You can immediately tell that Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day (Sunday, 8 p.m., ABC) is a meaningful movie. For starters, the title name-checks not one, but two very important people. During the opening credits, a piano tinkles in a minor key, and a violin saws with mournful regret. I settled in to be deeply moved.
Instead, I was confused. After the credits, a disheveled man named Chick (Michael Imperioli) walks through the rain to a liquor store. Then he dies in a car crash. Then he's alive again, talking to an earnest sportswriter on a Little League diamond. Then he dies in the car crash again. Is this Oprah expressionism - an attempt to make us feel as disoriented as Chick himself? Or is it just an incompetent adaptation of Albom's sentimental novel?
After the first half-hour, you're pretty sure it's the latter. For One More Day finally settles into its corny plot as Chick encounters his mother's ghost. She helps him understand his troubled past and points the way to redemption. Now there's a novel idea: a holiday movie about a fallen man whose life is turned around via supernatural intervention. What Oprah and Mitch lack in originality they more than make up for in passion. They clearly believe in this crap with all their hearts.
"I saw my mother alive right in front of my eyes!" Chick tells the reporter. "I knew it was impossible, but I didn't want it to end!"
Psych, Friday, 9 pm (USA)
While the rest of you enjoy a happy holiday season, I just sit here watching one godawful Christmas-themed show after another. There's no peace on earth for TV critics this time of year.
Then the holiday episode of Psych arrived in the mail. Why isn't this mock-cop show universally hailed as a masterpiece? It's a hilarious comedy, as slippery scam artist Shawn (James Roday) convinces the local police department that he's a psychic. It features first-rate buddy banter between Shawn and his partner, Gus (Dule Hill). And each episode is also a suspenseful mystery, with Shawn using his natural (not supernatural) sleuthing ability to solve crimes.
This week, Christmas is ruined when Gus' parents are accused of murdering a mean old neighbor. At least, it's ruined for Shawn and Gus. I had a grand old time watching the pair insult one another during the investigation.
For a brief moment, this TV critic experienced peace on earth.
Lost Holiday: The Jim and Suzanne Shemwell Story, Saturday, 8 pm (Lifetime)
Jim and Suzanne Shemwell (Dylan Walsh, Jami Gertz) just can't get along. She's a control freak and he's a free spirit, so they've separated. But what better way to patch up a marriage than getting trapped in a blizzard during Christmas on a godforsaken Idaho mountain?
Lost Holiday is based on a true story, but it's hard to believe the real Jim and Suzanne engaged in cutesy couples therapy during their ordeal. Or that they playfully pelted each other with snowballs after several days of starvation - yet one more checkpoint on the road to reconciliation.
It wouldn't be a holiday movie if a miracle weren't involved. This one is set in motion by the Shemwells' 7-year-old daughter, who has a heart-to-heart talk with God. "Does God answer all our prayers?" the tot asks her grandmother.
I happen to know he doesn't, 'cuz I prayed that the entire Shemwell clan would get wiped out by an avalanche.
Dave Attell: Captain Miserable, Saturday, 9 pm (HBO)
Last week I defended Don Rickles, whose comedy is grounded in ethnic stereotypes. But I won't do the same for Dave Attell, whose standup special takes the same approach.
What's the difference? For starters, Rickles has a brilliant comic brain and Attell doesn't. But it's more than that. Rickles is clearly doing shtick, without real mean-spiritedness. Attell, on the other hand, communicates true contempt for Muslims, women, Mexicans, fat people and "retards." He tells one joke about his special method of abusing his Native American girlfriend: "I just coughed on her. She died several days later. A little white-man karate, bitch! A little trick Columbus taught me!"
When the audience disapproves, Attell says, "Don't boo me, boo history!"
No, I think I'll boo you.
Holiday in Handcuffs, Sunday, 7 pm (ABC Family)
Sometimes a movie's tone is so wrong that you have to watch every single minute, just to see how bad it will get. As you might guess by the title, Holiday in Handcuffs is such a movie.
The idea, I think, was to make a Christmas film that's wild and wacky but ultimately heartwarming. Trudy (Melissa Joan Hart) gets tired of going home for Christmas with no boyfriend, so she kidnaps one. She abducts David (Mario Lopez) at gunpoint and takes him to meet the family, who think his desperate pleas for help are a joke. But as so often happens during the holiday season, kidnapper and victim fall in love, and the movie ends with a romantic kiss rather than a SWAT team and a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.
To pull off such a premise, you'd need the two most charming comic actors on earth. Sadly, Holiday in Handcuffs stars Hart and Lopez. But even they don't deserve a script so coarse and raunchy that you'd think you were watching the XXX Family network rather than ABC Family. Old geezers make leering S&M jokes, and Trudy's sister is accused of being a slut. Even June Lockhart - yes, Lassie's mom - is made into a sex-obsessed granny.
Holiday in Handcuffs will be a wonderful movie to watch when the eggnog is warm, the ornaments are tinkling on the tree, and the dominatrix is unpacking her gear.