I'll admit that the title grabs your attention: The Murder of Princess Diana (Saturday, 8 p.m., Lifetime). But this TV movie fails to hold it, despite a strenuous attempt to sensationalize Diana's death.
The Murder of Princess Diana is a fictionalized version of Noel Botham's book, which claims that the infamous 1997 car crash was caused by a shadowy conspiracy. We follow Diana on her last rounds in Paris, though we never get a good look at her face. The filmmakers merely put a wig and sunglasses on a tall extra and photograph her from behind - the first clue that we're watching a cheesy TV movie and not a serious investigative report. The second clue is the arrival of a plot device named Rachel (Jennifer Morrison), who witnesses the crash in a cute red dress and starts asking impertinent questions.
Rachel cries like a baby when Princess Diana is pronounced dead, and we're supposed to be moved as well. But how badly can we feel about losing a wig and sunglasses?
Ronald Reagan Marathon
Friday, 5 am (TCM)
TCM's marathon features Ronnie sleepwalking through Love Is on the Air, Desperate Journey, John Loves Mary, The Girl from Jones Beach and Bedtime for Bonzo. Watching all 24 hours, you realize that Reagan's film career was a lot like his presidency. It included questionable colleagues (Bonzo), adoring female co-stars (Nancy Reagan), inspirational scripts, lame quips and lots of wavy hair.
If Reagan had only made a movie called Illegally Selling Weapons to Iran, the correspondence would be complete.
Miss Teen USA
Friday, 7 pm (NBC)
Last May's Miss Universe pageant chugged along in predictable fashion, with every canned moment arriving on cue. Then, suddenly, the broadcast went off the rails. Miss USA swanned across the stage during the evening-gown competition and fell flat on her butt. You'd think that would be enough to knock her out of a pageant based on poise and grace, but the powers-that-be made sure she moved on to the next round.
The Mexico City audience smelled a rat. They booed loudly while the hosts struggled to maintain their lacquered smiles. It was great fun to see an eruption of forbidden human emotion - in this case, indignation - in the midst of a Stepford Wife competition. The pageant's refusal to acknowledge reality turned the broadcast into a supremely entertaining farce.
Is there any way the Miss Teen USA broadcast will be this wonderful? Oh, for another slippery stage!
Teen Choice Awards
Sunday, 7 pm (Fox)
The Teen Choice Awards puts a lot of power in teenagers' hands. They're entrusted with the solemn responsibility of identifying the Best Movie Drama, Best Television Comedy, Best Rock Track, Best Hottie, Best Liplock, etc. In past years, they've "chosen" just about every dubious unit-shifter foisted on them by the corporate marketing departments, including American Pie 2, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson (for acting in The Dukes of Hazzard!).
This year, it's time for some tough love. If the teens insist on honoring Paris Hilton (yes, she's nominated), I say we seize their car keys, ground them and take away their choosing privileges till '09.
Monday, 9:30 pm (Showtime)
David Duchovny plays Hank, a literary genius who moves his family to Los Angeles to oversee an adaptation of his novel God Hates Us. But La La Land eats away at his integrity, as it will. His partner (Natascha McElhone) leaves him, and so does his inspiration. He's reduced to staring at his keyboard and filling his days with meaningless sex.
Duchovny was unforgettable in The X-Files. Californication will be hard to forget too, but more in the way of a seven-car pileup. It's not just that the series is bad. It's self-deluded, which is a whole other kind of bad. You sense the filmmakers congratulating themselves as they go along. They see their creation as too dangerous for network TV, cutting through the clichés to show the naked truth.
Dangerous? A series clogged with dirty words and naked women is a 14-year-old's idea of the cutting edge. And the gaudy attempt to cut through clichés is a cliché in itself. How many times have we heard the story of a man who arrives in Hollywood and loses his soul?
Only one production in a hundred does a good job with this story. And that production is already on the air - it's called Entourage.
Live from New York: The First Five Years of Saturday Night Live
Tuesday, 7 pm (NBC)
Another clip show devoted to John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner et al.? Really, how many times can these comedians be honored? If I see one more clip of Belushi's Samurai, I'm going to die (from laughter, but still).