Like most people, I developed a crush on Carrie Fisher after seeing her as Princess Leia in Star Wars. My crush faded over the years as Fisher made headlines for bad marriages, drug addiction and mental-health problems. Eventually, I stopped reading the headlines.
In the one-woman show Wishful Drinking (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO) Fisher tells us what happened to her and why. Most celebrities would deliver such confessions somberly on an episode of E! True Hollywood Story, but Fisher takes a better approach: She turns her pain into cathartic comedy.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Fisher has a way with words, given her career as an author. And I shouldn't be surprised by her commanding screen presence, given her career as a movie star. Still, Wishful Drinking took me off guard with its wit and power. Fisher enters a stage done up like a living room, kicks off her sandals, and makes hay out of a disaster-prone life that might have killed a lesser mortal. Her screwy celebrity parents, her troubled relationships, her mental-hospital stays Fisher gains hilarious perspective on all these problems while charming her audience in matronly-girlfriend mode.
My crush has returned.
Video Game Awards
Saturday, 7 pm (Spike)
The ceremony honors the year's games in such categories as Best Shooter and Best Handheld Game, as well as Best Performance by a Human Male and Best Performance by a Human Female. Those last two categories might sound silly, but I personally feel honored that the videogame world still cares enough about humans to include us in its awards show.
Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli
Saturday, 9 pm (TCM)
Just when you thought old-school Hollywood royalty had all but passed from the Earth, here comes Liza Minnelli to provide an authentic link to the glory days. Liza sits down for a chat with Robert Osborne, who doesn't press too hard for uncomfortable details (Mom Judy Garland's tragic life, Liza's own messy history, etc.). That allows his subject to feel comfortable - and a comfortable Liza Minnelli is an entertaining Liza Minnelli. She tells delightful stories of growing up on the MGM lot, trick-or-treating at Gene Kelly's house and getting acting lessons from her famous-director dad for her kindergarten play.
Minnelli is moving on the subject of her parents, particularly Garland. When Osborne asks if she'd consider doing a Broadway show devoted to her mom, Liza reveals that she's trying to conceive of one that's "not maudlin."
Liza, please, stop trying! We Judy Garland fans would demand our money back if your tribute wasn't maudlin enough.
Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood
Monday, 7 pm (TCM)
TCM's excellent series concludes with an analysis of the 1960s, a decade in which all hell broke loose. The original Hollywood moguls had lost their plutocratic control over the industry, and a band of scrappy outsiders rose to challenge such verities as star power and glossy production values. While the studios churned out expensive flops like Cleopatra, audiences were drawn to lower-budget films with an air of experimentation. When the unconventional Easy Rider hit it big, the moguls threw up their hands and admitted that they no longer had any idea what they were doing.
My favorite story concerns a mogul who didn't even live to see the 1960s: that black-hearted tyrant of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn. Apparently, Columbia employees continued to whisper his name with awe and terror: "They were afraid of him still," says one commentator. "They thought he could reach his hand out of the grave, with some special magic, and could choke them to death if they didn't do what he thought was right."
Anyone who learned about the ruthless old-style moguls in the series' previous episodes knows this really could have happened.
Men of a Certain Age
Monday, 9 pm (TNT)
Ray Romano's series is brilliant in its new season, exploring the male psyche as well as anything else on TV.
Men of a Certain Age focuses on three friends fighting off middle-age sag: single dad Joe (Romano), car-dealership owner Owen (Andre Braugher) and past-his-prime actor Terry (Scott Bakula).This week's episode masterfully sets up parallel storylines in which each character's masculinity is tested. Joe must deal with his anxiety-prone son's fear of going to the school dance. Terry must deal with hazing by his obnoxious new coworkers. And Owen must deal with a surly underling who won't follow his orders. Every scene feels psychologically true, thanks to excellent writing and acting.
If you don't believe that former sitcom star Romano can do drama, check out the look he gives his son at the end of the episode. It conveys at least a half-dozen emotions five more than you get from the normal TV dramatic actor.