Fading celebrities often try to revive their careers by allowing reality-show cameras into their lives. It's always a shameless spectacle, but Tori & Dean: Inn Love (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Oxygen) is more shameless than most.
Actress/heiress Tori Spelling wants us to watch her run a bed-and-breakfast with her husband, Dean. Mostly, she just wants us to watch her, period. No minute of Tori's day is too insignificant to be captured on film. Is she feeling a bit sick to her stomach? Is she hungry? Does she need to feed her new baby, Liam? The series chronicles each startling new development.
"I want to stick those doughnut holes in every orifice of my body," Tori says while eyeing the B&B's breakfast spread. Well, gosh, I wouldn't have known that if I'd watched, say, 60 Minutes instead of Inn Love.
It's poor baby Liam who bears the brunt of Tori's exhibitionism. At only two months old, he's already pressed into service as a prop. Tori enacts "motherhood" for the camera, and one assumes the series' shooting schedule takes precedence over Liam's naps.
"It's important to Dean and me that Liam have the most normal childhood possible," Tori tells the TV audience as they watch him drool, burp and pee in close-up. "We need to protect his privacy."
I wouldn't be surprised if Liam has his own show in about 18 years: Inn Therapy.
Big '80s Weekend
Friday, 7 pm; through Tuesday (Encore)
Encore gives us five days to reflect on how stupid we were in the '80s. This movie marathon confirms that we were horny (Revenge of the Nerds, Friday, 7 pm), high (Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, Friday, 10:45 pm), moronic (Conan the Destroyer, Saturday, 8 am) and bloodthirsty (Rambo, Monday, 10:30 pm).
And did I mention horny (The Wild Life, The Woman in Red, A Little Sex, License to Drive, The Allnighter, Summer Lovers)?
Only Say Anything (Sunday, 1:30 pm) hints at a generation that deserved to survive into the '90s.
Friday, 8 pm (Sci Fi)
Flash Gordon's cosmic adventures have been chronicled in campy comic strips, cartoons, TV series and movies. The makers of this latest version emphasize tastefulness, lest the series risk looking stupid. That's an approach I respect - for anything but Flash Gordon. I mean, who wants low-key plots, a muted palette and psychologically nuanced characters in a space-cowboy story? Even the villain, Ming the Merciless (John Ralston), has been tamped down. And he shows traces of mercy!
"A Flash Gordon with no flash." It's hard to imagine this concept slaying 'em at a Sci Fi Channel pitch meeting.
I Wanna Be a Soap Star
Tuesday, 7 pm (Soapnet)
The small screen oozes with dangerous passions in this reality competition, in which gorgeous actors vie for a 13-week contract on Days of Our Lives. The contestants are hungry for fame and fortune, and it shows in their performances.
"I believe that you could really drive a knife through somebody's heart," a judge tells one particularly convincing actor. "And there's nothing more wonderful than that."
There's intensity both on and offstage. The contestants are given scenes that require seduction, misery, terror, violence and ecstasy. And things don't necessarily cool down when the director says "cut." The actors play out a real-life soap opera of their own in their cramped living quarters. Adding to the tension is constant criticism from the three judges.
"I'm shocked at how bad that was."
"Your nerves got in the way, and you were stumbling all over the place."
"Your performance left me empty."
Before the grand finale, I predict that a contestant will drive a real knife through a judge's heart. And there's nothing more wonderful than that.
Beyond the Big Bang
Tuesday, 7 pm (History Channel)
This two-hour special attempts to answer key questions about time and space. It focuses on the Big Bang - the cosmic explosion that created the universe billions of years ago. The History Channel tells the story through cutting-edge computer animation and interviews with leading physicists.
The network also promises "first-person accounts," which could well be revelatory.
"It was deafening. Just deafening."
Tuesday, 9 pm (Spike)
TV just sank a little lower - and so did civilization as we know it. Murder is a reality series that gives regular people a chance to solve real homicides. It's banking on the fact that the TV audience will enjoy horrific crimes, complete with mutilated corpses and brains splattered on the bedroom walls.
Two teams are led to a meticulously re-created crime scene (so meticulous that I lost my appetite for the rest of the day). They have 48 hours to figure out who murdered whom and why. "Wow," one contestant says as he surveys the bloodbath, not even attempting to hide his smile. The message couldn't be any clearer: Murder is fun.
Has reality TV hit rock bottom? Nope - not until Spike premieres a series in which contestants get to commit real murders. I trust it's in development.