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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  Overcast
The Paper
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Nikita unleashes a sexy assassin
If looks could kill
on
Menacing or just silly?
Menacing or just silly?

In Nikita (Thursday, 8 p.m., CW), a killer with supermodel looks - you know, the deadliest kind of killer - is rescued from death row by a super-secret government agency and trained to be an assassin. Nikita (Maggie Q) discovers the agency's corruption, escapes its clutches, and vows revenge. This involves parading around in stiletto heels and bikinis, shooting big guns, and knocking guys unconscious with awesome kung fu moves. Meanwhile, the supposedly super-secret agents couldn't look any more conspicuous as they stalk Nikita through public places with long leather coats, shades and big guns of their own.

The CW might have had fun playing this material for campy laughs, but Nikita isn't interested in fun. Every actor speaks in those low tones that are supposed to signify "menacing" but here just signify "silly." Your jaw drops when scantily clad Nikita makes an earnest play for our heartstrings: "You know what it feels like having the thing you care about most in life taken away from you?"

No, the CW isn't having much fun here. But hooting at the screen should be a blast for the rest of us.

MTV Video Music Awards
Sunday, 8 pm (MTV)

The MTV Video Music Awards has been a joyless affair in recent years. But I have high hopes for the 2010 version, all because of multiple nominee Lady Gaga. Gaga did the impossible last January by redeeming the Grammys, and I'm sure she can work her magic here, too.

I suspect this one-of-a-kind goddess can work her magic anywhere. Why don't we just vote her in as president in 2012 and start having some fun in this damn country?

World of Jenks
Monday, 9 pm (MTV)

Young filmmaker Andrew Jenks has a strong concept for his MTV documentary series. Each week he submerges himself in a whole new world to see what it's like, from NFL cheerleading to homelessness. World of Jenks has the potential to be a new kind of journalism for the 21st century, a mixture of George Plimpton bravado, Edward R. Murrow incisiveness and MTV informality. Jenks doesn't disguise the fact that he's a nerd from the suburbs, and that makes it easy for the rest of us nerds to identify with him on his various journeys.

In the premiere, he seeks to understand the world of hip-hop stardom by tagging along with tough ex-con rapper Maino. At first, I admired Jenks' nerve for withstanding Maino's taunts and even challenging him on the crude image he conveys to his young fans. Soon, however, he starts enjoying the star's attention way too much, and his report turns into a puff piece - basically, a half-hour Maino commercial. Worse, it becomes something of a Jenks commercial, too, as the filmmaker brags about his new closeness to "a man I will always consider a good friend."

If this is journalism for the 21st century, please get me back to the 20th, pronto.

Hellcats
Wednesday, 8 pm (CW)

Marti (Aly Michalka) is an excessively sarcastic first-year law student who hates her university's cheerleaders with a passion, even getting into a public screaming match with the excessively perky pompom queen Savannah (Ashley Tisdale). But it takes only about 30 seconds for Marti to change her attitude and show up for cheerleading tryouts, where she wows the squad with her supercharged stripper-style moves. (Apparently, first-year law students have lots of time to practice their world-class dancing.) Thirty seconds later, Marti is on the squad and living in the cheerleaders' house with what are the odds? Savannah as her roommate.

"This is a no-negativity zone!" Savannah declares perkily. Indeed, Marti's own negativity soon disappears in a series of rousing montages.

I'm dying to make a comment here, but since Hellcats is a no-negativity zone, my hands are tied.

Destination Truth
Thursday, 8 pm (SyFy)

Josh Gates and his paranormal investigation team are appealing when they don't take themselves seriously. On a trip to the ruins of Pompeii, for example, they kid each other about a wild goose chase into Mount Vesuvius for a mystical stone. "In a career filled with stupid activities," Josh says, dangling from a rope, "this is something special."

When they do take themselves seriously, however, Destination Truth goes south in a hurry. The team hears rumors of "agonizing screams" in Pompeii's ruins, so they set up their high-tech ghost-detection equipment in the middle of the night. We're forced to watch them creep through the streets and almost encounter spirits as the soundtrack pumps out pointlessly eerie music.

"I heard something running right behind me!" says an investigator. "I turned around and didn't see a thing!"

After a half-hour of this nonsense, I too heard an agonizing scream - my own.

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