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Friday, November 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Alien Vacation’ Seems Like A Sales Job

By John Martin New York Times Syndicate

What has become an annual event on CBS always leaves me a little annoyed by the ever-fading line between entertainment and marketing.

“Sea World and Busch Gardens Adventures: Alien Vacation!” (CBS at 8) is back with new and exciting ways to entice families to pick up the telephone and make travel plans that include the beer company’s theme parks.

Yes, it is one big commercial, overstating the worlds of fun you can have at these tourist traps.

Yes, it is a fun broadcast with some well-known stars, most of them kid favorites, who frolic at the parks.

Brad Garrett and Doris Roberts of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Adam Busch (“The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo”), Darris Love (“The Secret World of Alex Mack”), Lori Beth Denberg (“All That”) and figure skater Michelle Kwan take part in this year’s special. Musical performances are by All-4-One and country star Bryan White.

The twist this time out is that Rodney Dangerfield and David Coulier appear as space aliens on a 24-hour mission to study humans interacting with animals. Which is what the stars do.

Busch is always careful to include many pro-environmental messages, and that helps lower my degree of cynicism.

Highlights

“Frasier,” NBC at 9: In a howlingly funny repeat, Niles (David Hyde Pierce) moves into a swanky apartment building and hosts a dinner party to impress his new neighbors. But his pet parrot fouls the evening’s fun and grounds Frasier’s (Kelsey Grammer) promising new relationship.

“Race Against Time: The Search for Sarah” (1986), CBS at 9: Richard Crenna and Patty Duke star in a fact-based story of parents who out-hustle police when their 22-year-old daughter is abducted.

It’s a better-than-average drama. But this theme of courageous parents doing the work police should be doing is one that TV movies need to outgrow.

“Home Improvement,” ABC at 9: From December, Tim’s (Tim Allen) Christmas plan is to buy and renovate the boyhood home he and his father helped build. But the new owners have other plans.

Bonnie Bartlett guest-stars as the Tool Man’s mom.

“Frontline,” KSPS at 9: “Easy Money” examines legalized gambling in California and Nevada, including an eye-opening look at how the industry goes about getting its way in state legislatures. What you find is, at best, an uncomfortable partnership between the gambling business and state governments.

“P.O.V.,” KSPS at 2 a.m.: This series always impresses by taking viewers places that network news shows might not go. “Battle for the Minds” looks at the controversy over female pastors in the Southern Baptist denomination.

Cable Calls

“Cracker: White Ghost” (1996), A&E; at 6 and 10: “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane) is on a lecture tour in Hong Kong when he is asked by local authorities to find a killer who apparently suffers from some deep psychological problems.

The crime shrink has to cope with a condescending Hong Kong detective (Freda Foh Shen) and a suspect (Barnaby Kay) who may kill his pregnant lover next. As usual, it’s tense drama, with Coltrane in top form. However, for once, Fitzgerald’s personal life seems calm. Never a standard whodunit, “Cracker” is one of Britain’s best imports.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: George Clooney (“ER”) and CBS golf analyst Gary McCord.

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actress Isabella Rossellini, Andy Dick (“NewsRadio”) and violinist Gil Shaham.

“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:35 a.m.: Marty Stuart, Robert Klein, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and sports talk-show host Jim Rome.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Director Spike Lee, political analyst Arianna Huffington and musical guest Ben Folds Five.

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