Watch This: The Belated Edition
Originally, Sunday's newspaper was supposed to feature my blatant, TV-centered rip-off of music critic Sean Daly's most excellent Listen to This Sunday recommendations column.
But, there was a miscommunication and my list of stuff to watch this week -- dubbed, originally enough, Watch This -- was not published. But thanks to the magic of the blogosphere, I can get it to you guys reading online.
Check it out -- you can still follow most of my recommendations:
Sleeper Cell: American Terror
Airs: at 9 tonight and six additional nights, concluding next Sunday on Showtime. It debuted last night. TV-MA (mature audiences).
Why you should care: This is the Golden Globe-nominated drama about terrorism in the U.S. we always figured would follow the trauma of Sept. 11. Pretty-boy Michael Ealy shows he's got acting chops beyond the Barbershop movies playing Darwyn Al-Sayeed, a practicing African American Muslim and ex-convict who also just happens to be an FBI agent. Fresh off breaking up a Los Angeles-based cell of terrorists in the show's first season, he's sucked into the game again when a new group recruits him and he becomes its leader.
Why I love it: It's expensive, expansive and nuanced, showing terrorists who are brutal, committed to their cause, but human beings avoiding easy stereotypes. The new cell Darwyn falls into is diverse - forget about racial profiling; this group has a Hispanic male and white female in its ranks. And the cast includes spot-on character actors like Oded Fehr (The Mummy) and Sonia Walger (NBC's Coupling).
Where else can you get it? Taking a cue from HBO, Showtime is showcasing Sleeper Cell in its on demand service, making all eight episodes of the second season available at once starting tonight (for fun, play TV critic and watch them all at once!). There's also podcasts, computer wallpaper, video downloads for playStation Portables and more here.
Tsunami, the Aftermath
Airs: at 8 p.m. last Sunday and next Sunday on HBO. TV-MA.
Why you should care: This emotional and penetrating three-hour miniseries puts a human face on the tsunami that ravaged Thailand the day after Christmas 2004. Opening at a resort in Khao Lak, Thailand, the movie follows the lives of several characters caught up in the tragedy: a resort worker whose family is wiped out when his village is destroyed; a British mother who loses her son and husband while on vacation; a British official who loses faith in a overwhelmed system and a driven journalist working to expose the dark corners of the tragedy.
Why I love it: Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) is magnetic as the journalist and Toni Collette (The Hours) shines as an irrepressible relief worker. But I was captivated by Hotel Rwanda alum Sophie Okonedo and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man, seen here at right) as a black British couple who lose their 6-year-old daughter when the father is separated from her in the rushing water. While Okenedo's character takes another young girl from a hospital who resembles their daughter and gives up hope, Ejiofor's Ian Carter keeps searching, driven by guilt and grief even as opportunists raze destroyed villages to grab the land and monks cremate unidentified bodies.
Where else can you get it? HBO's got an on demand channel as well; perfect for catching this signature event on your own schedule. Check the Web site here.
The Lost Room
Airs: at 9 tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday on the Sci Fi Channel.
Why you should care: It's an adventurous, X-Files-style miniseries about Pittsburgh cop Joe Miller (Six Feet Under's Peter Krause) who stumbles on a mysterious key which can lead to any doorway in the world. Turns out, it's one of a host of special items which look like everyday objects, given supernatural powers because they were inside a particular hotel room in 1961. When his supercute daughter (Dakota's supercute sister Elle Fanning) disappears in the room, Miller is forced to navigate an assortment of underground collectors who ruthlessly track the items to save her.
Why I love it: Besides featuring a passel of actors I love - Krause, ER alum Julianna Margulies and the best William Shatner impersonator ever, Kevin Pollak - it's a great yarn with cool special effects and a twisted sense of humor (wait 'til you see where the magic bus ticket sends people!). Like X-Files and The 4400, it's a science fiction show that people who don't like science fiction might actually like. Or something like that. See the site here.