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SISTER WIVES: SEASON 2
9 p.m. Sundays
TLC is forging boldly ahead with its plan to become The Jerry Springer Channel, apparently never having met an obsessive-compulsive, 600-pound, birth-control-phobic grandmother it didn't like. Now, the network seems to have a hit on its hands with "Sister Wives," an exploration/exploitation of the often-complicated dynamics of the Brown family of Utah, a polygamist clan run by bottle-blonde nincompoop Kody Brown and (to a much lesser extent) his four wives. As with a lot of reality show television, I can't stand "Sister Wives," but I can't seem to look away. Kody, in particular, rubs me in all the wrong directions. He tries mightily to come across as wholesome and family-oriented, but his surfer-Ken locks, soul patch, Aeropostale wardrobe and two-seater Lexus roadster (which he drives even though he has 16 kids and his wives mostly putter around in 10-year-old beaters that are missing hubcaps) just scream "douchebag on the make." His default expression is "Michael Jackson at the circus," except when one of his wives is crying or discussing the difficulties of having a plural marriage (sometimes both), at which point he puts on his "German Shepherd attempting to comprehend algebra" face. As if all that wasn't enough, last season he surprised his three 40-something wives by bringing home a thin, much younger girlfriend and holding hands with her everywhere he went until they were married, at which point they jetted out for an 11-day beach-and-fine-dining honeymoon to California, even though his other wives hadn't been on a trip in years. If I sound flabbergasted with this, it's mostly because I can't understand why four seemingly-sane women couldn't do better than this guy, or at least why they haven't conspired by now to dump him in the desert two counties over with his testicles in his breast pocket. I absolutely hate myself for watching this show. But. I. Can't. Look. Away. Resist!
THIS AMERICAN LIFE
9 p.m. Mondays
As someone who loves great television, the documentary format and reporting in general, I hope and pray you're lucky enough to have a television package that includes Current TV. If you don't have it, look into getting a cable or satellite bundle that will give it to you, just so you can watch the transcendently good show "This American Life." Based on the radio show of the same name from NPR (you know: those dastardly pinkos who are trying to bring down Glenn Beck's beloved Amerikuh through unbiased news, book reviews, and "Car Talk with Click and Clack"), "This American Life" shares a lot with its radio cousin, including host Ira Glass and that beautiful sense that everything in the American experience is emotionally connected in one way or another. I've long been a fan of the radio show, spending many a night sitting in the driveway with the motor running, waiting for some lovely bit of interview to be over so I could go inside. I stumbled across the TV show a few weeks back, and I am now a full-blown devotee. I watch the new shows and reruns anytime they're on. Every one is a little 30-minute jewel box of emotion, intelligence and beautiful imagery, all built around a broad weekly theme like stubbornness, going down in history, the underdog or respect. Recent episodes have included a visit to Marwencol (a scaled-down World War II-era French town built by a photographer who was left a brain-damaged amnesiac after being severely beaten); a conversation with a 14-year-old who has vowed to never fall in love; urban horsemen in Philadelphia, and devoutly religious people who think they can photograph the Virgin Mary by shooting a picture of the sun at a certain spot in the desert. Always beautiful, always clever, always entertaining. If you get a chance, check it out. Warning: It's addictive.
— David Koon