January 16, 2004

Stay Tuned


Aaron Sorkin and I have a real and special relationship. This relationship has solidified over the years, what with his impeccable grammar and liberal politics. Also, we went to the same high school (go Raiders!). Tonight you can catch Sorkin at his finest. Before there was Sports Night, before there was West Wing, there was The American President. In fact, Sorkin decided to write Sports Night while writing The American President, since he was holed up in a hotel room watching SportsCenter four times a day. Michael Douglas stars as President Andrew Shepherd, an idealistic widower, first term prez, and less smarmy version of Jed Bartlet who becomes smitten with environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). The two embark on a whirlwind romance, with state dinners, trips to Camp David, and eloquent banter about the nature of the political process. Even if the characters are a little trite—evil Republicans launching character attacks, dreamy Democrats taking the high road—the movie ends with one of the absolute best monologues in movie history. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a president who spoke fluent Sorkinese. "My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the president!" Bee-yotch.

Showtime, 7 p.m.


If you missed Margaret Cho's show last weekend, or if you went and thought it sort of sucked, it might comfort you to know that she was once really funny. No, really. Her two "movies"—I mean, it's just her performing, it's not, like, a movie—I'm the One That I Want and Notorious C.H.O. actually kick a lot of ass. I'm partial to the former, if only for the "I'm Gwen; I'm here to waaaawwwwsh your vagina!" shtick. Forget the blathering; anyway you slice it, vaginas are funny. Notorious C.H.O. followed two years later, and isn't quite as funny—a sign of things to come? Both films are standard Cho fare: racial humor, jokes about her mom, lots and lots of candid and borderline narsty descriptions of sex, sex acts, genitals, and colonics. In case you don't know, that's like an enema, but trendier.

Showtime, 8 p.m.


Bears are sexy and everyone knows it. Uh…maybe not bears exactly, but Brad Pitt playing with bears was pretty hot. Uppity wife Jennifer Aniston got all jealous of Brad's outdoorsy shit, and now she wants her own sexy romps-with-bears show, Growing Up Grizzly 2. Apparently, there's a major shortage of families raising bears to be in movies, because Aniston visits the same people and—rock!—the same bears. What's new with Bart and Honey-Bump? Well, they're still bears, they're still being humiliated in shitty movies like Doctor Doolittle 2, and they're pretty sad that this is the last season of Friends.

Animal Planet, 7 p.m.


I thought this day would never come. Today marks Fox's return to all things awful and humiliating—yet ultimately amazing: yes, friends, the new season of American Idol debuts tonight. I don't care if you all say Clay is a gay homosexual: he is awesome and you know it. Tonight, tomorrow night, and Wednesday night too, Paula, Randy, and Simon travel the country to make dreams come true…if your dream is to be mercilessly ridiculed by the entire planet and then be trapped in a shitty contract for the rest of your "career." I know watching people embarrass the shit out of themselves is fun—you might even call it the American way—but there comes a time when enough is enough. Wait, there totally doesn't. I am so psyched for this season of Idol.

Fox, 7 p.m.


Every responsible American will be tuned in to the State of the Union Address tonight. The rest of us will be guh-guh-guh-glued to America's Next Top Model, the most addictive reality show in recent memory. Last week, plus-size model Anna decided she didn't want to do nudity—big mistake—and was sent packing. This week, the competition heats up as the girls take to the runway. Who turns out to be really good at…walking? My money is on someone with a weird name. Shandi, Xiomara, Jenascia, Yoanna: I'm talking to you. Tyra will say something vaguely inaccurate ("Jane is the hottest magazine around"), Janice Dickinson will say something ridiculous ("Here's another amputee shot"), and no one will give a shit about the other judges. Not to split hairs here, but has Adrianne Curry (the winner from this summer) actually become America's top model? Let's hope this season's winner fares a little better.

UPN, 8 p.m.


Crossovers almost never work, which is why I had pretty low expectations for the Law & Order-goes-to-Homicide action back in 1996. Lucky for me—and tonight, lucky for you—these two top-notch shows combined to make two hours of cop drama fabulousness. The brooding, edgy po-po from Homicide and the snarky-but-sensitive coppers from L&O team up to catch a racist bomber responsible for a subway gas bombing in New York and a church bombing in Baltimore. Yeah, the crime stuff and the two separate-yet-equally-important blahblah is gripping, but the real brilliance comes from Detective Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) and ADA Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy, the best ADA in L&O history), who develop little crushes on each other. The police (who investigate crime) and the attorneys (who prosecute the offenders) have never been better. Bum-bum.

TNT, 7 p.m.


Fact: there is a shortage of shows with the word "madness" in their titles. Fact: the History Channel is remedying that situation tonight. Ivan the Terrible: Might and Madness and Caligula: Reign of Madness give us the one-two madness punch we've been looking for. I'll admit that my education in European history pretty much ended in ninth grade—all I've retained is "chess is like the feudal system"—but there is something captivating about...madness. Right? Not really? At least we can make a drinking game out of these two hours: every time a nerdy historian gets over-excited about an event of gross human atrocities, do a shot. You'll be smashed in no time. You might even call it…shot-taking madness!

History Channel, 8 p.m.