I always bristle when a new series tries to pull my heartstrings within the first 10 minutes. In "What About Brian" (Sunday, 9 p.m., ABC), we're supposed to feel the hero's pain before we even know him. Brian (Barry Watson) is the lone bachelor in his group of friends, a sensitive sort who just can't find the right woman. The yearning soundtrack tells us to be sad for him, but it's hard to work up sympathy for a lovelorn hunk with GQ looks. Couldn't they have given him glasses and a nerdy haircut for at least a smidgen of believability?
"Do you ever have a day where you question every decision you've ever made in your life?" Brian asks mournfully.
Yes, I do. Why, oh why, did I ever decide to watch "What About Brian"?
The Iceberg That Sank the Titanic
Saturday, 8 pm (Discovery Channel)
Just when you thought every angle of the Titanic disaster had been covered, Discovery Channel weighs in with a profile of the iceberg that sank the ocean liner in 1912. The program interviews the iceberg's friends and relatives, who all agree that it was a bad egg destined to cause trouble.
When I Think About Iraq
Sunday, 7:30 pm (Nickelodeon)
Adults have been spewing opinions about the Iraq War ad infinitum. Looking for a fresh perspective, Nickelodeon asks kids what they think, with surprising results. The network's poll finds that, on average, kids are more positive about the war than their parents. Fifty-nine percent of them think the U.S. was right to invade Iraq, and a whopping 75% still think we can win the war.
How much do you want to bet that, in the next legislative session, the Republicans introduce a bill to give 9-year-olds the vote?
God or the Girl
Sunday, 8 pm (A&E)
This earnest series follow several young men torn between becoming priests and getting married. They feel called to the priesthood, but they're not sure they want to abandon their girlfriends for a life of celibacy.
"God or the Girl" explores the Catholic Church's hold on its menfolk - though in the case of Mike, 23, the hold starts to seem like a stranglehold. Mike's mentor, a manipulative older man named Father Pauselli, tries way too hard to steer him toward the priesthood. "He doesn't want a girl in my life to overshadow my relationship with God," Mike says. His girlfriend puts it more bluntly: "Father Pauselli gets jealous when I steal Mike's attention. He'd rather have Mike to himself."
Hmmm. Perhaps A&E should change the series' title from "God or the Girl" to "God or the Ghoul."
Sunday, 8 pm (WHA)
Carrie's War begins like the recent movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia, as young siblings are shipped out of London during the Nazi blitz. Carrie (Keeley Fawcett) and Nick (Jack Stanley) also end up in a magical land, one that's even stranger than Narnia: Wales.
Carrie and Nick travel by train through towns with multiple L's in their names. They stop in Llanewle, where they're adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister. Louise (Lesley Sharp) is a bundle of nerves who's scared to death of her brother, a tyrant she calls Mr. Evans (Alun Armstrong). You'd be scared too. Mr. Evans' bushy eyebrows are set permanently on "mean." He's a religious fanatic, a neat freak and a stickler for rules. "This house is run in fear of the Lord!" he thunders. It's also run in fear of Mr. Evans.
The children come to like Llanewle, and we do too. Carrie's War beautifully evokes its time and place, making 1940s Wales seem both fantastical and real. It is, simply, llovelly.
Celebrity Cooking Showdown
Monday-Thursday, 7 pm (NBC)
Three famous chefs pair up with celebrities to prepare a dream meal. The winning celebrities in each round face off in the April 20 finals.
Sounds good, just as long as they don't feature Anthony Hopkins making that human-kidney-and-fava-bean dish from his Hannibal Lecter cookbook.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
Monday, 9 pm (Showtime)
In each episode of Penn & Teller's series, the iconoclastic magicians attack something they consider "bullshit." Sometimes the subjects are silly (Bigfoot sightings) and sometimes they're serious. This week's episode on the death penalty is serious. Really serious. Penn & Teller use every rhetorical trick in the book to demolish the argument in favor of government-sanctioned executions.
To be sure, they give their ideological opponents a fair hearing. But they counter these arguments with a breathtaking arsenal that includes statistics, expert testimony, righteous indignation and humor. The latter can literally be described as gallows humor, as Teller spends much of the episode dangling from a hangman's rope.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty can thank their lucky stars that Penn & Teller are entertainers rather than defense attorneys.