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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Features

‘Moving,’ ‘Haul’ devoid of helpful tips

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

When did “makeover” shows become so content-free? Time was you could turn on a show like “This Old House” or “Ground Force” and learn a thing or two about laying tile or planting a shrub. There was some practical information involved.

The new generation of makeover series, including “Moving Up” (8 p.m., tonight, TLC) and “Town Haul” (10 p.m., tonight, TLC), seem to pride themselves on emptiness. They’re 100-percent free of any useful tips.

Every episode of “Moving Up” follows three households in the process of moving and renovation. Couple A buys the house belonging to couple B, who in turn buys a house previously owned by homeowner C.

Along with host Doug Wilson, viewers are asked to spend an hour – a very long hour – watching people brag, complain, argue and shop. While we’re often informed about the price tag for a specific stove or cabinet, we never learn about the nitty-gritty of grouting or even painting.

But if “Moving Up” is merely empty, “Town Haul” offers a toxic stew of disinformation.

In last week’s episode, “Haul” contractor Ray Romano (no relation to the star of “Everybody Loves Raymond”) discovered that construction plans for their renovation of a local business, an ice-cream parlor called Kelly’s Kones, actually infringed on a neighbor’s property. In the spirit of “the show must go on,” Romano offered the neighbor a wad of bills to make the problem go away.

Not to be a persnickety nerd, but how will this “arrangement” be explained if and when Kelly, or her neighbor, decides to sell their property? Don’t they deal with zoning laws in the world of “Town Haul”? How about building inspectors and planning boards?

Is the Arnold Schwarzenegger story tragedy or farce? The folks behind the TV film “See Arnold Run” (9 p.m., Sunday, A&E) couldn’t make up their minds, so they gave us two movies for the price of one.

Told in overlapping flashbacks, “Run” presents the story of young Arnold (Roland Kickinger, “Son of the Beach”) as a visionary bodybuilder immigrant, as well as Arnold the elder (Jurgen Prochnow), the actor-turned-politician and his recent successful run for California governor.

For reasons unclear, Prochnow, the capable star of “Das Boot,” plays Schwarzenegger as a stiff, sound-bite-spouting Teutonic automaton surrounded by political handlers. The story line is generally sympathetic to Schwarzenegger’s candidacy, so the Enron-generated crisis that beset California Gov. Gray Davis is never mentioned. Opponents of Davis’ controversial recall are depicted as humorless, radical and deranged.

But while much of “Run” could have been scripted by Fox News or the Republican National Committee (not that they would ever collaborate), Prochnow’s portrayal is utterly charm-free. His version of Arnold could never have become a movie star or win election to any office.

Kickinger’s character is far more beguiling and worthy of our affection. But his part of the film is marred by flashbacks that seem to skip back and forth in time.

Shot like a movie with gripping special effects, the documentary “Pompeii: The Last Day” (9 p.m., Sunday, Discovery) offers a moment-by-moment chronology of events beginning with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the year A.D. 79. Presenting the latest in geological research as well as the contemporary observations of Pliny the Younger, “Pompeii” also dramatizes the lives of Roman citizens, soldiers and slaves going about their business on that fateful day, unaware that they would soon be entombed in volcanic ash.

Tonight’s highlights

A gun-smuggling sting backfires on “Law & Order” (8 p.m., NBC).

Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in the 2002 comedy “Snow Dogs” (8 p.m., ABC).

After an apparent suicide, police suspect the dead woman’s husband on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (9 p.m., NBC).

Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (10 p.m., CBS): a look at Michael Jackson’s private life.

A predator with tenure on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (10 p.m., NBC).

Mike’s guest ruins the mood on “Desperate Housewives” (10 p.m., ABC).

Sunday’s highlights

Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): a profile of Hilary Swank; an interview with Ukranian President Victor Yuschenko.

Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich star in the 2005 drama “The Magic of Ordinary Days” (9 p.m., CBS).

A fetching felon targets clueless collectors on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (9 p.m., NBC).

A fall from a saddle may be more than it seems on “Crossing Jordan” (10 p.m., NBC).

Lynette faces up to her dependency on “Desperate Housewives” (10 p.m., ABC).

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