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Thursday, April 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 37.0° F  A Few Clouds
Arts

TELEVISION

The Pacific recycles World War II clichés

An unintentional laugh riot.
An unintentional laugh riot.
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Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg collaborated on Band of Brothers, a miniseries about U.S. soldiers fighting in Europe during World War II. They follow up with The Pacific (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO), another miniseries following the action in the Pacific theater. I'll always love Hanks and Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan, arguably the best World War II movie ever, but The Pacific is a blot on their record. It wallows in war-movie clichés, with inspirational music oozing through each scene like syrup.

We meet a group of soldiers (James Badge Dale, Joe Mazello, Jon Seda) who enter the war with gung-ho innocence, indulging in clean-cut mischief on their way to Guadalcanal. On cue, they become disillusioned during their first chaotic battle with the Japanese. It's the Horror of War moment you've seen in countless bad Army pictures, with dialogue so lame you begin to doubt the filmmakers' sanity.

The most annoying character is a writer who can't stop looking at the war through sensitive eyes. We have to endure his philosophical letters home, containing pearls of wisdom like this: "There are things men can do to each other that are sobering to the soul."

In fact, The Pacific is anything but "sobering." It's an unintentional laugh riot.

Who Is Clark Rockefeller?
Saturday, 8 pm (Lifetime)

This TV movie dramatizes the real-life story of a con man (Eric McCormack) who pretended to be a rich, well-educated Rockefeller, fooling high-society Boston and the millionaire businesswoman (Sherry Stringfield) he married. It's a fascinating tale, though if the real Clark Rockefeller talked with the same phony patrician accent as McCormack, I'm surprised he wasn't caught sooner.

Minute to Win It
Sunday, 6 pm (NBC)

In this new game show, contestants engage in minute-long competitions with everyday household items, hoping to win $1 million. For example, they must fan eggs across the floor using an empty pizza box, or strap an empty tissue container to their butts and try to shake ping-pong balls out of the hole by jumping and wiggling.

I think I'd require at least $2 million to do that last one on national TV.

The Celebrity Apprentice
Sunday, 8 pm (NBC)

Donald Trump finally gives disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich the reality show spotlight he's been craving. This horror show also includes Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Osbourne, Sinbad and a bunch of "celebrities" I've never heard of, all striving to be picked as Trump's business lackey for the first couple fiscal quarters of 2010.

I'm baffled by Lauper's presence. The appealing bohemian singer once told us that Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Does she really believe that hanging out with Trump and Blagojevich will achieve this goal?

Sons of Tucson
Sunday, 8:30 pm (Fox)

Fox's new sitcom stars Tyler Labine as a loser who agrees to pose as the dad for three young children trying to avoid foster care. Labine has stolen Jack Black's entire act: the smooth-talking slacker/con artist who's pathetic despite his supremely self-confident line of patter. (He's even stolen Black's stocky body type, for God's sake.) The series is loud and obnoxious, the child actors are awful, and the script strains for shock value. Jokes about Hurricane Katrina deaths and a racist, sexually perverted granny - anybody laughing yet?

First Love, Second Chance
Wednesday, 9 pm (TV Land)

For years, I've derided dating series in which callow young people fall for good-looking strangers while the cameras roll. Many of these love-starved airheads are willing to marry the stranger on the spot, making them seem less romantic than disturbed.

I guess First Love, Second Chance is the dating series I've been waiting for. Mature, graying people reconnect with their first loves a couple decades later and realistically assess their chances for rekindling the spark. I know I should be thrilled, but it turns out that caution and circumspection aren't terribly exciting in the context of TV dating.

For example, a 46-year-old American woman meets the Australian exchange student now balding and living in Sydney with whom she had a forbidden affair as a teenager. They're still crazy about each other but are all too aware of the obstacles. "How would the logistics of this work out long term?" she wonders. "We still live worlds apart, and we also have minor children. That's something you have to think seriously about."

Enough for seriously and boringly - thinking about things. Bring back the love-starved airheads, please!

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