Thursday TV: Is College Worth It?

IvoryTowerWith student loan debt reaching $1 trillion and nearly $239 billion given in loans last year alone, the documentary “Ivory Tower” (CNN, 9 and 11 p.m.) asks once more whether going to college is actually worth it. The film, directed by Andrew Rossi and Kate Novack, which premiered at Sundance, is the latest documentary acquisition by the news channel.

With a lively pace and animated explanations, it takes a look at a variety of public and private schools, closing with the battle to New York City’s Cooper Union tuition free.

“Party Down South 2″ (CMT, 9 p.m.) is the latest iteration of a dim culture bereft of college material. The new crew of eight senselessly drunk Southerners are based in Biloxi. They are different from the ones in the original “Party Down South” that returns March 30. Both are remnants of the “Jersey Shore” school who haven’t been told the world has moved on.

This is weird: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration Reform (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Univision, 8 p.m.) is likely to be one of his most important, but for the first time in memory none of the English speaking broadcast networks will be carrying the 15 minute address. What’s more important to them? The season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 8 p.m.); and episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS, 8 p.m.), “Bones” (Fox, 8 p.m.) and “The Biggest Loser” (NBC, 8 p.m.).

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Wednesday TV: Landing on Comet Story

Rosetta_-_comet_fly-byRosetta may have gone silent, but the specials about the spacecraft that managed to land on a comet last week gets a special, “To Catch a Comet” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

The greatly diminished “Duck Dynasty” (A&E, 9 p.m.) returns for its seventh season with a two hour episode about a trip to Scotland. It’s followed by a new series “Country Bucks” (A&E, 11 p.m.), about a second down home family of the South with their own big time hunting business.

Chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox, 8 p.m.) have to cook Indian food. But those competing on “Top Chef” (Bravo, 10 p.m.) have to cook an authentic 17th century Thanksgiving meal, starting with a slog through the cranberry bog.

“Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.) sits down for Thanksgiving.

An uprising is brewing on “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX, 10 p.m.).

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Josh Assesses His Ouster on ‘Survivor’

JoshSurvivorFor a while, things were going pretty well for Josh Canfield on “Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water.”

The savvy and likable player had won over his tribe mates just as he had hoped.

“My whole starting out strategy was to get everyone on my tribe to want to work with me; to be the person that everyone came to, to be in an alliance with,“ Canfield, 32, says over the phone from New York. “Which ended up happening.”

The idea, once in an alliance, is that “nobody thinks you’re on top, because they picked you.”

But his hapless tribe Coyopa kept losing and once they got to the merge and were on the verge of voting out his biggest threat, Jeremy Collins, Julie McGee quit, depriving them of a needed vote.

When Jeremy won individual immunity and the wildcard couple Jon Misch and Jaclyn Schultz went to the other alliance, Canfield knew his fate was sealed before they ever got to tribal.

“Reed and I said our goodbyes already,” he says of his boyfriend Reed Kelly, whom he left behind.

Now he’s the first member of the jury, with 10 remaining as they go into tonight’s episode.

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Tuesday TV: Nikita Visits the U.S.A.

am_exp_khrushchev_trainAfter all the excesses of the Cold War, it may have seemed surprising that Dwight Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev to the United States in 1959. The sincere gesture to diplomacy led to a cross country trip with occasionally contentious moments that was also one of the first media circuses, all well summarized in “Cold War Roadshow” tonight on “American Experience” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

American gathered on the roadside to see the gregarious character and his wife drive by, but they did not cheer or wave back to the Soviet Leader. A flight to Los Angeles following a train trip to New York provided the most surreal moments, as he addressed a Hollywood luncheon attended by Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, witnessed the filming of the musical “Can-Can” and scolded the Los Angeles Mayor for canceling a trip to Disneyland and bringing up that “we will bury you” quote again.

A visit to an Iowa farm almost turned violent, but only because the hundreds of reporters were trampling the crops of the farmer who was visited. Like a lot of isolated dictators, Khrushchev just wanted to be recognized and accepted, but a reciprical invitation for Ike to come to the Soviet Union was canceled after the U.S. was caught sending spy planes over there — delaying the thaw for another few decades.

Peter Berg’s “State of Play” (HBO, 10 p.m.) series of sports documentaries continues, this one about pro athletes who suffer depression after retirement. It’s tough at first to feel sympathy for millionaires who no longer have thousands cheering their daily work, but Berg shows there is real science to the sudden change and that most athletes struggle to adapt to new roles. The film includes glimpse at Bret Farve in Mississippi and Tiki Barber in New York. Once more the panel discussion at the end seems superfluous.

A new “Frontline” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings), in conjunction with ProPublica shows what happens when American corporations cooperate with brutal dictatorships to keep the money rolling in, in a case about a major tire company and Liberia a decade ago, “Firestone and the Warlord.”

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CNBC’s ‘Money Talks’ Walks

notaroCNBC has quietly canceled “Money Talks,” the one-season reality show that followed the sports book operations of an ex-con in Las Vegas.

The prime time show had low ratings from its start, but it also had some vociferous critics, including some who called his claims of 70 percent success bogus, and others, like me, whose families had been burned by just the kind of elderly-targeted telemarketing scams that got its star Darin Notaro convicted more than once.

He changed his name to Steve Stevens for the new enterprise and show, which CNBC defended as program to show how his operation worked — not as an endorsement of his methods.

That puts them at a short arm’s length from some of his more odious ways of doing business, such as  sending vulgarity-sprinkled physical threats to his critics, among them Mark Rudnitsky at Sportsgrid.com but also yours truly.

At first he wrote his late night emails in the third person:

find someone else to worry about except for Steve Stevens because he makes more money and knows more about sports than any of you

and

Steve Stevens aka Darren Otero made more than you and high school did you do in your entire life go kill yourself

Then they got more direct

keep running your mouth and see if you don’t get your ass whooped fake internet wankster

A flurry of them last week were more direct:

we’re coming to get you Roger you fat f***

He explained his sudden re-interest

I let all you pussies run your mouth when I had all the cameras on me now I’m coming to get you your a fake bitch and you’re in trouble you have to pay the price … I’m coming to your house

No, I think that’s still illegal in this world.

I’ve gotten my share of vulgar, half-literate email over the years, and a few threats. But none from a guy who is star of a program associated with the National Broadcasting Company.

CNBC has finally done the right thing and disassociated itself from the guy as they fill up their prime time with “Shark Tank” reruns and the considerably more estimable host of “The Profit.”

But how did they ever have go into business with him in the first place?

 

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Monday TV: Sorry ‘State of Affairs’

StateofAffairsI’m no “Scandal” fan, but it seems like “West Wing” compared to “State of Affairs” (NBC, 10 p.m.) the latest in the strong-woman in Washington trend that began with “Homeland” and continues with “Madame Secretary.” Here, Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy” plays the person who prepares the CIA briefing for the President each day. Except that she was going to marry the President’s son, who just got killed in Afghanistan. Her private life now is all out of control, with drinking and bar pickups even if she has to go to work at 2 a.m.

More than that, she’s deciding policy, telling troops to help save a doctor who looks like her fiancé rather than go after a main terror target. And she keeps the President out of the loop, in part by jumping trucks in her high heels and breezing into the Oval Office. It goes one step beyond preposterousness and would be a good comedy except for its dull parts and how it wraps itself in patriotism to justify everything. (Here’s a story I wrote about the series for the Courant).

“Banksy Does New York” (HBO, 9 p.m.) entertainingly chronicles October, 2013, when the celebrated and shadowy graffiti artist Banksy unveiled a new work for every day of the month, sending art fans scurrying to edges of boroughs they hadn’t known to capture it on their phones. The wealth of such public documentation — and Banksy’s own running commentary on Instagram, made the task easier for filmmaker Chris Mourkabel, because certainly the artist had no involvement in the movie.

Half the time, though, by the time followers got to the works, they were already erased, scribbled over or stolen by brash entrepreneurs hoping to make thousands in resale. Some of the fascination of “Banksy Does New York” is seeing how people react — how some are delighted by the middlebrow scavenger hunt, how snobbish art press chose not to cover it at all, how New York thugs were allowed to operate openly without any challenge from passerby (except to video it on their phones). Many of the Banksy pieces, though, were also thoughtful and clever commentaries that deserve our attention again even if they couldn’t survive long in the city.

In another documentary tonight on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) called “Happiness” examines the effect of sudden electricity in a village in the Himalayas.

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Sunday TV: The Last of Worricker

worricker_4440_salting_675x290-scale-2000x2000David Hare’s “Worricker” series comes to a close with the third and least effective episode, “Salting the Battlefield,” on “Masterpiece Contemporary” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). It follows up on last week’s island action starring Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter, on the lam. Wynona Rider and Christopher Walken are out of the picture but Judy Davis is front and center and there’s a lot more of Ralph Fiennes as prime minister.

Neal got some secret documents and a whole lot of trouble ensued on a new episode of “The Newsroom” (HBO, 9 p.m.). Also,  it looks like the company is about to be sold as well.

Carrie gets it together after her freakout last week and there’s some nail-biting action in the Saul situation on “Homeland” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

The crime finally becomes more apparent in a new episode of “The Affair” (Showtime, 10 p.m.), which, like “Homeland,” were renewed for new seasons this week.

 

Elections are over everywhere but on “The Good Wife” (CBS, 9 p.m.), where Alicia has to do something odious for there campaign.

On “The Comeback” (HBO, 10 p.m.), Valerie tries to talk Jane (Laura Silverman) into leading the reality camera team around her again, but she’s been busy making Oscar-winning documentaries.

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Saturday TV: A Gripping ‘Missing’

the-missing-james-nesbitt-featured-620x400Starz’ original programming began in genre tales awash in the sex and violence premium cable allows with “Spartacus” and “White Sails.” It began to become more rich in recent seasons with “Outlander” and the just-completed “The Chair.”

Now, in part because of a partnership with BBC, they’ve got their best series yet in “The Missing” (Starz, 9 p.m.). It’s the kind of tale that’s been told a number of times before, but is done with a finesse and urgency that makes it a standout. And with a strong cast leading, it is able to step in for fans of “Broadchurch” for whom “Gracepoint” is not cutting it.

James Nesbitt stars as the parent wrenched by the sudden disappearance of a 5-year-old son during the chaos of a World Cup celebration in a small French town while on vacation. He’s become obsessed to the point where people in the town seeing him return think him a crazy man. It’s a deep enough wound that his marriage has dissolved, though his ex, Frances O’Connor (who has had her share of missing son problems before on film, particularly in “A.I.”), is still deeply affected. A retired detective, Tcheky Karyo, reluctantly takes up the case and the investigation picks up eight years after it’s started.

Tonight’s pilot is a wonder, a subtle shifting back and forth from the day of the incident to the present day, and ends with a searing clue to the way forward. It’s only an eight-episode season, so dig in now.

Lifetime continues its bio-films on female celebrities who died early.  First Brittany Murphy, and now “Aaliyah: The Princess of R & B” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.) with Alexandra Shipp as the singer who died in a 2001 plane crash. Her life is also subject of the documentary that follows on “Beyond the Headlines” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.). Similarly, there’s a replay of “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” (VH1, 10 p.m.), which, at two and a half hours, may be longer than their career.

And preseason holiday fare continues with the new “Northpole” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.), about fighting the crisis of togetherness that imperils Santa’s hometown, it’s up to an elf to make the difference.

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Playlist 11-14-14

radioCPRStarted off the Friday Night rock show with a reprise of Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” in honor of his show here Sunday.

Went into some mid-60s spy music and some TV on the Radio and Chuck Prophet, who both have shows in town Sunday, and some Lucinda Williams and Ian Hunter, who put on strong shows in the city earlier this week.

Ten songs from the expanded “Basement Tapes” that represented only a fraction of the whole set. A touch of rockabilly and old school hip hop. Here’s what I played on the radio tonight:

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Friday TV: Another Awards Show

QueenLatifahToo early for awards season? You bet it is. But here’s The Hollywood Film Awards (CBS, 8 p.m.), on TV for the first time to fulfill the never ending desire to see stars in evening wear. The awards, being held at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles,  have been occurring for 17 years but were never taken completely seriously by stars since it was never exactly clear who was giving the awards (and it still isn’t). Maybe that doesn’t matter. Queen Latifah hosts and Janelle Monae performs.

For a show that was run by one guy for years, CBS is going all in on this premiere, with a red carpet pre show at 7:30 p.m. and a “CBS This Morning Post-Awards Show” (CBS, 10 p.m.) with Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King, as if this will be something worth analyzing.

What’s happened to the music industry? They try for answers on a documentary called “The Hitmakers” (PBS, 9 p.m.). But it also has time for performances from Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars but talks to people like Questlove, Lorde, Melissa Etheridge and Sharon Jones on how to craft a hit.

Comedy specials tonight include “Sebastian Maniscalco: Aren’t You Embarrassed” (Showtime, 11 p.m.) and just after midnight, “Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats” (Netflix, streaming).

Martin Short, Sen. Rand Paul, Andrew Sullivan and Jeremy Scahill appear on a new “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

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