Frontline's 'News War' (Tuesday, 9 p.m., WHA) explores the scorched-earth battle between the president and the media. The Bush administration believes in keeping secrets, and it has shown contempt for the national media who represent the public's right to know. Mark McKinnon, Bush's former media adviser, fully supports this tactic. 'Presidents...ought to determine who they want to talk to and when they want to talk to them,' he says.
Pundit William Safire, though a conservative, deplores the Bush approach. He thinks the current hostility could threaten the media's ability to hold government accountable. 'The great check and balance that was built into the Constitution is under challenge,' he says. 'You've got to have a relationship between the government and the press that's adversarial, but not an enemy.'
I'd love to tell you more about 'New War,' but the Bush administration has requested that I not divulge any further details regarding the program.
The Bold and the Beautiful
Friday, 12:30 pm (CBS)
The soap opera celebrates its 5,000th episode on Friday. The broadcast will feature the four original cast members who still appear on the show: Susan Flannery, Katherine Kelly Lang, John McCook and Ronn Moss.
One is tempted to doff one's cap in solemn respect for a TV series that has lasted 5,000 episodes. Then one remembers that The Bold and the Beautiful currently includes a character named 'Storm.' So much for solemn respect.
1 vs. 100
Friday, 7 pm (NBC)
NBC's game show pits one person against a group of 100 for a chance to win $1 million. They all try to answer the same trivia questions, with the contestant's prize money increasing the more he answers correctly and the 100 answer incorrectly.
Friday's episode features a themed group of 100. It consists of people we love to hate, including telemarketers, meter maids and auditors from the Internal Revenue Service. I hope contestant Raul Torres comes out victorious ' though even if he does, I fear the auditors will retrieve the $1 million shortly after April 15.
The State Within
Saturday & Sunday, 8 pm (BBC America)
This thriller begins with the British ambassador to the U.S. (Jason Isaacs) arriving in Washington, D.C. The arch conversations among the ambassador and his staff are a thing of beauty, as you'd expect in a British production. But then tragedy strikes. A flight headed for the U.K. explodes just after takeoff from Dulles Airport. The evidence points to a British suicide bomber, and now the ambassador has a diplomatic crisis on his hands.
You get very invested in the Brits' attempts to end the crisis, if only so they can get back to those wonderfully arch conversations.
Monday, 6 pm (Nickelodeon)
Patrick the Starfish has arguably the lowest IQ of any character in cartoon history. Nevertheless, he's running for president of the United States in SpongeBob's Presidents' Day special. The disturbing thing is that, in the context of recent American politics, he looks like a credible candidate.
Monday, 8 pm (NBC)
NBC's series about everyday people who develop superpowers introduces a new hero. Her name is Hana Gitelman (Stana Katic), and she can receive and send e-mails using only her mind.
If she can find a way to mentally eliminate spam, she may well be hailed as the savior of mankind.
Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Monday, 8 pm (NBC)
Law and Order exploits the story of Ted Haggard, the prominent anti-gay preacher who consorted with a male hustler. In this week's episode, a televangelist (Tom Arnold) has clandestine homosexual encounters, but NBC one-ups the real-life headlines with an even more lurid element: The secret sex may have led to his wife's murder.
To its credit, the network didn't add necrophilia or decapitation to the Haggard story. That, of course, would have been in bad taste.
Rules of Engagement
Monday, 8:30 pm (CBS)
CBS's new unhappy-couples sitcom weighs in with another sour plotline. Audrey (Megyn Price) is dismayed and embarrassed when Jeff (Patrick Warburton) can't take his eyes off a friend's hot date. Jeff tries to reassure her that he would never go for a younger woman, and she responds that he's too old to get one anyway.
They make a bet that he can't score a bimbo's phone number ' and that's when we become dismayed and embarrassed.
Wednesday, 9 pm (WHA)
This admiring portrait of the Marines celebrates their 'warrior spirit.' We learn the Marine credo ' honor, courage, commitment ' and see ordinary schlubs molded into supermen in boot camp.
The program tries to dispel the idea of Marines as thugs. 'There's a myth that the Marines are Neanderthals,' says one commentator. 'I actually find the Marines very intellectual.'
But he's contradicted by a member of the corps itself: 'The Marines do not argue about 'should we or shouldn't we have intervened.' The mission is everything.'
I kind of hope the latter statement is the accurate one. Can you imagine the mess if Marines had ducked into a Normandy coffeeshop circa 1944 to debate the finer points of Gen. Eisenhower's D-Day strategy?