'Friday Night Lights' (Tuesday, 7 p.m., NBC) is set in a Texas town obsessed with its high school football team. It exploits every known sports clichÃ: the star quarterback with a heart of gold, the running back with demons to overcome, the womenfolk who are either goddesses or whores. You just know the team will come from behind to win its games in the last second, and you just know the crucial play will be a long pass thrown in slow motion as a brass fanfare rises on the soundtrack. I won't even bother to tell you about the coach's inspirational halftime speeches.
There's nothing wrong with a sports drama that's corny and fun. But 'Friday Night Lights' is corny and pompous, and that's intolerable. The production goes in for melancholy guitar arpeggios and overblown cinematography. (The sky is never simply blue, but an apocalyptic shade of purple.) God's name is invoked so many times that you begin to wonder where in the Old Testament He claimed to be a high school football fan. Worst of all, the production has the gall to compare its two-bit plot to Moby-Dick.
'The cold black sea represents the season and all its uncertainty,' the coach's daughter says. 'The magical white whale is the holy grail, the state championship.'
And hopefully the series represents the whaling ship, which sinks at the end of Moby-Dick.
Sunday, 7:30 pm (CW)
I recently hailed the fledgling CW network for doing a beautiful job with its first new show, 'Runaway.' But it was a depressingly short honeymoon, because here comes the CW's second new show. 'The Game' portrays an NFL rookie (Aldis Hodge) and his put-upon girlfriend (Tia Mowry). You could probably write the jokes yourself just hearing that scenario ' and your jokes would undoubtedly be better.
On groupies: 'She looks like her syphilis has syphilis.'
On multicultural teammates: 'It's true what they say ' white folks ain't scared of us no more.'
Throw in additional jokes about big butts, tight pants and spousal abuse, and 'The Game' makes me want to imitate the family in 'Runaway' ' that is, to run away.
Off the Leash
Monday, 7 pm (Lifetime)
Aspiring starlets would do well to study this reality series, a primer on breaking into Hollywood. True, it's about dogs breaking into Hollywood, but the same rules apply.
The dogs' owners bring them to LePaws, a canine talent agency looking for the next Benji to cast in feature films. We learn that being cute, friendly and eager is a plus; and that peeing on the carpet will get the door slammed in your face.
Aspiring starlets, take note.
Egypt: Engineering an Empire
Monday, 8 pm (History Channel)
This impressive documentary explores Egypt's architectural achievements. With the help of countless slaves, the pharaohs built the ancient world's first dam, its tallest building and its most impenetrable fortress. But just as you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, ancient Egyptians couldn't build the pyramids without stirring up a bit of sand. 'Their road to eternal glory,' the narrator intones, 'was riddled with blood, betrayal and outright disaster.'
Not to mention hippopotamuses. That's right'after transforming Egypt from a tribal backwater into a monument-happy superpower, the pharaoh Menes was killed by a rampaging hippo. There is no record of the slaves snickering?at least none that has yet been discovered.
I Pity the Fool
Wednesday, 9 pm (TV Land)
Everyone remembers Mr. T, the 'A-Team' tough guy with the mohawk and the loud voice. In this new series, the relentlessly upbeat actor barges into a variety of situations to motivate people ' even if they don't want to be motivated.
But just try stopping Mr. T once he gets an idea in his head. He appears at a car dealership and starts shouting rhymes at the bewildered salespeople. 'I'M TEACHIN' FOOLS SOME BASIC RULES!' he yells, pounding his fists together. 'I AM THE NUMBER-ONE JIBBA JABBA ATTACKA!'
As wildly inappropriate as he is, Mr. T succeeds in lighting a fire under the staff. 'THE GUYS HAD BEEN DOIN' A LOT OF LEARNIN',' he confides in a voiceover, 'NOW THEY WERE DOIN' SOME EARNIN'!'
I can't wait to see Mr. T muscle his way into other situations to show the fools how it's done. He...wait, Mr. T, I don't need any help with the TV column...please, you can't...
WHAT YOU CHUMPS DOIN' READIN' A NEWSPAPER? YOU DON'T NEED NO ADVICE FROM THIS FOOL! FORGET HIS DERISION! MAKE YOUR OWN DECISION! TURN ON THE TELEVISION!
Wednesday, 9 pm (We)
This reality series takes us into New York's renowned LaVar hair salon, known for catering to stars like Whitney Houston and Mary J. Blige. The stars swear by owner Ellin LaVar, to the point where they insist that she style their hair for their funerals. Ellin is particularly proud of the fact that she did the hair on Miles Davis' corpse.
As famous as it is, the LaVar salon is a troubled place. Ellin employs her brother and sister, and the three do nothing but fight. They scream at one another as customers twiddle their thumbs, Ellin constantly threatening to fire the other two.
By the end of the first episode, you begin to wonder if Miles Davis actually died in the salon waiting for his appointment to start.