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What to watch

From ”The Growing Pains Movie” to a VH1 special on the Smashing Pumpkins, a guide to notable programs during the week of November 3, 2000

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MONDAY October 30

A HISTORY OF BRITAIN
Produced in conjunction with the BBC and based on host Simon Schama’s recent volume of the same name, Britain charts the genesis of what eventually became the United Kingdom, beginning with its era of subjugation under the Roman Empire and continuing through periods of barbarian chaos, myriad other foreign invasions, the good ol’ Dark Ages, up to Queen Elizabeth I. A jolly good pedigree, to be sure. (Concludes Nov. 1) A-
Mike Flaherty

TUESDAY October 31

DARK PRINCE: THE TRUE STORY OF DRACULA
Dracula — a Goth looking fella with a nasty appetite. But what was this master of the undead up to before he became the bloodsucking vampire we all know and love? As this surprisingly engaging cable pic shows, he was kicking major 15th century Turkish butt as prince of Romania. Rudolf Martin (who, incidentally, also played the Count in a recent Buffy episode) brings spooky stoicism to the role of Vlad Dracula, as the so called Impaler wages war on family and foes alike. By all means, take a bite. B+

WEDNESDAY November 1

THE STREET
Beaten to the opening bell by TNT’s similarly themed Bull, Fox’s Wall Street offering is selling sex rather than stocks. Straight from the oral themed opening, this Darren Star created drama plays like a bad Melrose Place episode with obligatory IPO terminology thrown in, passing up a realistic look at the topsy turvy world of professional trading for the dumbed down visages of young and attractive rich people (like Tom Everett Scott and Jennifer Connelly) hitting on each other. (Even the pilot episode’s token stock story involves the sale of sperm. How racy!) Greed may be good, but this is just plain bad. D+

FRIDAY November 3

JOHN FORSYTHE: GENTLEMAN JOHN
The drugs, the womanizing, the childhood being raised by pygmy lepers — you won’t find any such scandals in this pleasant if punchless Biography on the dashing and debonair John Forsythe. What you do get is a vivid portrait of the Dynasty star as a thoughtful, classy character and family man. Interesting career footnotes abound (the voice made famous on Charlie’s Angels got his start doing public address work for the Brooklyn Dodgers), but don’t come looking for spice and sizzle of the Blake Carrington variety, dahling. B-

SATURDAY November 4

VH1 STORYTELLERS: SMASHING PUMPKINS
Not only do Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins tend to traffic in the symbolic and tortured, they’re calling it quits at the end of the year, making them doubly provocative fodder for this intimate format. Mr. Pumpkin Head never quite settles into the confessional seat, but the self proclaimed zero (and alt rock pioneer) does drop his guard long enough to reveal the melancholy angst that has clearly fueled his infinite sadness. Even with the notable absence of early material, several thoughtfully unplugged essentials (”1979,” ”Today,” ”33”) make this patch of Pumpkins worth perusing. B+
Dan Snierson

SUNDAY November 5

THE LAST DEBATE
Resolved: We need a moratorium on such mediocre election year entertainments as The Contender; TNT’s recent Tom Selleck turkey, Running Mates; and this muddled adaptation of a novel by real life debate moderator Jim Lehrer. Granted, James Garner adds class to any project, but even the former Jim Rockford can’t redeem the fuzzy tale of four journalists who ambush a presidential candidate with scandalous allegations. Ex-NBC exec Jon Maas’ script is laced with kneejerk cynicism and glib one liners like ”The voters would rather watch ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire‘ than ‘Who Wants to Be President.”’ On that we agree: I’d rather watch Regis than this lame Debate. C-
Bruce Fretts

THE GROWING PAINS MOVIE
The entire original cast has somehow been lured back, but these are not the fun loving Seavers we laughed with during the sitcom’s enjoyable 1985- ’92 run. Like last February’s unforgivable rehash Mary and Rhoda, yuks are sacrificed for a disjointed ”dramatic” plot — this time centering on Maggie’s (Joanna Kerns) run for congress. But most offensive is what the writers have done to TV’s favorite party boy Mike (Kirk Cameron), now an upstanding father to an adopted multiracial brood of the worst child actors in the history of television. If you must, tune in only for the last minute to see Tracey Gold looking healthy and radiant in a wedding dress. D-

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