Last season, Survivor reached its apotheosis. Yul was the smartest player of all time, Ozzie the most physically gifted. Jonathan was the wiliest, Cao Boi the weirdest, Nate the most obnoxious, Parvati the flirtiest. The archetypal Survivor qualities are brains and brawn, and the final showdown between Yul and Ozzie pitted those qualities against each other with a purity no scriptwriter could have dreamed up. Brains won, settling the philosophical question that has plagued Survivor (not to mention mankind) from the beginning.
After such perfection, shouldn't Survivor have just ceased production? Won't everything that happens on the new Survivor: Fiji (Thursday, 7 p.m., CBS) be anticlimactic?
I would have said yes, but then I read that a military coup occurred on Fiji during filming. Now that might be a novelty worth tuning in for. Will the immunity challenges require contestants to flee armed insurgents?
The Ghost Whisperer
Friday, 7 pm (CBS)
With CBS hosting the Grammys this week, it's right and proper that the network is cross-promoting the ceremony on its regular series. But I think CBS has gotten carried away by booking singer Mary J. Blige on The Ghost Whisperer, which tries to sustain a haunted mood.
Blige plays the coach of a high school cheerleading team whose members are being disabled by freak accidents. Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) discovers that the vengeful ghost of a former cheerleader is behind the calamities.
It's hard to take all this seriously as you watch Blige struggle to stay in character. Sorry, CBS, but there's nothing less scary than a woman with eight Grammy nominations.
THS Invstigates: Paparazzi
Saturday, 4 pm (E!)
Our hunger for celebrity images has created a dangerous situation on the streets of Los Angeles. The relationship between stars and paparazzi has turned deadly, and E! has produced this investigative report in hopes of averting another Princess Diana-style tragedy.
E! discovers hundreds of paparazzi trolling L.A. streets, up from a couple dozen only five years ago. They mob A-list celebrities, trying to capture an image that brings in a six-figure payday. The line between photographers and stalkers has blurred, with some shutterbugs even provoking fights to get a tawdry shot.
E! doesn't neglect the audience's complicity. Though we might deplore aggressive paparazzi, we also happily consume celebrity photos and film footage. 'It's the same as cocaine, chocolate, corn flakes or caviar,' says the owner of a top paparazzi agency. 'If there's a demand, there's going to be a supply.'
Hats off to E! for this brave report. And stay tuned, because coming up next the network premieres Caught in the Act: Hollywood Stars' Candid Fits and Fights.
Sunday, 7 pm (CBS)
Okay, I've had it with Justin Timberlake. The guy is up for, like, 90 Grammys, and everyone's buying the line that he's one of our major pop artists. Timberlake even had the nerve to compare himself to James Brown on last month's People's Choice Awards.
Folks, I don't see it. Timberlake is a pale shadow of the R&B greats he's ripping off. And then there's his whole sex-symbol pose. On his new album, Timberlake claims to be 'bringing sexy back.' But to me, it's not very sexy when someone strenuously argues for his own sex appeal. At December's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, for example, Timberlake performed against a backdrop that said 'Sexy.' That's like George W. Bush speaking against a backdrop that said 'Mission Accomplished': a desperate attempt to convince you of something that isn't true.
Justin Timberlake bringing sexy back? Give me a break. Besides, people who know me can tell you it never really went away.
Monday, 8 pm (WHA)
'New Orleans' profiles America's endangered city, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. It's a fascinating look at New Orleans' history and its unique place in our national lore. 'There is so much cultural richness in that city that it oozes up from the sidewalk,' a commentator says. 'If you listen, the sidewalks will speak to you.'
And here's what they'll say: 'Please send federal funds.'
Wallis & Edward
Monday, 8 pm (BBC America)
This is the first movie to tell the scandalous story of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII from Simpson's point of view. Joely Richardson plays the twice-divorced American who bewitched the future king of England (Steven Campbell Moore) in the 1930s. Edward shocked the nation when he refused to end the affair, choosing to abdicate instead.
It seems absurd to give up a kingdom for a crush ' though I suppose if Joely Richardson were involved, I'd consider it myself.
Extreme: Celebrity Surgery
Monday, 9 pm (WE)
I took the title at face value and tuned in to see some 'extreme celebrity surgery.' But all I got was a Botoxed forehead here, a collagened lip there. As far as I'm concerned, that's false advertising. Note to WE: When you have candid footage of Goldie Hawn transplanting Scarlett Johansson's head onto her own body, let us know.
Nixon: A Presidency Revealed
Thursday, 7 pm (History Channel)
I never tire of seeing the image of Richard Nixon, in disgrace, boarding the helicopter that will remove him from the White House in 1974. Life provides few endings this happy.
Nixon: A Presidency Revealed draws on newly released recordings, transcripts and home movies to explain the events that led up to that moment. We meet former aides who describe his 'many deep-seated hatreds.' We watch him corrupt the presidency with lies, secrecy, vendettas, burglary and cover-ups. It's all very depressing...
...until that wonderful last image.