The world has rightly taken notice of the awesome actresses headlining cable TV series: Glenn Close in Damages, Holly Hunter in Saving Grace, Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds, and several others. The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick gets lumped into this group, but I find both her performance and her show less compelling.
In this week's episode (Monday, 8 p.m., TNT), Sedgwick's L.A. police chief Brenda Johnson - a transplant from the South - investigates a case of domestic abuse. Brenda's sour-faced rival, Capt. Raydor (Mary McConnell), believes that one of her detectives is getting beaten up by a thuggish spouse. Brenda is repeatedly advised to "tread lightly" in her investigation, but all hell breaks loose anyway. The husband dies in a police shootout, and Brenda is accused of blowing it big-time.
Sedgwick is as hammy as ever, and the filmmakers don't help by piling on the clichés. The climax features a showdown in a morgue between Brenda, Capt. Raydor and a couple of perps. The revelations come pouring out as they scream at each other over the husband's mutilated body. And just in case that's not overheated enough for you, the coroner keeps inserting a metal probe into the squishy corpse.
Whatever happened to "treading lightly"?
Hollywood's Most Outrageous Holiday Gifts
Friday, 10 pm (Oxygen)
This bit of seasonal celebrity fluff gives us a peek at the extravagant holiday gifts exchanged by stars like Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, Seal and Heidi Klum, and Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. Stay tuned for the inevitable Dec. 26 sequel: Returning Hollywood's Most Outrageous Holiday Gifts.
WWE Tribute to the Troops
Saturday, 8 pm (NBC)
World Wrestling Entertainment sends its pro wrestlers to Iraq to entertain the U.S. forces. May I suggest a side trip to Afghanistan to give the Taliban a taste of the Double Underhook Backbreaker?
The Christmas Hope
Sunday, 5 pm (Lifetime Movie Network)
Here's a TV movie that feels Christmasy in all the right ways. The first half-hour powerfully communicates holiday cheer, as a vivacious single mother bonds with her little girl, a happy couple expect a baby, and a Child Support worker helps kids in need. The actors, including pros like Ian Ziering and Madeleine Stowe, find the perfect mix of bitter and sweet.
At the 30-minute mark, bitter comes on strong. The vivacious single mother is killed in a car crash, and the Child Support worker arrives to comfort the little girl. The tragedy is dramatized with restraint, making it even more devastating.
"It's gonna be okay," the little girl earnestly tells her teddy bear.
If I didn't think that was true, I couldn't possibly stand to watch the rest of the movie.
Christmas in Washington
Sunday, 7 pm (TNT)
It's hard to imagine Christmas cheer in Washington, D.C., that bitter battleground for partisan warfare. This annual concert, traditionally attended by high-ranking politicians and the president, features George Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Sugarland and Neil Diamond.
If Democrats and Republicans can't agree on the wondrous kitsch of Neil's "Cracklin' Rosie," I abandon all hope for this troubled land.
ABC World News
Monday, 5:30 pm (ABC)
In a notable TV development, Diane Sawyer takes over ABC's nightly newscast from Charles Gibson.
It's true that women anchors have replaced stiff, stuffy dudes before. But Gibson is the stiffest and stuffiest, making this a particularly joyous transition.
Bank of Hollywood
Monday, 9 pm (E!)
This reality series allows needy people to come before a panel of celebrities to request a wad of Hollywood cash. The supplicants make their pitch, and the panelists decide who's worthy. The celebrities include TV-mogul wife Candy Spelling, Wilhelmina Models president Sean Patterson and Pussycat Dolls singer Melody Thornton.
It's good to know that, even if the health-care initiative dies in Congress, the Pussycat Dolls have our backs in times of need.