave in your cast, wouldn't you train the camera on her at all times? Maddeningly, The Shell Seekers keeps cutting to flashbacks featuring some wooden actress as the young Penelope. I've never hated the past so much in my life.

Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal
Monday, 9 pm (A&E)

In this reality series, self-described medium Chip Coffey eggs on children who think they have psychic abilities. This week, Coffey "helps" a 15-year-old girl who feels she foresaw her uncle's murder. Rather than grounding her in reality, he validates her delusion and hooks her up with other teens who think they see dead people.

If I were a ghost, I'd haunt Coffey for all eternity for messing with kids' minds.

American Experience
Tuesday, 7 pm (PBS)

Say you were a television network making a documentary about the recent Republican president George H.W. Bush. Would you (a), aim for a balanced perspective, giving equal time to supporters and detractors, or (b), turn the program over to adoring fans to add a rosy glow to Bush's controversial career? If you chose (a), you clearly aren't PBS, begging for federal funds with another Bush in the White House. Apparently scared of the "liberal bias" charge, the network has created one of the most craven documentaries I've ever seen on TV.

As Bush's friends and family members tell it, with inspiring music on the soundtrack, George H.W. is just a decent fellow who wanted to do the right thing for his fellow countrymen. So when he welcomed racists into the Texas Republican Party in the 1960s, he was just being practical to advance a worthy cause. When he sought public office by denouncing civil rights, he was going against his true feelings. When he covered for Watergate-era Richard Nixon as Republican Party chairman, he was showing admirable loyalty.

Let's look a little closer at this last episode to see how the documentary skews reality. We see a clip of Bush questioning the media's patriotism for simply asking legitimate questions about criminal activity in the White House. "The president has said that he's not involved in Watergate...and I accept that. And I don't think it helps the stability or the forward progress of this country to speculate hypothetically when a man has made that statement."

Is anyone allowed to call Bush on his ugly role in the Watergate affair? Nope - we just get wife Barbara letting him off the hook with a deeply hilarious alibi. "George couldn't believe a man could look you in the face and say, 'I had nothing to do with this. I have not lied.'"

I'm already dreading PBS's heroic documentary about George W. Bush in the next decade or so.

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