November 17, 2007 in Features

‘Forrest,’ ‘Holes’ uniquely magical tales

Mike Hughes Gannett News Service
 

TODAY Must-see

“Forrest Gump” (1994, A&E) or “Holes” (2003, ABC Family), both 8 p.m.

Something special can happen when a show takes a half-step from reality, becoming a fable.

That’s happened neatly with some superb movies (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda”) or TV series (“Pushing Daisies”). They slide into a slightly different reality with a magical feel.

“Forrest Gump” is the most successful example. Inside its odd reality – a simple-minded man who becomes enmeshed in modern history – it had a gifted director (Robert Zemeckis), star (Tom Hanks) and supporting cast. The result ranges from humor to emotion.

Another strong example is “Holes.” Again, the story is odd – in a juvenile detention camp, boys simply dig holes all day. It’s fun along the way, yet it makes its own kind of sense in the end. And it’s perfectly directed by Andrew Davis, better known for such intense films as “The Fugitive.”

Oddity

“PU-239,” 8 p.m., HBO.

In modern Moscow, we’re told, the economy has collapsed. Low-level crooks scramble, high-level ones bask in wealth and the common man doesn’t have a chance.

One such man wanders into the situation with a unique asset.

He’s been abandoned by the nuclear facility that he risked his life to save. Dying of radiation poisoning he makes a desperate step to finance his family: He steals weapons-grade plutonium and tries to sell it to the highest bidder.

What follows is a darkly depressing tale, superbly played by Paddy Considine, Oscar Isaac, Radha Mitchell and more. This is a brutal story, but you have to admire the rich detail of its characters and emotions.

Other choices include

“The Rivalry,” 10 a.m., HBO; football, noon, ABC. If you haven’t yet seen HBO’s superb documentary about the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, catch it this morning. Then settle in for this year’s game. This had been expected to be one of the great confrontations, with Ohio State ranked No. 1 and both teams undefeated in Big Ten play. Alas, both teams lost last Saturday; the conference title is still at stake, but a small amount of the fun is missing.

“Without a Trace,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun steps into the odd world of competitive eating.

“National Treasure” (2004, USA Network) or “Gone in 60 Seconds” (8 p.m., FX). Nicolas Cage is up to much mischief. In the FX film, he’s merely stealing cars; on USA, he must (for worthy purposes) steal a beloved artifact.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Rushing to catch an unstable killer, Stabler is seriously injured.

SUNDAY Must-see

“Nature: The Beauty of Ugly,” 8 p.m., KSPS.

It’s not easy to hold an ugly-animal contest. The candidates are plentiful.

There’s the ghost-face bat, the needle-toothed viperfish, the Indian stork, the naked mole rat. There are tapeworms that grow to 35 or 40 feet.

All are shown here, in full glory.

Many ugly features are useful. The warthog uses its “warts” (cartilage, actually) to deflect tusks; the mole rat uses its nakedness to exchange heat quickly during group hugs.

These stories are told with an appealing mix of science, humor and truly ugly pictures.

Might-see

American Music Awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC. The awards are meaningless, but the lineup is impressive. Performers include Daughtry, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Brown and Rascal Flatts.

Other choices include

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. Ever notice that fitness gyms mostly draw people who don’t need fitness gyms? Now Marge starts one for regular women; worried about the comparison, Homer decides to get in shape, too. Meanwhile, a new comic-book store creates troubles for the Comic Book Guy.

“Andrew Jackson,” 8-10 p.m., History Channel. Historians have found much to love or hate in Andrew Jackson. To some, he was a people’s president, a frontier spirit who disrupted the rule of rich men; to others, he was crude and contentious, rewarding political favorites and creating economic crises. Here’s a profile.

“Shark,” 10 p.m., CBS. Stark is busy trying to pin a murder rap on an arsonist, after a firefighter dies during a rescue attempt. Then he learned an added twist: The rescue never had a chance; the victim was killed prior to the blaze.

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