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.
"We're spinning the guys around until they don't know which way is up," said Parvati with a diabolical laugh. "Then we're devouring them."
Natalie was even scarier. She expressed a desire to suck the guys' blood and even pantomimed licking it off her fingers. "I'd love to blindside Jason," she said, "flossing my teeth with his jugular."
This week's finale (Sunday, 7 p.m., CBS) may be the first one in which Survivor fans have to shield their eyes. I predict that the Black Widow Brigade will make good on their promise to eat every male contestant in the tribal council area. The sight of host Jeff Probst running into the jungle screaming will be a rather sad way to end the season.
Saturday, 8 pm (Showtime)
Your heart leaps at the prospect of Catherine Keener and Ellen Page in a movie together. But it sinks when you learn the subject. An American Crime is the true story of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens (Page), left to live with a sadistic stranger named Gertrude Baniszewski (Keener) by her carny parents. Occasional whippings culminate in gruesome torture and imprisonment in the basement.
Page and Keener put everything they have into humanizing both victim and victimizer. But it's a shame to see them work so hard in a movie that will only make you say "ewww."
Sunday, 6 pm (NBC)
NBC wins the prize for lamest Mother's Day gimmick. With a great show of sincerity (and surely massive cynicism behind the scenes), the network has run a contest to find America's Favorite Mom, seeking "dedicated and caring mothers from all walks of life."
Donny and Marie Osmond host the final showdown, flashing their plastic smiles and performing together for the first time in eight years. It's too bad to see them break the eight-year streak, which many of us had been greatly enjoying.
I hope the winning mom sends NBC's executives to bed without their supper.
Sunday, 9 pm (Showtime)
Last year, I watched in horror as the public-radio program debuted a TV series on Showtime. It treated ordinary citizens with hipster condescension, and the second season offers yet another view of This (tee-hee, snort) American Life.
Given the subject of this week's episode - the United States' catastrophe in Iraq - I suspect that even the series' biggest fans will have a hard time joining in the "fun." Host Ira Glass heads into Michael Moore territory by having an Iraqi set up a booth around the Midwest to solicit opinions on the war. But while Moore takes on the bigwigs, Glass just grinds the little people under his boot heel. The goal is to make Midwesterners look stupid, so the uninformed idiots are given most of the screen time. The episode leaves us with the impression of a moronically pro-war nation, when in fact polls show that most Americans have opposed the war for some time.
Those polls must have Glass running scared. An America full of smart people would put him right out of business.
How I Met
Monday, 7:30 pm (CBS)
Britney Spears returns for another cameo as a ditzy receptionist. In her March appearance, Britney's line readings were stiff and her comic instincts nonexistent. If I were her, I wouldn't quit my day job as a brat doing tawdry things for the paparazzi.
Tuesday, 8 pm (WHA)
"Storm Over Everest" allows a group of earnest narcissists to bore us with their clichés about a troubled Mount Everest expedition in 1996. You can tell from the relentlessly grandiose music that we're supposed to be in awe of these mortals who pitted themselves against nature to test the boundaries of blah blah blah. But when you clear away their New Age verbiage, all you've got left is a group of thrill-seekers who wanted to take a picture of themselves at the top so they could tell everybody "I did it!" They're so obsessed with their singular triumph that no one sees the humor in the fact that the summit was as crowded as the grocery store on double-coupon day, with cameras snapping like mad.