This week, revel in Schreiber's pinch-hitting role on ''CSI,'' Mike Judge's ''Idiocracy'' on DVD, the long overdue ''American Idol'' backlash, and more

By Ken Tucker
Updated January 22, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
CSI: Robert Voets

American Idol

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Liev Schreiber gets a clue on ”CSI”

1. Liev Schreiber on CSI
(CBS, Thursday, 9 p.m.)
You won’t hear me say a word against the gone-to-do-a-play William Petersen, who has made Gil Grissom a far more subtly eccentric crime-solver than, say, Vincent D’Onofrio on Law & Order: CI. But as a temp replacement, the movie and stage actor Schreiber fits right into the small screen with his squinched gaze and his minimalist mumble-mouthiness. Working mostly opposite Marg Helgenberger, whose Kathryn gave Schreiber’s Mike Keppler an appropriate fish-eye throughout most of their first episode together, Keppler proved to be an enjoyable Trenton, New Jersey, enigma, arriving in Las Vegas to a stack of phone messages from Frank with Jersey area codes. Internet chatter has it that Keppler may be gay; I say, as is true of my feeling about all non-crime-related details on CSI other than George Eads’ changeable hairstyles, who cares? The guy’s got the goods as a hardboiled crime-solver. I’m already looking forward to a brief but charged scene when Keppler hands the reins back over to Grissom.

2. The State of the British Movie Industry Circa 1930 in Anthony Powell’s At Lady Molly’s (1957)
Our narrator in this, the fourth volume in the great British novel-cycle (read and re-read all 12 volumes for a perpetual reason to live), Nicholas Jenkins, is at a party, catching up with his long-time ”friend,” the superbly insufferable Kenneth Widmerpool, who has just asked what Jenkins is doing for a living these days:

”I was in publishing. Art books. Now it is the film business.”

”Indeed? What unusual ways you choose to earn a living. Not acting, surely?”

”Hardly. I am on what is called the ‘scenario side.’ I help to write that part of the programme known as the ‘second feature.’ For every foot of American film shown in this country, a proportionate length of British film must appear. The Quota, in fact.”

”Ah, yes, the Quota, the Quota,” said Widmerpool, cutting short any further explanation, which would certainly have been tedious enough. ”Well, I never expected to sit at the same table as host of a man who wrote films for the Quota. Do you like the work?”

”Not greatly.”

3. Sloan, ”Ill-Placed Trust” on Never Hear The End Of It
(Yep Roc)
Thirty songs from the Canadian quartet that operates like a collective, trading off instruments and vocals between themselves, each writing piles of songs that blend British Invasion with Beach Boys harmonies. This is only the best of a very good, large batch: Any band that can turn the awkward phrase ”ill-placed trust” into a catchy chorus and a description for shattered puppy love is a band to admire.

4. Mike Judge worries about America in Idiocracy
As someone who probably would never have gotten my tail out of my chair to go see it in a theater, I can’t get too worked up over Idiocracy‘s well-publicized fate — a feature film dumped onto DVD by 20th Century Fox. I’m just glad that now it can be seen. No, what really bothers me is what, I’m pleased to report, also bothers writer-director Mike Judge: the dumbing-down of America. The amiably silly premise here is that Luke Wilson is a U.S. serviceman who volunteered for a hibernation program that finds him waking up in the year 2505 to a country reduced to something less than the lowest common denominator. In a harsh capitalist critique swaddled in humor, Judge depicts an America where citizens not only can’t speak basic English but despise Wilson for doing so; everything, including the government, has succumbed to commercial endorsements and no one feels any sense of civic or moral responsibility. And, oh yeah — somehow, Judge makes it all very funny, in a shambling, low-budget, probably-re-edited-beyond-his-control way. And speaking of stupidity…

5. American Idol backlash
Finally! After years of being baffled as to why my fellow citizens turn out by the millions to watch this slow-torture, talentless show, the sheer ever-growing arrogance of the judges has finally forced many people, including a delightfully incensed, long-time Idol fan, Rosie O’Donnell, to condemn the show’s blithe humiliation of contestants. And what respect I had for Simon Cowell as a critic — he’s the only one of the trio who used to offer a bit of legit musical analysis — vanished after his recent comment that Kelly Clarkson is a better musician than Bob Dylan. A pox on all Idol worship.

(For more on Liev Schreiber’s fill-in stint on CSI, click here)

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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