Reality series have long been engaged in a race to the bottom, each trying to showcase the most repulsive specimens of humanity. Barring the appearance of The Real Housewives of the Third Reich, however, the CW's High Society (Wednesday, 8 p.m.) will likely be crowned the winner. Or should I say the loser?
The CW has gone to great lengths to find the most vain, arrogant, ignorant and obnoxious among New York City's party people. We meet the icky Jules, who says, "I only like white guys. I use the 'N' word sometimes, and I really think it should be okay to say." Then there's Paul, an alcoholic pretty boy who's proud of being written up in the gossip columns for his asinine behavior. Their friend Tinsley had been married to a zillionaire named Topper, the relationship based solely on the fact that they share the same initials.
When the marriage breaks up, Tinsley takes to her bed and cries picturesquely for the CW cameras. "My whole world feels like it's crashing down on me!"
One can only hope.
Live from Abbey Road
Friday, 7 pm (Sundance Channel)
With most of the ho-hum bands that play this music showcase, I think, "Get out of the sacred space where the Beatles recorded their albums." With Green Day performing in this week's episode, I think, "Make yourself at home."
Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies
Saturday, 10 pm (Comedy Central)
On Saturday Night Live, Dana Carvey brought us some of the best comic bits of the 1980s and '90s. Sadly, he's been scarce in recent years. It's good to see him back for a one-off standup special, though I wish he'd find a regular gig somewhere on TV. I'd even support another term for President George H.W. Bush just to enjoy four more years of Carvey's fabulous impersonation.
Sunday, 7 pm (Discovery)
A series calling itself Life sets the bar awfully high. But this 11-part nature documentary pretty much earns its ambitious title with a wide-ranging look at the adaptability of Earth's plants and animals. The segments are beautifully filmed with high-definition techniques, getting you so close to these species that you can practically touch them though in most cases, I wouldn't recommend touching. Life is a paean to survival of the fittest, and the fittest have a tendency to maul and gobble anything within reach.
As a result, you really shouldn't get too attached to any of the cute animals onscreen. Just after you meet an ostrich, for example, it's eaten by a cheetah. Similarly, the praying mantis is awfully interesting until it's pulled out of the camera frame by a chameleon's sticky tongue.
Oh well that's Life.
Sunday, 9 pm (AMC)
The new season begins under a sickly yellow sky with a perplexing image: shaved-head tough guys crawling on their hands and knees toward a makeshift skull-god shrine in a rundown Mexican village. The scene makes you feel like you're trapped in a nightmare, and indeed you are.
Breaking Bad effectively uses avant-garde filmmaking touches to tell the story of schoolteacher Walt (Bryan Cranston), who became a drug kingpin after a terminal cancer diagnosis. The idea was to make enough money to provide for his family, but now that plan is falling apart. His wife (Anna Gunn) has caught on to his secret life and filed for divorce. Plus, one senses that the tough guys from the opening scene are headed north to cause him even more trouble.
Breaking Bad immerses you in Walt's world a psychological and logistical morass. When his wife confronts him with divorce papers, he desperately tries to explain himself. "There are a lot of angles to this. It's complicated."
Man, is it.
Monday, 8 pm (NBC)
Trauma is a solid medical-emergency drama with a large, appealing cast. Every episode has multiple subplots that deal not only with illness and injury, but everyday issues among the paramedics. My only objection is that the emergency scenes can be too gross and the everyday scenes too trivial an often disturbing combination.
This week, the paramedics try to save a guy's mangled arm. In the meantime, the cute blonde paramedic (Anastasia Griffith) teases her hunky partner (Taylor Kinney) about having a hickey.
You can see what Trauma is trying to do relieve the intensity with lighthearted banter. But personally, I'm gonna have a hard time caring about the hickey until that mangled arm is sewed back on.