In the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hollywood pumped out screwball comedies to cheer us up. In the current depression, NBC takes the opposite approach, trying as hard as it can to create fear and anxiety. The network's summer season features two disaster movies threatening the destruction of a planet that, in real life, is already pretty shaky. First came the death-by-collision movie Meteor, and now the death-by-weather movie The Storm (Sunday, 8 p.m.).
A megalomaniac billionaire (Treat Williams) has invented "weather-creation" technology that threatens to cause apocalyptic hurricanes, rain and lightning. The government loves the new technology (the government is never very smart in these kinds of movies), so it falls to one extraordinarily handsome scientist (James Van Der Beek) to stop the madman, with the help of an equally photogenic reporter (Teri Polo). Don't you love it when beautiful actors stand alone against the forces of evil?
President Obama has asserted authority over the auto and banking industries in an effort to limit the damage they cause. Can't he do something similar to stop NBC from bumming us out during an economic crisis?
Saturday, 8 pm (BBC America)
The Twilight series is fun for the kids, but Being Human is a monster story for adults. A vampire (Russell Tovey), a werewolf (Aidan Turner) and a ghost (Lenora Crichlow) share an apartment in England, struggling for a semblance of normalcy. They hate what they've become and fight to be as human as possible. They're bound to fail, of course, but the effort alone has a trace of nobility.
That may sound like a ridiculous premise, and it most likely would be ridiculous if produced by an American broadcast network. But this is a British affair, which means brilliant writing and acting. Being Human is aware of its absurdity, playing up the comedy in this strange living arrangement. Along with the laughs we get the poignancy of lonely characters who yearn to make real connections despite their failings. Who among us can't relate to that?
Lest we forget we're in the realm of horror, Being Human also throws in a few genuine scares. The ghost, a charming woman just getting accustomed to her undead state, recoils when her gentle new friend has his "time of the month" and transforms into a werewolf in the middle of their living room. The vampire is also a nice guy, right up to the moment when he isn't.
"I can't keep hurting people," the vampire tells a pretty nurse who flirts with him at his hospital job. She thinks he's referring to his romantic relationships. I suspect that, in future episodes, she'll come to see what he really means.
The Yes Men Fix the World
Monday, 8 pm (HBO)
The Yes Men are a duo who, like Michael Moore, deplore corporate malfeasance, not to mention the pundits and politicians who enable it. Like Moore, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno fight the power with wry stunts intended to make you laugh, then make you think, then make you act.
But the Yes Men's stunts are more extreme than Moore's. In this playful and powerful documentary, they display a gift for impersonating corporate spokesmen. They infiltrate a major energy conference and announce Exxon's plan to create biofuel from all the corpses left by global warming. They're forcibly removed from the stage, but still get a smattering of applause from confused attendees who think it's a promising idea. The prank made headlines - as well as headaches for Exxon's image-control unit.
The Yes Men got even more exposure for fooling BBC-TV into thinking they worked for Dow Chemical. Dow had purchased Union Carbide, which was responsible for the deadly chemical leak in Bhopal, India, in 1984. On the 20th anniversary of the disaster, the Yes Men wanted to shame Dow into cleaning up the toxic waste and fairly compensating the Indian victims. Bichlbaum, gussied up in a suit and businessman's haircut, told the huge BBC audience that Dow had decided to pay up and do right by Bhopal. The company's stock fell by $2 billion before the hoax was exposed.
Newspapers around the world called the Yes Men "cruel," but I suspect most people figured out that the more significant cruelty was attributable to Dow.
More to Love
Tuesday, 8 pm (Fox)
More to Love combines a dating show like The Bachelor with the overweight contestants of The Biggest Loser. The result is a dating show for losers - although that's not how the producers are spinning it. They claim to be generously allowing unglamorous people onto the prime-time dating circuit, a realm heretofore reserved for the toned and tanned. In reality, they're inviting viewers to sneer at the unglamorous people - just look at the title, for God's sake.
More to Love is nothing but another cruel reality series. In other words, More to Hate.