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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Exec tries minimum wage on ‘30 Days’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

What’s it like to live on minimum wage for a month?

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) and his fiancee, Alexandra Jamieson, do just that in debut installment of “30 Days” (10 p.m., FX), a new series inviting participants to experience life in a radical new way for a one-month period.

Morgan and Alexandra embark on their “Minimum Wage” adventure directly after attending the Academy Awards ceremonies in Hollywood. They soon would have bigger regrets than finding out that “Super Size Me” did not win for best documentary.

Faced with jobs that pay approximately $45 dollars a day after taxes, they set out to find an apartment they can afford on their income. They settle for a studio in a Columbus, Ohio, complex called The Bottoms.

Although their apartment is the site of a former crack house and is infested with ants, they are overjoyed that the owner doesn’t ask for an upfront security deposit.

Alexandra takes a job at a coffee bar and walks several miles to her job and back to save $2.50 a day on bus fare. Morgan takes odd construction and landscaping jobs that pay a little better than minimum wage. Soon both of them get hurt on the job and require hospital visits that blow through their meager budget.

The hourlong show does an excellent job of demonstrating how one hardship begets another. Without a good job, they can’t afford a car, and without a car they can’t really buy a lot of groceries, forcing them to subsist on bad food they can find and afford locally.

They seem to spend hours waiting for buses that come late, if at all. They are frequently forced to take cabs, and the fare can cost them up to a third of a day’s pay.

They spend one weekend with Spurlock’s niece and nephew and continually fight over how much they are spending to indulge the kids. They are continually cold, hungry and cranky with each other.

“Minimum Wage” also demonstrates why persistent poverty is so rarely part of the television experience. Marketing folks tell us that we watch TV to escape, not dwell on unpleasantness.

“30 Days” lacks the strident tone of Michael Moore’s films. Spurlock does not demonize any one group or political party; he simply asks us to look at life through the eyes of a stranger and hopes we think about what we see.

You can’t ask much more than that.

Future installments of “30 Days” will follow an out-of-shape dad undergoing an intensive anti-aging regime, a Christian living with an American Muslim family, and an Arizona mother out to teach her kids a lesson by becoming a binge drinker on a one month spree.

Other highlights

Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (8 p.m., CBS): Internet diploma mills; Julliard students; the children of gangster Henry Hill.

A paratrooper needs a parapsychologist to locate him on “Psychic Detectives” (8 p.m., NBC).

Entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste hosts “Buggin’ with Ruud” (5 and 8 p.m., Animal Planet), a new series about insects of the world.

On back-to-back episodes of “Law & Order” (NBC), pedestrian peril (9 p.m.), and local casualties in the war on terror (10 p.m.).

A serial killer haunts kinky clubs on “The Inside” (9 p.m., Fox).

Cha-cha-cha-changes on “Dancing with the Stars” (9 p.m., ABC).

Three murders in three boroughs on “CSI: NY” (10 p.m., CBS).

Kate’s mystery deepens on “Lost” (10 p.m., ABC).

“American Masters” (9 p.m., KSPS) profiles the late TV chef Julia Child.

Cult choice

Richard Gere stars as reluctant soldier dragged into manhood by a tough drill sergeant (Louis Gossett Jr.) and a working-class gal (Deborah Winger) in the 1982 romance “An Officer and a Gentleman” (8 p.m., AMC). Gere also stars in Robert Altman’s 2000 vehicle “Dr. T & the Woman” (6 and 9:45 p.m., Independent Film Channel).

Series notes

Jackie gets local exposure on “That ‘70s Show” (8 p.m., Fox) … A pregnant pause on “All of Us” (8 p.m., UPN)… Missiles and makeup on “Beauty and the Geek” (8 p.m., WB).

Gavin’s discovery on “Stacked” (8:30 p.m., Fox) … A kitchen deception on “Eve” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

Bad directions on “King of Queens” (9 p.m., CBS) … A student vote may not have been legit on “Veronica Mars” (9 p.m., UPN) … College recruiters on “Smallville” (9 p.m., WB) … He-men and hormones on “Yes, Dear” (9:30 p.m., CBS).