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Primal Screen

Primal Screen: Hope for the Oscars

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The Academy Awards (6pm Sun, ABC)
I’m trying to be optimistic about the Oscars. I hold out hope for an enjoyable ceremony even after last year’s fiasco with hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway; even after Eddie Murphy dropped out of hosting this year’s event in favor of the (too?) familiar Billy Crystal. Yes, the Academy nominated all the obvious movies and performances, the ones that waved big “CHOOSE ME!” signs. And, yes, like most viewers, I plan to do my taxes during Best Sound Editing and the many other technical awards that matter only to the recipients.

So what do I have to look forward to? A loopy speech by Meryl Streep, a poignant one by Viola Davis, or a dreamy one by Michelle Williams for Best Actress; I’m good with any of those. A Best Supporting Actress win for Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy (I told you I’m trying to be optimistic). And, of course, another awards-season appearance by the dog from The Artist. If he doesn’t show up at the Kodak Theater, I’ll just have to go see him in the movie again. Really — he’s that cute.

Memphis (9pm Fri, PBS)
Here’s a deal for you: Instead of shelling out $100-plus to see Memphis on Broadway, you can see it for free on PBS. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that reading this column can actually save you money, did you?) The broadcast marks the first time a Best Musical Tony winner has aired on national TV with its original principals while the show is still touring and running in New York.

Memphis is set at a significant moment in history, when racial barriers were about to fall in the South. A white Memphis DJ (Chad Kimball) develops an interest in rhythm and blues songs, not to mention the African-American beauty (Montego Glover) who wails the forbidden music in a Beale Street club. The show isn’t exactly profound, but it offers a fun evening of singing and dancing while using the social issue as set dressing.

Question: Where was American Idol when the stunning Glover worked at Disney World as an unknown singer in the mid-2000s? Asleep at the wheel, as usual.

Celebrity Apprentice (8pm Sun, NBC)
Donald Trump abandoned his presidential campaign to return to reality TV. And you know what? If his presidency were as entertaining as the new season of The Celebrity Apprentice, I’d consider voting for him.
So far, Trump has toned himself down to become almost statesmanlike. He’s firm with the grade-Z celebrities vying to win his business competition (Arsenio Hall, George Takei, Aubrey O’Day), but not overbearing. During the elimination segment, he judiciously weighs the contestants’ reasonable comments while quickly dismissing their self-serving ones. When you think about it, that wouldn’t be a bad approach for presidential cabinet meetings. As ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson sagely observes, “Mr. Trump has a great B.S. meter.”

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