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Mini-Reviews: McCain on "Letterman," Latest "SNL Thursday," New Series "Crash" and "Crusoe"
October 17, 2008  | By David Bianculli

John McCain showed up on Letterman's CBS show Thursday, and was lampooned in prime time on NBC's SNL Weekend Update Thursday the same night. Also, new TV versions of the movie Crash and the novel Robinson Crusoe are unveiled this weekend.

Let's get right to them...


LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: It's amazing, to me, how many of this year's election cycle's best observations and interviews are emanating from comedy shows. Here's another one to add to the pile.

Letterman questioned McCain so toughly about Sarah Palin's "palling with terrorists" line that McCain got testy. And Letterman positively threw McCain when pointing out the unfairness of guilt-by-association charges by asking McCain about his attendance at a fundraiser at the home of convicted Watergate co-conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.


But the best part of all, to me, was a sly musical joke that MCain was unlikely to get. As McCain entered, Paul Shaffer and his orchestra played an instrumental version of an early hit by The Who. If you recognized it, the title was a delicious dig about McCain's last-second snubbing of Letterman last month.

The name of the song? "I Can't Explain."


SNL WEEKEND UPDATE THURSDAY: As expected, this week's show opened with a spoof of the final presidential debate, in which Darrell Hammond's McCain revealed that "Joe the plumber" was his tiny imaginary friend -- at which point Fred Armisen's Obama leaned forward and spoke directly to the itsy-bitsy, invisible "Little Joe."


But here, too, my favorite bit was elsewhere. The opening item of the "Weekend Update" newscast had Amy Poehler summarizing the current presidential race thusly:

"Last night marked the third and final debate between Joe Cool and Yosemite Sam." Very, very funny -- especially with the accompanying visual.

CRASH: This new Starz series, based on the 2005 Paul Haggis movie, premieres Friday at 10 p.m. ET on Starz, but is available all weekend, also showing Saturday and Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Encore.


It's designed more as a miniseries as a series, so judging it on the first episode is tricky. But Dennis Hopper is, as always, magnetic, the photography is unusually cinematic for a TV show, and the supporting cast (including D.B. Sweeney and Clare Carey) is strong. How these characters interact will take a few weeks to discover, and longer to unravel -- but my first impression is that it'll be worth the effort.

CRUSOE: This new NBC series, on the other hand, is an instant discard. Though based on the Daniel Defoe classic adventure novel, the producers of this version are Defoe of everything worthwhile.


This Crusoe begs, borrows and steals from everywhere. It starts like Lost, with Crusoe (Philip Winchester) surrounded by wreckage on a deserted island. But very quickly, it jumps to a world in which Crusoe has tricked out his island with booby traps, fortress tree houses and ziplines, like some odd cross between Swiss Family Robinson and MacGyver.

Friday, the native sidekick, is pushed through the Politically Correct Machine until he emerges smarter, more fluent and essentially more civilized than Crusoe. There's even a female pirate who's given the gift of equality, even though she's traveling with pirates -- pirates who seem to have been set adrift from Pirates of the Caribbean.

While all this mess sounds like it might be passable entertainment for kids, it shouldn't be considered as such, because Crusoe is oddly cavalier about death -- even gleefully sadistic, dispatching several characters in ways both inventive and gruesome. It's like Crusoe the video game, with about as much depth.

Lucky NBC already has Knight Rider, or Crusoe could be stranded with the unenviable distinction of being the worst new series of the 2008 fall season.




John R. said:

Why Crusoe is that bad? I was hoping to enjoy something different on TV for a change. I really like the book so I'll give it a look anyway. (Let me know. -- David B.)

Comment posted on October 17, 2008 10:23 AM
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