DONNA J. PLESH
COMING SOON TO CABLE TV!
DISCONCERTING? WELL, YES!
The vivid image above is a taste of what's ahead on the new STARZ cable series
"Spartacus: Blood and Sand," coming next January. Check your breastplates
and shin guards, please!
Some tasty treats cooking
on cable's TV season buffet
By DONNA J. PLESH
The cable TV networks like to lay out a pretty lavish buffet table for TV critics who come to sample what's ahead for the fall TV season and beyond. This year I'd say some shows look pretty appetizing, but not everything has a positive effect on your salivary glands.
Here are my thoughts on what I've seen so far:
THE TRAVEL CHANNEL: You know, this is the channel that takes you to those far away places with exotic beaches. So what are they pitching this time: Adam Richman, who came to talk about a new season of Man vs. Food.
The network press release says"Man vs. Food" was a breakout hit for them and is now one of The Travel Channel's highest rated programs. OK, so Richman goes traveling around the country looking for regional culinary delights. But the show is really about food. And isnt that what The Food Network is for? Ill give this one a pass. (The series
began its second season Aug. 5).
MTV: Remember when the network slogan was, I Want My MTV"? Well, not it seems MTV fans are telling them they want other stuff. For example, MTV is coming up with a reality series called Gone Too Far, which each week visits someone with a serious addiction who needs help. The shows host is DJ AM (Adam Goldstein), who says he is now clean, but formerly suffered from multiple addictions. On the show, "AM" and the family and friends of the "addict of the week," helped by a local addiction expert, lead an intervention, trying to get the addict back on the right track. This one is a "maybe" for me.
TV LAND: Speaking of reality, can it get any more real than--wait for it--Joan Rivers? Yep, Joans back and TV Land has her. In Howd You Get So Rich shes snooping around the homes and lives of some of the very wealthy and asking them how they made their money. This ones a "yes" for me because Joan, who seems to be constantly reinventing herself, is a hoot, always worth watching. (The series began on Aug. 5.
THE HISTORY CHANNEL: They're offering The People Speak, a documentary about how ordinary Americans changed the course of history in this country. Their stories are told via dramatic readings from letters, documents and musical
performances. This one has some high-powered backing, with Matt Damon as
an "executive peformer." Other celebrities performing will be Josh Brolin, Bruce Springsteen, Marisa Tomei, David Strathairn, Eddie Vedder, John Legend and Viggo Mortensen. It looks a little dry, but I love history so this one is a must for me. (Premieres this fall.)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL: This network is revving up for the second
annual Expedition Week come November. This time theyre offering shows on everything from human head shrinkers to prehistoric crocodiles to solving the mystery of why top-secret Japanese submarines were scuttled just after the atomic bombings that ended World War II in the Pacific. This is a definite must watch.
Then theres the channels fascinating The Human Family Tree (Premieres Aug. 30) which shows that we all have common ancestors that can be traced back to East Africa 60,000 years ago. Dont we all want to know where we came from--well, after Africa
that is! Another must.
Animals are not left out of the networks offerings. Rescue Ink Unleashed (September 2009.) In this show, a group of guys who look like tough, tattooed biker-types, get together to help rescue animals in need from human abuse. Watching one of these really big guys nestle a tiny rescued cat in his arms is, well, a bit of a tear jerker. This ones a must.
STARZ: This mostly movies network is a relative newcomer to scripted TV, but the channel has done fairly well with the series Crash, based on the Oscar-winning film, which may have inspired another upcoming show: Spartacus: Blood and Sand,
scheduled for January 2010. It's about the slave Spartacus who led a revolt in 73 B.C.
and became Rome's most famous gladiator. As a history buff and a big fan of the all too short-lived HBO series Rome, I am looking forward to this one. The names in the cast are Lucy Lawless and John Hannah. From a short clip I've seen from the series, it looks dark, gory and, well, not like everyone is having a really good time in ancient Rome. Special effects play a major role in the series, and it has, as someone described it, a lot of the look of the film 300. This is another must watch come January.
BBC AMERICA: This network has an interesting looking mini-series set in Iraq in
2003. Occupation stars James Nesbitt as one of three British soldiers/friends and how their time in the war zone changes their lives forever. This one is gritty and though I am tired of war movies, the always watchable Nesbitt (Murphys Law) is reason enough to put it on my watch it list.
LIFETIME: This is the new home of Project Runway (formerly on Bravo) with modeling superstar Heidi Klum and style guru Tim Gunn. That show now has a companion in the new reality series Models of the Runway, which looks at Runway from the models perspective. Full disclosure here: I am not a fan of modeling shows...or dancing shows...or models dancing on dancing shows. You get the picture. But after chatting with four of the young models featured on Runway and finding them fresh, open and interesting, I am going to give this one a look-see. (Runway premieres Aug. 30.)
DISCOVERY: The Discovery Networks trotted out a variety of programs ranging from a look at ancient civilizations to dog training to Paula Zahn unraveling the stories behind some of todays biggest real-life mysteries and investigations. On Out of Egypt (premieres Aug. 24), UCLA Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney digs into how ancient civilizations are linked together. And, of course, her starting point is Egypt. This one is a must for us history buffs.
OK, so just how can you get Fido to do some of those cool tricks you see dogs do on TV? On Animal Planets Superfetch (premieres Oct. 3) pet trainer Zak George says he can teach anyone to teach any pet to do a trick. (and, yes, for the feline fans, he says you can train cats, too!) I like Animal Planet and animal shows, so I will be watching.
Over at Investigation Discovery (which used to be Discovery Times) veteran TV journalist Paula Zahn is the host and producer of On the Case With Paula Zahn (premieres Oct. 18). If this sounds like Dateline NBC, 20/20, Primetime Crime, 48 Hours Mystery and whatever others in the genre I am forgetting, it is. But Zahn says she has landed exclusives with some of the people involved in the mysteries and
investigations who have never talked before. I am a fan of all of these programs--maybe because I like mysteries--so I am giving this a "yes."
©2009 by Donna J. Plesh. The illustration is courtesy of STARZ. This column first posted Aug. 10, 2009.
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