EW's editor-at large relishes McDowell's masterful portrayal of an obnoxious schoolboy in 1969's ''If....'' And, make some time this week for ''Jon & Kate Plus 8,'' ''Once,'' ''John From Cincinnati,'' and an excellent cartooning blog

By Ken Tucker
Updated June 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Everett Collection; Chris Haston

John From Cincinnati

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Malcolm McDowell in ”If….” on DVD

1. Before Malcolm McDowell was a Heroes meanie, he was a very naughty schoolboy in If…
(Criterion Collection DVD)
Director Lindsay Anderson’s 1969 film about anarchy in a British ”public,” or boarding, school, stands the test of time as a counterculture-era film about youth revolt that, given its violent climax, unnervingly predates American tragedies such as the Columbine massacre. Although, as the DVD package’s enlightening accompanying essay by David Ehrenstein points out, If….‘s final pitched battle is more metaphor than real-blood horror-show, the effect is no less shocking. McDowell is superbly sly, mischievous, cynical, brooding, and thoroughly obnoxious — just what the role calls for, and he goes all-stops-out.

2. There’s always room for one more on Jon & Kate Plus 8
(Discovery Health, Tuesdays, 10 p.m.)
An addictive reality show about a Pennsylvania couple who have, as the network likes to phrase it, ”two six year-olds and six two-year olds.” The twins and sextuplets really keep Jon and Kate hoppin’, and just the details of how they all go out for a trip to the grocery store are (I’m not kidding) fascinating. But it’s the portrait of a marriage embedded in the center of the series, the way Jon and Kate Gosselin help and fight with each other, that make it compelling and frequently moving.

3. Music as transcendence in Once
Boy, every rave about this little indie movie, from EW’s Owen Gleiberman on, is well deserved. Small and intimate, about two struggling souls who find common ground in making music, Once features some of the most beautiful songs to be heard in or outside of a movie theater, thanks mostly to co-star Glen Hansard, a member of the real-life Irish band the Frames (former Frames bassist John Carney directed the film). At a time when the music industry is glutted with idols (it’s confirmed: Simon Cowell has a one-way ticket to hell) and old fogies (yes, I’m looking at you, Marilyn Manson), Once reminds you that music can be simple, liberating, and romantic.

4. Good vibrations from John from Cincinnati
(HBO, 10 p.m., June 24)
Word is mixed here around the office about David Milch’s new surfside series — okay, I think it’s actually more like me vs. the rest of the staff — but I’m tellin’ ya, stick with this show, because it consistently pays off in small ways, and you can just tell it’s preparing for bigger waves of revelations. This week, the miracle involving young surfer Shaun is merely the beginning of a funny, exciting episode that peaks with John telling (or maybe that’s commanding) Kai, the charming surf-shop owner, ”See God, Kai” — and darned if she doesn’t. If The Sopranos hadn’t gotten there first, this show could have used ”Don’t Stop Believin”’ on its soundtrack. But Milch has better musical taste than that, anyway.

5. Website of the week: Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog
Drawn! keeps track of a vast array of cartoon and the occasional fine-art websites, posts YouTube clips that show you how to make things like build-them-yourself paper toys, and showcases fascinating oddities such as the self-drawn postcard collection of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh. Constantly updated, always loaded with stuff that makes you want to pick up a pencil and start doodling, or at least waste half an afternoon clicking onto the next image, and the next…

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John From Cincinnati

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