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This week's best TV programs

This week’s best TV programs — The sci-fi series ”Mysterious Ways” debuts, while Jennifer Beals and Sam Waterston star in ”A House Divided”

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This week’s best TV programs

MONDAY July 24

MYSTERIOUS WAYS
Adrian Pasdar, late of the great 1996 series Profit, plays an anthropologist who probes ”miraculous phenomena.” Rae Dawn Chong is a shrink with whom he teams up. He’s a believer; she’s a skeptic. Sound familiar? This X-Files rip wastes two appealing actors and contains lines like, ”What is anthropology? It’s about people.” Yeah, people who don’t need people watching this series. D
Ken Tucker

TUESDAY July 25

THEY NEST
As he did on Melrose Place, Thomas Calabro plays a put-upon doctor beset with uncontrollable vermin. In this ”by the numbers” chiller, however, his nemeses are an army of deadly cockroaches that are decimating a sleepy Maine island community, and the local bumpkins intent on terrorizing his city slicker come lately. Think Alien meets Green Acres. C+

WEDNESDAY July 26

MEAT LOAF: TO HELL AND BACK
A better title for this biopic might be Meat Loaf for Dummies. Quickly we learn that young Loaf’s mother died of cancer, his father was a mean drunk, and the beefy pubescent was an easy target for meat, er, dodgeball. These half-baked morsels are offered as pat explanations for the clichéd decline, fall, and resurrection of a rock star. You’ll be praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive. C
Michele Romero

FRIDAY July 28

PEOPLE LIKE US
This Brit import provides a long-overdue service in its parodying of that ubiquitous fixture, the TV documentary. Mock investigative journalist Roy Mallard — who appears only as a disembodied voice behind the camera — tags along with ersatz real estate agents, policemen, and, in the premiere, the workers of a high-tech firm, spouting nonsensical narrative and lobbing inappropriate questions. In the end, he reveals next to nothing about these workaday worlds, but a whole lot about the ever-thinning line between fact and fluff. B+

SATURDAY July 29

TAXICAB CONFESSIONS 7
Smack-dab in this summer of video voyeurism run amok, Taxicab reminds us that it’s still television’s most bracingly honest ”reality” vehicle. It’s almost unfortunate that so many of its backseat gabbers traffic in the wilder side of life (in this case, a retired embalmer telling war stories from the mortuary; a transsexual call ”girl” with an impulse to violence; and a couple of bisexual swingers), for, freakiness aside, these lonely travelers represent a fascinating window into humanity. A-

SUNDAY July 30

A HOUSE DIVIDED
Perhaps the only pay-cable movie ever based on a Ph.D. dissertation, this 19th century period piece tells the true story of Amanda America Dickson (the always underestimated Jennifer Beals), a biracial Georgian who mounted a legal battle to win the inheritance of her slave-owner father (Sam Waterston, who also produced the film). Sensitively written by Paris Qualles (China Beach) and directed by John Kent Harrison (What the Deaf Man Heard), A House Divided is an enlightening case study, marred only by the mannered performance of The Practice‘s Lisa Gay Hamilton as Beals’ emotionally tortured mother. B
Bruce Fretts