Inside the Actors Studio: Barbra Streisand
I make my living writing about TV, so I'm well aware of how hypocritical it is when I scream: She's just an entertainer, people. Talented, yes (though I can't watch or listen to her for more than a few seconds — and try to avoid even that), and her broad-spectrum arts achievements are undeniably impressive. But to watch Jim "The Bloviator" Lipton and this adoring crowd, you'd think she was about to lay hands on all of them before walking across the ocean to bring a working democracy to Iraq and rid the world of hunger and pestilence.

It's our shared duty to help Barbra. She'll never get over being so chronically enamored of herself if you don't stop first. At the end of two very long hours, I declare Streisand and Lipton's battle of affectation to be a draw. Ain't gonna be no rematch. Don't want one.

The Sopranos
Normally self-referential stuff can go either way for me; it can easily come off as way too cutesy. But it's an interesting wrinkle to have Junior watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and think Larry and Jeff are himself and Bobby. And it's a testament to this show that it can make you feel sorry for Junior in his mental deterioration despite all the awful things we know he's done. Never mind that the final scene with Tony is why I watch this show.

As for the lawnmower-man injuries, I put in my share of sweaty hours behind the old Toro in my teen years, scraping my knuckles and risking gangrene as I struggled to restart a grass-clogged engine. Little did I know how good I had it: At least I could move my arm at the end of the day.

Get the feeling we're not in Dodge City anymore? The cuss-words sure say we aren't. I mean, you never heard Marshall Matt Dillon drop an F-bomb on Miss Kitty. He sure never dropped a boot on her windpipe, either. And you never, ever saw Doc put a metal stick through a shooting victim's head. (I'm familiar, by the way, with such things because many folks claim they could do the same thing to me with no observable effect — without a gun.) Nope, there's definitely a new sheriff in town. New villain, too. And though this thing's a little slow to move, I'm enough of a Western fan to see where they're going with it. (I'm not sure, but I think Ian McShane's Al Swearengen is the bad guy.)

One big question, though, at least until I get used to it: Are they sure folks used that exact language in regular conversation back then? Not that I think they were too genteel for it or anything. It's just that I find it distracting when I'm so used to the clean banter of John Wayne, Alan Ladd and even Clint Eastwood.

And just so I know I'm in good company with my stratospheric gullibility quotient, you thought Sheriff Seth faked hanging that guy and was gonna let him go, too, didn't you? A nod will do fine. Please?

Crisscrossing Jordan
Yeah, I changed the title to indicate this is the second time I'm tuning into this show this weekend (see below). Aren't I the clever one.

Anyway, Macy heads to another country to do what he sees as the right thing by offending and berating the locals with his condescending bull-in-a-china-shop act. (What, you thought the crime was the only thing ripped from the headlines?) Good thing the rules-be-damned approach is the right call and everything works out in the end — on TV, anyway.


NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Syracuse vs. Maryland
A standard horror storyline revolves around a protagonist who learns how he or she is going to die and then mounts a futile effort to avoid the predicted demise. Welcome to my world: I know exactly how I'm going and can't do a damned thing about it, either. You'll find me after a Syracuse hoops game, on the floor, white-faced and stiff with dead hand clutching at my chest. Don't bother with an autopsy; it will be another blown or nearly blown S.U. lead that did it. I come damn close this time as the Orangemen let the Terps eat away a 16-point advantage. Syracuse just barely hangs on for a two-point victory, but not until I've screamed myself ragged, cracked several molars and caused my wife to reevaluate our relationship.

Going a little overboard, you think? Cut me some slack. My alma mater gives me seasonal hypertension on an annual basis and my brackets are already blown to hell, as they are every year because I insist on picking little teams I want to win instead of those I think will win. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Princeton, Manhattan, Valparaiso and East Tennessee State.)


I like this show and am rooting for it to overcome its early ratings letdown. But even I knew from the start that "get her words out" had nothing to do with finishing Binky's stuttered sentences for her. Still, here's hoping "five-word blurb girl who lives in a trailer" catches on. She deserves to have an audience, as she so artfully puts it, in all her cracks. (Out of the cesspool, gutter-mind. You'd know what I mean if you watched this.)

Crossing Jordan
Lately this is just full of mysteries — and not the story kind, either. First a bunch of us wondered what happened to last season's cliff-hanger. That's one's been solved; NBC says it'll be addressed in the near future. The latest puzzler, though: Where the heck is Crossing Jordan's Jordan? Nowhere to be found in this episode. (Of course, they couldn't break with tradition enough to omit the bullet being plucked from the radioactive corpse's skull — which I catch while eating a late dinner. And the irony of poor Woody worrying about his privates enough to keep his anti-radiation protection in one scene, then stopping a fast-moving foot with them only a few scenes later isn't lost on me, either.) But is this Crossing Devan tonight, or what? Curiouser and curiouser...

The D.A.
I hear you: We've already seen the career-driven D.A. weasel, when it was Boomtown's David McNorris (Neal McDonough). But try to be a little understanding, huh? Legal shows are like nicotine for TV execs; you could tell them they're not allowed to put anymore on, but you sure wouldn't want to have to deal with the aftermath. Besides, these guys just discovered the morally ambiguous character (Vic Mackey, Tony Soprano) and they're paid a lot more than all of us combined to drill a successful concept into the ground with copycat versions that come in steadily decreasing levels of quality. It's, like, in the TV rulebook.

And it's Steven Weber, who's had a tough time with critics and the public lately, especially after his foray into comedy with the execrable Cursed. He's actually not a bad actor and he doesn't seem like a bad guy, so why shouldn't he get a shot at series success with a dramatic turn this time? Well, the fact that ABC has ordered only four episodes of this show is Reason 1. But all that aside, I'd have no problem with it going longer. Weber does the conniving politician well: He manages to make him likable enough to root for and it's fun to watch him undermine Bruno Campos every time Campos tries to do the right thing.

Also, I like seeing solid performer J.K. Simmons get another shot at displacing his image as Oz neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger, who spent most of his time calling people "prag" and making them... well, any more detail won't help erase the memories.