By every reasonable standard, Patti Stanger is a creep. In The Millionaire Matchmaker (Thursday, 9 p.m., Bravo), she runs a dating club for obnoxious rich guys, introducing them to well-endowed ladies rounded up for their appraisal. Patti claims to deal in "quality women," but she serves them to the millionaires like so many pieces of meat. "I want to see those legs! I want to see your boobs stick out!" she instructs one...er, quality woman.
So why do I like The Millionaire Matchmaker so much? I have to admit that Patti is a compelling personality. She has the seen-it-all bluntness of a woman who understands the human heart's basest desires. She knows that her L.A. men like big breasts and that her L.A. women like big wallets, but against all odds she tries to move them in the direction of L-O-V-E.
In other words, she's an unlikely romantic. When her clients blow a chance at eternal happiness, she takes it very, very badly. "You are an asshole!" she screams at one such millionaire. "You should not be dating anyone in America! I'M GOING TO BLACKLIST YOU ALL OVER THE UNIVERSE!"
If Patti ever starts a Hundred-aire Matchmaker Club, I'll be the first to join.
Friday, 8 pm (Fox)
Echo (Eliza Dushku) falls into the clutches of an underground organization that erases people's personalities in a sleek lab full of wires and blinking lights. It imprints them with a succession of new personalities and sells their services to millionaires who need a particular job done. In the pilot, Echo is transformed into a sexy hostage negotiator charged with saving a client's little girl.
Can creator Joss Whedon make this silly premise seem cool, as he did with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Not this time. Whedon doesn't bother to account for the "science" part of this science fiction, but just asks us to accept that an evil genius can do anything he wants by flipping a switch. The script pretends to deplore human trafficking while also laboring to turn us on with the sight of half-naked women kept as slaves.
As the heroine, Dushku is simply brilliant in the scenes where she's supposed to be a personality-free blank. Unfortunately, other scenes require her to seem human, and that proves a tall order.
Sunday, 8 pm (WHA)
Oliver Twist is a dark, compelling adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, in which the orphan Oliver scraps for survival in a world populated by villains - a.k.a. adults. You know you're in good hands when your blood starts boiling by the 10-minute mark - the scene with young Oliver in the workhouse. We all know the famous words he speaks to his sadistic master at mealtime: "Please, sir, I want some more." It's as powerful as ever, thanks to William Miller's performance in the title role.
Part one ends with Oliver trapped in Fagin's den of thieves, and I can't wait till part two. Please, sir, I want some more.
Important Things with Demetri Martin
Wednesday, 9:30 pm (Comedy Central)
It's not often a comedian appears on TV with an original concept. Demetri Martin turns the trick without breaking a sweat. Indeed, "not breaking a sweat" is the essence of Important Things, which finds its groove in a flat slacker affect.
This is a postmodern sketch comedy series, deconstructing the genre with deadpan absurdity. The bits are hilarious in and of themselves, from standup fragments to mock commercials. But it's the way Martin strings them together that feels fresh. He uses low-tech graphics, nonsensical juxtapositions, and transitions excruciatingly aware of themselves as transitions. The title itself, Important Things, drips with irony, implying that the show isn't really very important.
There, I have to disagree.