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The Televisionist, May 20



8 p.m. Sunday, May 23

You know, there were times over the past six years when I wondered whether I'd made the right decision to abandon “Lost” after the first season. A good number of my friends were hooked, and talked about the show with lustful abandon. The problem was, after a few episodes, I began to suspect that the writers didn't know what the hell was going on any more than I did. Polar bears? Smoke monsters? Numbers? I'm down with that. But the implicit promise of any fictional mystery is: Be patient, because eventually the solution will be revealed to you. Now, as the show comes to a close, it's increasingly clear from interviews with creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof that the carrots and sticks that kept people watching don't exist. Oh, they're playing smart, making noises like they still know the answers but have chosen, for whatever reason, to keep them to themselves. But the truth is obvious: They were selling smoke all this time. That would have royally pissed me off had I been hanging on every word. As is, it will just make me question any series or film that bears the Abrams and/or Lindelof stamp in the future (including one of my faves, Fox's “Fringe”). Just remember: They're the guys who dry-humped you for six years, then laughed all the way to the bank.

—David Koon

Wednesday at 9 p.m.
The Discovery Channel

Everybody wonders about it during the dark watches of the night, I guess: What would I do if the chips were down? Would I fold, or would I go all in? “Die Hard” fantasies aside, most of us will never face a situation that puts us in that position: life or death, do or die. I say luckily, because tests of that caliber tend to be the kind that you don't walk away from, which is probably why the Congressional Medal of Honor is often awarded posthumously. That said, if you're at all interested in getting a cheat sheet on how to beat Death at his own game, you might want to watch the new show from The Discovery Channel, “Worst Case Scenario.” Based on the bestselling series of books, the show follows former British Special Forces commando and tough dude Bear Grylls as he risks life and limb to take on harrowing situations you might encounter in real life. Escape from sinking cars, dog attacks, rattlesnake bites, and burning buildings are all on the menu. I'm no fan of Bear Grylls, whose other Discovery Channel effort “Man vs. Wild” is probably a primer for how to die horribly in the jungle if you're the average person, but this show looks promising — kind of a life-and-limb “Mythbusters.” That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.


Sunday 9 p.m.

Editor's note: New contributor John Earney took issue with Lindsey Millar's critique of ‘Treme' in last week's paper and fires back with his take on the series.

I have no clue how it can even be suggested that “Treme” is not rife with the finger-snapping, cigarette-break-inducing, intense dramatic edge that David Simon has become known for — character-driven shows about the America we don't care to think about. Sure, we all know that Katrina was terrible and the policy was ridiculous and George Bush hated black people, but saying that David Simon can't find drama in this situation is like saying a hand-drawn cartoon about the Holocaust isn't Oscar bait. Simon succeeds in zeroing in on this type of devastation and personalizing it — whether it's a Mardi Gras chief trying to find and accommodate his tribe or a talented chef struggling to keep her restaurant afloat, it's the human element that keeps “Treme” afloat.

Putting a city as culturally unique and rich as New Orleans under the microscope does tend to have an alienating effect on the viewer, which, as Lindsey put it, can “sometimes make you feel bad for not knowing what's up.” I think this actually makes “Treme” that much more powerful — you're not told to feel guilty, but you do. It's mind boggling that some of these characters are able to keep going after Katrina, but what allows them to forge ahead is exactly what “Treme” is about.

In “Treme,” Simon explores the cement that held New Orleans together, and not surprisingly, the answer is the culture — specifically the music. The music numbers are long, but effective. Watching a show about New Orleans that brushes over the music would be like taking a drive-by tour of the Grand Canyon. That's not to say I dig all of the music; I'm not crazy about most of the songs Sonny (Michiel Huisman) plays, but after all, he's this season's Pete Campbell.

-John Earney

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