Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
TNT is going by the book in its approach to launching what the network is calling Mystery Movie Night, reviving a classic genre of TV by leaning heavily on best-selling brand names in the first wave of six titles airing through December on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. First up: Scott Turow's Innocent (9/8c), which isn't a statement of fact but an adaptation of Turow's successful return to the scene of his crime-novel breakthrough, Presumed Innocent (which was also a hit movie in 1990).
Picking up 20 years later, the diverting but decidedly unsubtle Innocent once again focuses on Rusty Sabich (Bill Pullman, nicely stepping into the morally ambiguous footprint left by Harrison Ford), now an appellate judge who long ago put behind him all those pesky memories of being accused and acquitted of his mistress's murder. (Spoiler alert for those unacquainted with the source material: His mentally unstable wife committed the crime and got away with it.) Turning 60, Rusty indulges a post-midlife crisis by having a brief fling with his devoted former law clerk (Mariana Klaveno, best known as Bill's seductive sire on True Blood). Yes, he should know better. And he's really sorry to be harboring secrets like this when his wife Barbara (Marcia Gay Harden) suddenly dies, and what initially looks like natural causes raises suspicions in the DA's office, where Rusty's longtime nemesis Tommy Molto (a well-cast, hangdog Richard Schiff) is convinced he has enough evidence to charge Rusty with murder. Seems like old times.
While Rusty admits, "I've made a lot of mistakes ... vanity, lust, pride," he insists he's guilty only of bad judgment, not murder. But if Barbara died accidentally or even committed suicide, why did Rusty wait 24 hours to report it? "None of this makes sense," Rusty admits when he takes the stand in a dramatically loaded trial, with Alfred Molina (in an underwritten role as Turow stalwart Sandy Stern) vigorously leading the defense. The final twists and reveals are inelegantly dramatized, but as TV, it's still a pretty fair page-turner. (I wish I were as encouraging about Wednesday's entry, Sandra Brown's Ricochet, which is simply dreadful.) TNT isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, or even the "mystery wheel," with this new franchise of formula programmers and potboilers, but I can think of few concepts that would fit more neatly into the network's wheelhouse.
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Attention, all misfits: Time to fly with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as the restored version of the 1964 stop-motion Rankin/Bass classic gets another prime-time outing (CBS, 8/7c), with Burl Ives' musical narration enlivening the memorable Johnny Marks score (including the iconic title tune). As a kid, I remember being unusually frightened by the Abominable Snow Monster, the "Grinch" of this story who bedevils rebel elf Hermey and outcast reindeer Rudolph. As an adult (kind of), I'm much more unnerved by the sad rejects who populate the Island of Misfit Toys. It all ends happily, of course, and Rudolph is an essential yearly pit stop on the way to anyone's "Holly Jolly Christmas."
For the grown-ups, FX offers the riveting first half of Sons of Anarchy's season finale (10/9c), so overstuffed with intense incident that the network deemed it fitting to give Kurt Sutter a second full episode to tie things up next week. (A no-brainer, actually, considering how well the show is doing in its finest season to date.) We pick up in the immediate aftermath of last week's violent finale, in which an enraged Opie plugs the irredeemable Clay several times in the chest for the murder of his father Piney among countless other sins. As the club goes into clean-up and cover-up mode, lies lead to disinformation that leads to more mayhem with potentially serious blowback. "I know how dangerous secrets can be, and it's time we all knew the truth," says ferocious Mama Bear Gemma (Katey Sagal), who makes some surprising moves to secure her place in the club and family hierarchy. "Things are in motion," she says. When hasn't that been the case this season?
So what else is on? ... Some selective highlights: Campaign season is over, on Fox's Glee (8/7c) anyway, and the results of the race for student council president are in. ... More Buffy vibes on the CW's Ringer (9/8c), as Amber Benson (Willow's beloved Tara) guests as an informant who meets with Agent Machado back in Wyoming. ... It's makeover time on NBC's The Biggest Loser (8/7c), and once the five remaining contestants get restyled by fashion guru Jeannie Mai and recoiffed by hairstylist Ken Paves, they get a reunion with a loved one to show off their bad (and slimmer) new selves. ... Meet America's Supernanny, Deborah Tillman from Georgia, as Lifetime (9/8c) finds a new parents' helper who doesn't sound quite as much like a maniacal Mary Poppins. ... Bravo is hardly known for its restraint, which explains why tonight's first-ever reunion show for The Millionaire Matchmaker (9/8c) has been expanded to two nights, concluding next Tuesday, with Andy Cohen debriefing Patti Stanger on her most memorably berserk clients.