The Commercial Appeal
‘Anna Nicole’ has a few over-the-top moments
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Tragedy or farce? Or just plain boring? “Anna Nicole” (7 p. m., Saturday, Lifetime), Lifetime’s latest tabloid- driven reenactment, is too faithful to its pathetic subject to rise to guilty pleasure status, too absurd to evoke pathos and too belabored to be endured by anyone but those besotted by such down-market checkoutline fodder.
There are some overthe-top moments. Apparently, young Vickie Lynn Hogan’s (Agnes Bruckner) family kept vintage copies of Playboy around their ramshackle trailer. That’s where she first encountered images of Marilyn Monroe. And as a child, young Vickie saw visions of her future self — the blond and curvaceous Anna Nicole — in the mirror. This wondrous apparition was generally disapproving, when not blowing kisses at young Vickie, encouraging her to recreate herself into something more hyper-buxom.
Later, when a plastic surgeon asks Vickie Lynn (now an ambitious exotic dancer) what size fruit best approximates her dream bosoms, Vickie pulls a bowling ball bag from out of nowhere and slams it on the table. For emphasis.
Look for Virginia Madsen as Vickie/Anna’s pistol-packin’ mother. Martin Landau stars as Howard Marshall, the much, much older man who would become Anna’s husband and sugar daddy, a man often reduced to sitting stockstill and slack-jawed, overawed by her ample pulchritude.
Too old and infirm to maintain a physical relationship with Anna, Howard is genuinely generous and affectionate. After his death, her life (and this movie) becomes a dreary booze- and drug-addled march toward the inevitable, punctuated by contrived foreshadowing of multiple tragedies to come.
If casting alone made for great series, Showtime would rule. The recent sudden death of James Gandolfini reminds us that stars don’t make the shows; it’s the shows that make a star, or rather of- fer a good actor a chance to create a great character, thereby becoming a star. With few exceptions, not many of the cast members of HBO’s “The Sopranos” were household names before its 1999 debut. Three episodes in, we couldn’t forget them and couldn’t wait to be in their company, week after week.
Showtime has taken the opposite approach, with mixed results. Michael C. Hall graduated from a dark series like “Six Feet Under” to the even darker and more challenging “Dexter” (8 p.m., Sunday, Showtime) and created an unforgettable character. Saturday night marks the premier of its eighth and final season.
Other Showtime series seem to depend disproportionately on star-casting. “The Big C” (Laura Linney), “House of Lies” (Don Cheadle), “Shameless” (William H. Macy) and “Nurse Jackie” (Edie Falco) come to mind.
So I was both intrigued and wary when “Ray Donovan” (9 p.m., Sunday, Showtime) was announced. Liev Schreiber is well-cast here as an understated heavy, and Jon Voight seems to make the most of his mysterious and genuinely dangerous father, Mickey Donovan, released from prison and intent on returning chaos to Ray’s precariously structured existence.
As we quickly learn in the pilot, Ray is a Hollywood fixer, a professional to whom celebrities turn to make their problems vanish. He seems to straddle the line between a good publicist, an agent and a reluctant hit man, a cross between Ari Gold, Jerry Maguire and The Wolf, Harvey Keitel’s character in “Pulp Fiction.”
Ray and his family are from Boston, and at least one of them, his brother Bunchy (Dash Mihok), was subject to sexual abuse at the hands of a local priest. Ray’s other brother, Terry (Eddie Marsan), is a struggling former boxer turned trainer, suffering from Parkinson’s.
While show creator Ann Biderman has written a rich backstory for “Ray,” it’s not clear if all of the narratives hang together, or if the bleak invocation of Boston, boxing and molestation don’t seem a tad contrived.
It’s not as if the narrative of Ray the Hollywood heavy doesn’t provide enough to follow. Elliott Gould stars as Ray’s older mentor, a recent widower who may be sliding into dementia. Ray’s wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), seems deeply unsatisfied by her social status in the film capital, and she’s hardly thrilled that Ray has taken a protective, professional interest in a former Mouseketeer.
Don’t go looking for much humor. It’s as if the shenanigans on “Entourage” or “Episodes” were presented in deadly earnest. Consistently bleak and not a little affected, “Ray Donovan” is ultimately less than inviting.
SATURDAY’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
Brooke White (“American Idol”) and Mercedes Ruehl star in the 2013 drama “Banner 4th of July” (8 p.m., Hallmark). White may find a home on Hallmark. She once told the “Idol” judges that she had never seen an R-rated movie.
Laila explains her perspective on “Zero Hour” (7 p.m., WATN-TV Channel 24).
The sixth doctor is profiled on “Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited” (7:30 p.m., BBC America).
The voices of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg animate the 2012 comedy “Hotel Transylvania” (8 p.m., Starz).
A new tenant arrives on “666 Park Avenue” (8 p.m., WATN-TV Channel 24).
Ian can’t abide by Jason’s rules on “Do No Harm” (9 p.m., WMC-TV Channel 5).
SUNDAY’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., WREGTV Channel 3): Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg; historian David McCullough.
A series explained on “The Real Story: Star Trek” (7 p.m., Smithsonian).
A small town with mysteries finds itself “Under the Dome” (8 p.m., WREG-TV Channel 3).
A professor’s murder may be linked to a longmissing student on the “Masterpiece Classic” (8 p.m., WKNO-TV Channel 10;