Gloria: In Her Own Words (Monday, 8 p.m., HBO), a profile of Gloria Steinem, takes you back to the bad old days when the idea of women's rights could be openly scorned by smug male TV broadcasters. When it was socially acceptable for a man to say on camera, "Women are supposed to stay home, have kids and keep the house clean." When abortion was illegal; when women were grossly underrepresented in the workplace; and when sexual harassment was condoned. You quickly see why the United States needed Gloria Steinem and other feminists to lead a revolution for women's rights.
"I learned to use anger constructively," Steinem says in a contemporary interview.
Now in her late 70s, Steinem is eloquent, witty and unpretentious. She speaks passionately about the feminist movement and also reveals a lot about herself. This wasn't a one-dimensional "bitch," to use her opponents' parlance, but a human being who had to shore herself up against endless ridicule and hostility.
One measure of the feminists' success is the shocking quality of the documentary's archival clips, in which mainstream figures proudly parade their sexism on national TV. That would never happen today " well, at least not as much. The film ends with a clip of Fox News' Glenn Beck sneering at women's rights the old-fashioned way, even sticking a finger in his mouth to simulate barfing.
I guess the United States still needs Gloria Steinem.
Friday, 7 pm (Cartoon Network)
Cartoon Network reimagines the 1980s animated series about a race of humanoid cats in the kingdom of Thundera. An unconventional young prince embarks on a quest for the throne with a group of loyal companions and a cute pet.
For a cartoon about people with pointy cat ears, Thundercats is pretty thrilling. The animation is a bit flat, but the images manage an epic grandeur. The music is majestic, the heroes are noble, and the battle scenes are full of sound and fury. For all that, the series avoids taking itself too seriously, leavening the mystical quest with humor. If I were 10, this is the kind of show I'd watch religiously every week.
I mean, I'll still watch it religiously every week as an adult. I'll just feel slightly embarrassed about it.
Most Eligible Dallas
Monday, 8 pm (Bravo)
This new reality series about singles looking for love tries to convince us that Dallas is the most happenin' place in the world. "Dallas, the Big D!" bellows one of the show's self-proclaimed hotties. In truth, none of these provincials seems to have gotten too far outside the city limits. According to one guy, "the women in Dallas are beautiful " blondes, brunettes and redheads!" Little does he know that blondes, brunettes and redheads exist in every city and are not unique to Dallas.
For all their bragging about Southern manners, these singles are a coarse bunch. Typical guy statement: "Dallas has some of the friendliest bitches in the world!" Typical gal statement: "My tits are about to pop out of this bra!"
I think I'll hang out in one of those other cities with blondes, brunettes and redheads.
Wednesday, 8 pm (Lifetime)
Cameras follow Roseanne Barr as she runs her Hawaiian nut farm, and the result is a cut above most celeb-reality shows. The former sitcom star is a natural eccentric, so there's no need to fake eccentricity for TV. She's also naturally funny, and when is the last time you laughed during such a show (as opposed to laughing at it, as in recent efforts by Paris Hilton and David Hasselhoff)?
Roseanne stays in her bad-tempered persona, insulting the wild pigs who eat her nuts, boyfriend Johnny, and everyone else in her line of vision. "You don't want to piss granny off!" she warns.
You certainly don't - but the nastiness is a kind of put-on, and Roseanne periodically breaks character by cracking up. It's always disarming when that happens.
"That's a fine-ass nut right there," she says, inspecting her crop.
The crop could well return the compliment.