I'm concerned about a big problem in our country. It's not the Iraq War; it's not global warming. It's the obnoxious people in this season's Survivor.
I mean, Adam and Parvati are smug and nasty, and they still may make it to the season finale (Sunday, 7 p.m., CBS). Candice congratulated herself on playing the game with integrity after having just tattled, whined, goofed off and sold out her tribe. Nate is so busy calling Jonathan a rat that he doesn't realize he himself is a weasel.
I'm upset that the worst thing that can happen to these people is simply not winning $1 million. Can't they be put in jail? Or fed to crocodiles? Or at least be left behind on the Cook Islands, where they can never bother decent Americans again?
I guess it's possible that I've lost perspective ' an easy thing to do in the midst of a heated Survivor season. Perhaps Adam, Parvati, Candice and Nate deserve citizenship, constitutional rights and a crocodile-free environment.
Perhaps. But I couldn't begin to entertain the idea until the season ends and the air clears.
Saturday, 1 pm (ABC Family)
Santa's daughter Mary (Jenny McCarthy) has moved south. She's become a ruthlessly efficient consultant who specializes in bringing old-fashioned businesses into the 21st century. She multi-tasks; she communicates with her boyfriend via Palm Pilot; she works through nights and holidays. 'You're amazing,' her assistant tells her. 'Scary, but amazing.'
When Mary's father has a heart attack, she hurries back to the North Pole. Not only will she save Christmas, but she'll bring it into the 21st century.
It sounds like a thankless holiday role: the hard-hearted businesswoman who learns the true meaning of Christmas. But damned if McCarthy doesn't pull it off. In most of her roles, the former Playboy bunny is so cynical and ironic that you're left gagging. Here, those same qualities ' applied with admirable restraint ' work nicely against the sentimental material. Most actresses would smile sweetly through Santa Baby and collect their paychecks. McCarthy smiles sweetly (and what a smile!), but she also stamps the production with real personality.
I never thought I'd say this, but Jenny McCarthy is amazing. Scary, but amazing.
Saturday, 7 pm (ABC Family)
Kevin (Jay Mohr) and Jill (Daphne Zuniga) are divorced, but Kevin shows up at her parents' house to deliver a Christmas present to his young son. Kevin behaves like a jerk ' an acting challenge Mohr handles all too well. 'Jingle bells, Santa smells, he's been drunk all day,' Kevin sings in one of the movie's many family-unfriendly moments. (An odd approach for the ABC Family network, don't you think?)
'I can't wait for this scene to end,' I thought. But it never did. Christmas magic forces Kevin to relive the day over and over until he gets it right.
Who wants to watch the same obnoxious jokes again and again? It'd be like repeating a TV-blurb punchline ad infinitum.
It'd be like repeating a TV-blurb punchline ad infinitum.
Love's Abiding Joy
Saturday, 8 pm (Hallmark Channel)
I'm depressed about a world spiraling out of control, and a Hallmark TV movie called Love's Abiding Joy seemed like just the thing to cheer me up. Sure enough, it begins with a maniacally happy pioneer family on their ranch, beaming at one another over breakfast. These are wholesome folks in bandanas and bonnets, more pure of heart than anyone alive today. The family members all have Pepsodent smiles and impeccably pressed clothes (there must be a dry cleaners on the other side of the creek). They even have a black man living with them, because not even 19th-century-style racism can stand up to LOVE'S ABIDING JOY. I was feeling better already.
But then the family's baby daughter died. Drought and cattle disease struck the ranch. The nurturing mother turned sour, and when she started throwing rocks and shaking her fist at heaven, I turned the movie off.
I expected Love's Abiding Joy, and I got Tragedy's Abiding Downer. Even a world spiraling out of control is more cheerful than this.
Saturday, 9 pm (A&E)
In the midterm elections, America overwhelmingly voted for anti-gay-marriage referendums. So we still don't have equal rights ' but at least we have Wedding Wars. It makes a powerful argument for gay marriage, speaking a language we all understand: fizzy TV-movie romantic comedy.
Ben (Eric Dane) is the campaign manager for Maine's governor (James Brolin). He's marrying the governor's daughter (Bonnie Somerville) and also overseeing a tough reelection fight. Things get even more complicated when Ben's fiancÃe hires his gay brother, Shel (John Stamos), to plan their wedding.
Ben feels uncomfortable with his brother's sexual orientation, despite the fact that Shel is a charming guy involved in a loving long-term relationship. The governor pays lip service to gay rights, but when his opponent rails against gay marriage, he does too ' and Ben is the one who writes his speech. 'So, it's okay for me to plan your wedding,' Shel says to Ben, 'but it's not okay for me to have one of my own?'
Shel decides to go on strike as the wedding planner, picketing in front of the governor's house. It's an embarrassment for both Ben and the governor, especially when gay people around the country learn of the strike and follow suit.
The famously straight John Stamos does a masterful job of playing a gay character. He doesn't condescend to the role, but simply makes Shel a human being. It's touching to see one of America's favorite he-men kiss his onscreen lover tenderly on the lips. Stamos is sending a message to America: There's absolutely nothing wrong with this.
I just hope America doesn't respond by passing an anti-gay-TV-movie referendum.