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Trilogies more than just special effects

By MIKE HUGHES Gannett News Service

Tonight’s must-see

“The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings” (2001), 7 p.m., TNT; or “Star Wars” (1977), 8 p.m., Spike.

Two great movie trilogies return. Over three nights, you can catch all the “Lord of the Rings” movies or the original “Star Wars” films.

“Rings” came decades later, with a much bigger budget. Still, “Star Wars” caught up by re-editing it in 1997 (titled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”).

Both trilogies depend on much more than special effects. They get us to care about small people who face the mightiest forces of the universe.

Tonight’s might-see

“Monk,” 9 p.m., USA Network. Here’s a new episode, which the show held back for the holiday season. Three homeless men nudge Monk into solving their friend’s murder.

Some of the humor attempts flop. Monk’s obsession with cleanliness loses its fun when he’s insulting people who are having a rough time.

Once we’re past that, however, this is a fun hour, with a mystery that makes sense, in an odd, over-the-top way.

Other choices include

“School of Rock” (2003), 8-10 p.m., Fox. A slacker musician borrows a friend’s identity and becomes a substitute teacher, then teaches kids to rock and live. That sounds flimsy, but this has all the right people – director Richard Linklater, star Jack Black, co-star (and scriptwriter) Mike White – for intelligence and fun.

“The Polar Express” (2004), 8 p.m., ABC. Once we reach the North Pole, there are moments of jaw-dropping beauty. Still, there are also drawbacks. The “performance capture” animation makes characters seem stiff and distant.

“Everybody Hates Chris,” 8. and 9 p.m., CW. Here are two rounds of one of TV’s best comedies. First is a new episode in which Chris’ dad tries to be a better husband by watching “Oprah.” Then is a rerun of the season-opener: Chris starts high school in an all-white class with a bigoted teacher.

“Psych,” 10 p.m., USA. Who can resist kids who fret because a mall Santa is in jail? Alas, Shawn soon faces scam masters in a fairly good hour.

Mike Hughes covers television for the Lansing State (Mich.) Journal and Gannett News Service. Reach him at mhughes@lsj.com.
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