To judge by Masterpiece Theatre and scores of decorous movies, Henry VIII was an old windbag whose favorite pastime was conferring with his advisers. But The Tudors (Sunday, 9 p.m., Showtime) aims to show a different side of Henry ' the sexy side. The series is set in the early years of his reign, when he turned the English court into a version of Animal House. Jonathan Rhys Myers plays the king as a stunningly handsome sensualist with amazing abs. (Who knew the 16th-century royal palace was equipped with an elliptical trainer?) With its abundance of bare-naked coupling, this is less Masterpiece Theatre than Masturbate Theatre.
On his brief breaks from the bedroom, Henry delights in playing commander in chief. After listening to a list of French offenses, he happily proclaims: 'My lords, I believe these are all just causes...FOR WAR!'
The Tudors is shameless, tawdry and pornographic. My lords, I believe these are all just causes...FOR WATCHING ALL 10 EPISODES!
Friday, 8 pm (NBC)
Jeff Goldblum was a pretty good movie actor back in the day, so it's sad to see him play catch-up with Jennifer Love Hewitt in this rip-off of The Ghost Whisperer. He's a detective who sees dead people ' and not only sees them, but engages them in sarcastic conversations. The setting is noir-lite, with smarmy dialogue that's a minute or two short of hardboiled.
I doubt if Raines will even score with the dead-people demographic.
Kids' Choice Awards
Saturday, 7 pm (Nickelodeon)
This year's Academy Awards was as boring as ever. You'd never know that movies are a vital art form ' not from the parade of tuxedo-clad zombies thanking studio executives for their Best Sound Mixing statuettes. The Emmys and Grammys suffer from the same self-satisfied piety.
By contrast, the Kids' Choice Awards taps into pure pop-culture ecstasy. This show doesn't get all sanctimonious about music, movies and TV, but rather acknowledges their primary appeal: fun. The ceremonies are always lively and irreverent, and celebrity guests always get dosed with the trademark green slime. I sometimes recoil at the kids' tastes (Jessica Simpson for Favorite Singer?), but I also respect their courage in acknowledging lesser-known works of genius that would never be honored anywhere else. Go, Jimmy Neutron!
Put 11-year-olds in charge of next year's Academy Awards and I guarantee you'll get a better show.
Tuesday, 9 pm (WHA)
In So Much So Fast, we watch a man and his family respond to a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. When 29-year-old Stephen Heywood gets the bad news, he has the same fatalistic reaction most of us would: 'I guess I better go buy that Harley I've been thinking about.' ALS patients quickly descend into paralysis, living from two to five years. As far as the medical establishment is concerned, that's that.
But the Heywoods are blue-sky dreamers who refuse to take 'that' for an answer. With no medical background, Stephen's brother Jamie quit his job and created a guerrilla-style research organization. He built it into a multimillion-dollar facility in the hopes of curing Stephen before it's too late. The documentary follows the family's extraordinary quest, as well as their touchingly ordinary intimacy.
You're guaranteed to be moved by So Much So Fast. And afterwards, you're guaranteed to go buy that Harley you've been thinking about.
Tuesday, 9 pm (A&E)
In this reality series, aging drag racer John Force chases another championship while putting his wife and daughters through hell on wheels. This is a guy who never stops gunning his engine. He doesn't talk so much as hector, and even in a quiet room he sounds like he's shouting to be heard over screeching tires. His family can only keep their heads down and their faces rigid to shield themselves from the torrent; letting Force mow them over is clearly their only option.
In the new season, Force is flamboyantly obsessed with himself, as usual. Last week, he became fixated on his own death, strong-arming his family into visiting a mortuary. Over their tears and objections, he insisted they help him pick out his manner of burial. 'Who wants me buried in a casket?' he bellowed. 'Who wants me cremated?'
The family maintained a pained silence. But I'm positive that everyone in the viewing audience was more than happy to think about this idiot's impending death.
Wednesday, 8 pm (WHA)
'Novel Reflections on the American Dream' sheds light on seven classics of 20th-century literature, from Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. It focuses on the authors' critique of the American Dream ' the idea that hard work and discipline will lead to success.
The program brings the novels to life with excerpts, critical commentary and artfully staged re-creations. Unfortunately, it's so good that it makes you want to cast aside the novels themselves and just watch TV instead.
TV Land's Myths and Legends
Wednesday, 9 pm (TV Land)
TV Land's series investigates pop-culture mysteries. This week, we learn whether the cast of Green Acres really barbecued and ate the pig that played Arnold Ziffel.
Is there no clause in the Screen Actors Guild contract forbidding cast members to eat one another? If not, I'm surprised that the delicious-looking Patrick Dempsey wasn't consumed years ago.