Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17
If you're a fan of science fiction TV, the last couple of years have really been a sort of golden age. The small screen has been awash with great sci-fi, including a revamped version of “Battlestar Galactica,” a soon-to-debut prequel to BSG called “Caprica,” and newer fare like “Warehouse 13.” Then there comes the would-be successor to the police procedural/sci-fi crown once held by Chris Carter's “The X-Files”: Fox's “Fringe,” which debuts a new season this week. For fans of “X-Files,” “Fringe” can seem like a well-trodden path, following the adventures of somewhat skeptical FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) as she follows all manner of monsters, baddies and conspiratorial plots. Giving her an assist are Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his father Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a brilliant but quirky scientist who ended up in a mental institution after an experiment went wrong and killed and assistant. Week to week, the show provides a great bit of intrigue and suspense while building up an overarching and very cool mythology to help explain the goings on. There's a nice bit of humor to make sure things don't get too serious.
DIRTY DANCING (1987)
7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19
Even though Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in early 2008 — a cancer which soon spread to his liver — it was heartbreaking and surprising to me when I heard he passed away on Sept. 14. I'm about as heterosexual as they come, but I'll be damned if Swayze didn't look good in them jeans back in the day. Yeah, he took some cheesy roles (his turn as a drag queen in “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar” comes to mind, as does the hillbilly cop movie “Next of Kin”), but he had some good ones in there, too. My favorite of his might be “Red Dawn.” Sure, it's a bloody, Cold War shoot-'em-up, but it's also a great portrayal of what happens to young people who learn to be comfortable walking with death. While “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” (3:30 p.m. Sept. 19) were a bit on the fluffy side for me, I can see the appeal.
9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23
It's easy to be skeptical of the wash of paranormal and cryptozoological reality shows that have sprung up in recent years — “Ghost Hunters,” Paranormal State,” this offering from the SyFy Channel, “Destination Truth.” On the one hand, I want to believe. On the other, I know that folks who are getting paid the big bucks to make a television show about finding ghosts, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster have got a very strong motive to fake it, if only to keep the gravy train rolling. After all, who is going to tune in week to week for a show called “Bigfoot Hunters” that never finds evidence of Bigfoot? After a couple episodes of that, viewers are either going to move on, or — call me a cynic — the show's producers are going to break out the big rubber feet and go tromping through the mud a few steps ahead of the camera. All that said, “Destination Truth” might be the most enjoyable of the paranormal/supernatural reality shows on TV, if only because host/adventurer Josh Gates doesn't take it all as deadly serious as the guys on those other offerings. This week, Gates and Crew head to Mexico to look for ghosts on the haunted “Island of Dolls.” Then it's on to the Bahamas to look for the Lusca, a sea monster said to hunt by night.