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November 27, 2013

Program Reviews - 'Silver Bells,' 'Treme,' 'Kirstie'

“Silver Bells,” Sun, Dec 1, 7p ET, Up. Christmas has provided more than its share of films poking fun at overzealous, awkward dads. Think Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989), for example. Here Bruce Boxleitner wears the crown, playing Bruce Dalt, a windbag sportscaster who’s far less loveable than Chase’s Clark Griswold. Boxleitner portrays this clueless jerk with the right amount of bluster and arrogance. Before long Dalt has screwed things up mightily for himself and his family as the holiday season begins. Things get more serious when Dalt’s temper leads him to be sentenced to community service, which turns out to be fortuitous. An omniscient Salvation Army official (Antonio Fargas) assigned to supervise Dalt helps him see the errors of his ways. Along the road, Dalt also reconciles with his son, his boss and presumably his maker. And wouldn’t you know it, he does all this in time for Christmas. It’s a light but good story, decently-acted and appropriate for family viewing.

“Treme,” season III premiere, Sun, Dec 1, 9p, HBO. Full disclosure: Your reviewer has been an unabashed fan of this David Simon (“The Wire”) series about life in post-Katrina New Orleans since it began in 2010. Treme is far from everyone’s cup of gumbo, yet even its detractors admit Simon and his crew have accurately depicted the Crescent City’s multi-ethnic heritage, including music, food, drink and the let-the-good-times roll attitude. No drama has provided a look at the ways of Mardi Gras Indians or the lives of working musicians. For these reasons, as well as healthy doses of New Orleans musicians on the bandstand, Treme is a treasure. In addition, there’s a terrific cast, led by veteran character actors Wendell Pierce and Steve Zahn, aided greatly by Clarke Peters, Melissa Leo, Khandi Alexander and Kim Dickens. Unfortunately, this season’s episodes will be the series’ last. On the other hand, many series are cancelled mid-stream, without allowing showrunners to end story arcs in a creatively satisfying way. We’ll refrain from discussing Treme’s final episode until it premieres Dec 29. Until then, loyal viewers, and admittedly it’s a small but intense group, should enjoy this holiday gift from HBO, as Simon ties up several plotlines neatly, although some involve much pathos. A few plotlines end ambiguously, too. It’s as if Simon is telling us the stories of these people, like New Orleans itself, continue to be written.

“Kirstie,” premiere, Wed, Dec 4, 10p, TV Land. This new comedy probably won’t be mistaken for classic television, although its stars are iconic figures from great sitcoms past: Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman and Michael Richards. Stacking the deck even more, announced guest stars include George Wendt, Jason Alexander, John Travolta and Cloris Leachman. You can see where this is going. Should “Kirstie” be renewed, it’s inevitable that agents for Ted Danson, Alan Alda and Jerry Seinfeld will receive calls. The series itself—about a self-centered Broadway starlet whose son returns home after she gave him up for adoption 26 years ago—seems merely a vehicle to wedge together on screen as many sitcom alums as possible. Still, it’s not a bad ride. Alley plays over-the-top pretty well, and Perlman and Richards are practiced foils. TV Land has made its name resurrecting comedy stars of the past. Kirstie seems a good fit for that successful formula.    







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