The Oscars are anti-entertainment. Any TV program that lasts four hours and subjects you to the wit and wisdom of tuxedo-clad cinematographers isn't even trying to be fun. On top of that, the Oscars have a weakness for faux-arty films puffed up on their own would-be significance - witness the multiple nominations for The Reader. Comedies are practically barred from the ceremony, lest the sound of laughter threaten the Academy's sense of self-importance. Worst of all, Bruce Springsteen didn't even earn a Best Song nomination for "The Wrestler." The producers must have worried that too many people would enjoy seeing him perform it.
Countering the Oscars' proud deadliness is the MTV Movie Awards (Sunday, 8 p.m.). MTV isn't afraid to acknowledge that movies can be fun and thrilling and work brilliantly on their own pop-culture terms - witness the nominations for Iron Man and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
With the choice of Andy Samberg as host, MTV clearly signals that hilarity is a priority. It even awarded a nomination to Springsteen's "The Wrestler." Let the healing begin.
Unbroke: Everything You Need to Know About Money
Friday, 8 pm (ABC)
The Bush administration steered the economy into a ditch, but help is on the way. In this special, Hollywood stars who have plenty of money kindly offer advice to those of us who don't. Included are noted economists Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Green and the Jonas Brothers.
That's right: the Jonas Brothers. Things have gotten so bad that America - me included - will gratefully accept financial counsel from grinning teenage fake rockers.
Damn you, George W. Bush!
The Tonight Show
Friday, 10:35 pm (NBC)
Jay Leno hosts his last regular Tonight Show on May 29. In the fall, he'll be back with a prime-time series that features guests and gags on weeknights.
Leno announced his final week's worth of guests in early May, then held a press conference revealing that Conan O'Brien would be featured on his last show.
Do you get the impression that Jay is more sentimental about his departure than we are?
Jesse James Is a Dead Man
Sunday, 9 pm (Spike)
This reality series makes big claims for itself. It insists that Jesse James is a daredevil who flirts with death in every episode. The excitable narrator can barely contain his horror as Jesse prepares to ride a nitro motorcycle, which runs on rocket fuel. "HE'S GOT A THIRST FOR DEATH! JESSE NEEDS TO LEARN TO STAY COOL UNDER FIRE OR HE COULD BE BURNED ALIVE!"
Into this explosive context comes Jesse himself, a dullard who undermines every dramatic situation. He has a tiny voice, a blank affect and a disappointingly understated response to every life-threatening scenario. When asked about catching on fire: "That was cool." When asked about his big ride: "I don't know what's gonna happen."
"JESSE HAS CHEATED DEATH!" the narrator screams after the ride. Yeah, and he's cheated us, too.
I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Monday, 7 pm (NBC)
Defining "celebrity" very loosely, this series drops 10 fame whores into the jungle for challenges, rewards and eliminations. It features people on the level of pro wrestler Torrie Wilson, reality-series dimwits Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, and second-tier Baldwin brother Stephen. Disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich wanted to participate, apparently feeling that he hadn't embarrassed his family and constituents enough. But a federal judge barred him from traveling to Costa Rica for filming.
Too bad. It would have been cathartic to see Torrie Wilson body-slam him, then scissor-lock him around the trachea.
Wednesday, 7 pm (ABC)
I made fun of this reality series last year, but that was before the economy tanked. Now I see the beauty of sitting around watching contestants fall off stuff and run into things - any reason to think about other people's pain rather than my own.