Matt Roush

Hot Seats Here Watching TV Can Be Pure Torture

In just six months on Beverly Hills, 90210, Noah Hunter has loved and left bad girl Val, taken up with former career virgin Donna, bought the Peach Pit After Dark and been unjustly arrested a far kinder one-on the life of Vincent Young, who plays Noah, the newest hard body on the soap. For starters, he has his own bed now. "I always lived with actors, and we'd rotate each night between the couch, the bed and the floor. Whoever had the most important meeting the next day got the bed," says Young, who these days enjoys a king-size mattress in his own West Hollywood penthouse apartment.

Then there was that mob at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas not long ago. Eager fans swarmed the lobby when word circulated that Young was inside with friends. "Every day people come up no matter where I am," says the actor, who's enjoying his new fame. "They always say, 'I don't watch the show,' then after 10 minutes, they're telling you everything ab read more

Roush Rant

E!'s Anna Nicole Show (Sundays, 10 pm/ET) is so horribly awful, so pathetically empty of life or joy or entertainment value, that I'm sure some will watch out of a sense of superiority, thinking it hip or ironic, just another part of the trashy celebrity-circus peep show. Those who do are little better than enablers of this sad, grotesque creature's addiction to the camera. Surrounded by drab retainers (a lawyer, a punk assistant), the has-been Playmate wants to be as "outrageous" as the show's lively cartoon credits promise, but she can barely muster the energy to be vulgar. We should do her and ourselves a favor and just look away. read more

No Easy Answers Soul-Searching After September 11

"It was hell on Earth," says one witness to the attacks of last September 11, a calamity that will be replayed and reexamined on TV and in other media for years to come.

Many still wonder: How in the name of God could this happen? Faith was shaken, but beliefs were also strengthened.

PBS's Frontline presents one of the first, yet almost certainly one of the most lasting of this month's commemorative specials with the two-hour Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero (September 3, check TV Guide listings). With sensitivity and unflinching honesty, this remarkable report opens with harrowing accounts of grief, in which family survivors either embraced or rejected God in the wake of their personal tragedy.

In chapters titled "The Face of God," "The Face of Evil" and "The Face of Religion," this somber documentary puts a human face on the spiritual and cultural debates that continue to r read more

Roush Rave

Although it's hard to imagine a universe in which Uma Thurman has trouble getting a date, HBO's evocative heartbreaker Hysterical Blindness (August 25, 9:30 pm/ET) convinces us with an '80s slice-of-life study of dead-end working-class Jersey girls consumed by their raw desperation for lasting romance. Big-haired Thurman and single-mom best pal Juliette Lewis strike an often ridiculous yet pathetically touching note as they conduct awkward mating dances at a local dive. As Thurman's weary waitress mother, Gena Rowlands shines with subtle grace in her scenes with lonely widower Ben Gazzara. read more

Where's the Buzz? Looking For Quality In New Fall Shows

If you like TV, the coming fall season may suit you just fine. A wave of new crime dramas, a couple of new doctor shows, a bushel of new family comedies. Business as usual — if only more of them felt new.

On the other hand, if you love TV, if you thrill to bold, innovative and exhilarating shows that aim to engage the viewer, better luck next fall — or, one hopes, mid-season.

A year ago, we were justifiably excited by fresh new series that included 24, Alias, Scrubs, The Amazing Race and Smallville. This year, hardly anything looks like it's even taking a chance.

If there's critical buzz for any new series, it would be for NBC's Boomtown (Sundays, 10 pm/E read more

Accent On Mystery PBS, A&E Adapt First-Rate Whodunits

Many's the summer I have spent engrossed in the literate detective novels of Elizabeth George, a rarity among writers of English mysteries in that she's an American who spins her stories from California.

In putting her books on film, thankfully, she hasn't gone Hollywood. She's gone to London (BBC) and Boston (WGBH) instead, resulting in a promising series of Mystery! movies that opens with The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: A Great Deliverance (PBS, August 19 and 26, check TV Guide listings).

Crime drama is prevalent on American TV as well, sparked by CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NBC's Law & Order franchise. But there's something uniquely compelling about the British landscape, its pastoral settings marred by primal violence.

George's hero, Thomas Lynley (Nathaniel Parker), is a titled aristocrat paired with a working-class frump, the resentful Sgt. Barbara Havers (Sharo read more

Roush Riff

NBC's pandering "reality" filler (Dog Eat Dog, Fear Factor, Spy TV) so often leaves us pining for the relative freshness of summer reruns that the network's Rerun Show (Tuesdays, 8 pm/ET) seems a mixed blessing. Making cheap jokes out of cheap jokes, this series re-creates "classic" episodes of such vintage sitcoms as Diff'rent Strokes and The Jeffersons in sketch-parody form. While it's fun mocking the mannered acting and cornball clich&#233s, there's a crudeness to the way the Rerun troupe exploits the sexual-innuendo subtext of these family comedies. As you'd expect, Nick at Nite beckons as a worthier alternative. read more

Just Rewards Emmy Nods Reflect Freshman Class Acts

Was it something we said? After years of critics griping about the Emmy Awards process — the same TV shows and stars getting nominated year after year, leaving little room for deserving up-and-comers — this season the academy woke up and realized what any discerning viewer already knew: It has been a great year for new work.

With HBO's The Sopranos ineligible because it sat out the season, the best (Fox's 24) and trendiest (HBO's Six Feet Under) of first-year dramas made the cut, along with CBS's sophomore phenom, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, forcing out stale perennials like ER and The Practice. Such breakthrough actors as read more

Watching A New Detective The quirky Monk makes crime time fun

Anyone seeking a little offbeat humor in a crime-scene investigation should look no further than the brilliant but bumbling Adrian Monk.

As impressively intuitive as Sherlock Holmes yet as anxiously agitated as a classic Don Knotts character in his obsessive-compulsive quirks and phobias, Monk may be, as one observer puts it, a "defective detective." He's also an original, and Tony Shalhoub (Wings, Big Night) evokes both wild hilarity and deep pathos in his intense portrayal of this damaged-goods gumshoe.

If Monk (USA Network, Fridays, 10 P.M./ET) is something short of a great murder-mystery series, it's still a terrifically entertaining character study, more fun than most of the new shows the networks have on tap for the fall season.

"This isn't police work. This is vaudeville," says his former boss (Ted Levine) as Monk absorbs evidence, eyes gleaming, a display that's invariably f read more

Roush Riff

HBO's Sex and the City (Sundays, 9 P.M./ET) is off to a promising start, asking if romance is still possible in the urban jungle its disappointed sirens call home. If the first two episodes weren't especially funny, chalk it up to maturity. Who would have ever thought this season's first glimpse of an exposed nipple would be a shot of Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) trying desperately to breast-feed her baby? And it's good to see the show opening the door to some new funny ladies, most notably Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon and Strangers With Candy's irrepressible Amy Sedaris as Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) publishers.

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