Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Editor's note: Because we rarely get access to advance movie screeners and because no one cares about a Lifetime movie starring Harrison Ford or killer angels descending from heaven, we decided to give you something more useful this week — more TV coverage.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
10:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 30
Now, I'm not under the delusion that anything a lowly, rookie media writer such as I can place in print could carry enough weight to hex what could be a successful continuation of one of the funniest seasons of Saturday Night Live in years. But then again, acknowledging a good run for a show that's infamous for hanging in such a delicate balance between terrible (Gilly) and transcendent (“What's up With That?”) is always risky — like acknowledging a no-hitter in the sixth. But it has to be noted that for every embarrassingly awful episode with January Jones or Taylor Lautner, there have been plenty of unbelievable episodes with Taylor Swift, James Franco or Charles Barkley, who solidified the term “shark bag” in my daily vernacular. Nevertheless, I'll fancy myself a bit of a John Clayton for the SNL set and predict a stellar episode this Saturday. Jon Hamm returns after hosting one of the best episodes of last season, the writers are coming back after a break (the strongest episodes always happen after a rerun), and Lorne Michaels is looking to wind down this season on a couple of high notes. Watch it, but watch it on Hulu to screw over NBC.
THE 52ND ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS
7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 31
Of all the major award shows none is dumber than the Grammy Awards. Last year, big-voiced British singer Adele won Best New Artist and Female Pop Vocal. This year she's up for the Female Pop Vocal again even though she hasn't released a new album since her last win. In the always loosely defined Best New Artist category, Silversun Pickups are nominated even though their first album came out in 2005. Blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates are up for Best Pop Performance for a live version of a song they released in the '70s. More signs that the editors of increasingly geezer-ish Rolling Stone are picking the nominees: An Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood live album is in the running for Best Rock Album. Depeche Mode landed in the Best Alternative Music Album category. Bon Jovi is nominated. I could go on. But if you can take all that with a grain of salt and can handle the inevitable loss of the few bands you care about (MGMT, Phoenix, Levon Helm!) there's a decent line-up of performers scheduled: Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Dave Matthews Band, The Black Eyed Peas, Green Day, Pink, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum and Maxwell.
HOWE AND HOWE TECH
10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2
The Discovery Channel
As a guy who likes to watch other guys make stuff — and let's face it: what guy doesn't? — even I can admit that some of the “fabricator” shows on TV get a little ridiculous. A few years back, there was a show in which engineers and welders would try to make the world's largest working Something: a 30-foot-long motorcycle, for instance, or a popcorn popper that could make enough hot corn for 1,000 of your closest friends. There's another show where a bunch of guys try to build inventions sketched by Leonardo DaVinci. Interesting, but not many practical applications for the modern world old Leo helped create. That's a big part of the reason why I like the new Discovery Channel show “Howe and Howe Tech.” Every week, the show takes a peek into the workshop of Mike and Geoff Howe, twin brothers who are also self-taught engineers. No cars that transform into robots here, just some of the baddest ass vehicles on the planet. See, Howe and Howe Technologies, the company run by the Howe brothers, is on the cutting edge of armored and super-rugged vehicle design, with their creations competing for million dollar military and industrial contracts. The most recognizable of their products is Ripsaw, the world's fastest tracked vehicle. Built with a revolutionary high-speed track design and a high-strength steel frame, Ripsaw can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, withstand punishment that would turn a regular tank into scrap and scamper over a 42-inch vertical wall like a goat. Fitted with a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade launcher, Ripsaw is currently in testing by the U.S. Army as a contender for the next generation of land-based remote-control drones — something like the Predator drones in the sky, except about a million times cooler. Also in the testing stages: a tracked ATV for military use; an ultra-tough jeep for mining and survey operations, and the world's smallest armored personnel carrier — a one-man tank designed to carry a SWAT officer or soldier up regular stairways and through standard doors to get the bad guys. It's a gearhead's dream.