The Televisionist, Jan. 26 



8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29

The SyFy Channel

What chess is to smart folks, The Versus Game is to stoners. It goes a little sumpin' like this: STONER No. 1: "Okay, okay. How about a ninja versus Mike Tyson?" STONER No. 2: "Tyson now, or in his prime?" STONER No. 1: "In his prime, but he's wearing really heavy boots. Like, Frankenstein boots." STONER No. 2: "Does the ninja, like, have any weapons?" STONER No. 1: "Uh, yeah, but only a plastic cooking spatula." And, scene. Because most of the programming on the SyFy Channel is only enjoyed by stoners, it's easy to see why The Versus Game is paying off for them big time, with recent made-for-TV movies like "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" and "Dinocroc vs. Supergator." Featuring laughably-bad digital effects, wooden dialogue and has-been stars, they go beyond B-movie to a letter of the alphabet previously unknown in the annals of cinema. This week's outing — "Megapython vs. Gatoroid" features an Arkansas twist: Helena-born Mary Lambert in the director's chair. Lambert (the sister of former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln) cut her teeth directing many of Madonna's early music videos, including "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin" before moving on to films like "Pet Sematary," "My Stepson, My Lover," and "Dragstrip Girl." As added craptacularity, the movie stars 1980s pop stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, with Tiffany playing a crusading park ranger in Everglades National Park who is trying to stop the spread of invasive pythons, and Gibson as an equally dedicated (and slightly beef-jerky-like, from the video clips we've seen) animal rights activist who believes the snakes should be left alone. Oh, and eventually, Gibson and Tiffany get in a hair-pulling catfight that devolves into a pie fight. Sounds like a great Saturday night.

David Koon


Mondays at 8 p.m.

The SyFy Channel

These days, it's looking like if you want a half-ass decent American TV show, you have to go looking in Britain for the raw material. As we wrote last week, "Skins," the deliciously raunchy UK show about drugged-out and horny (read: normal) high school students, recently jumped the pond to land as a new U.S. version on MTV. Then there's NBC's "The Office," which was a well-regarded British show well before Steve Carrell got hold of it. The latest transplant from Mother England is the supernatural/sci-fi show "Being Human." We've caught the original a few times on BBC America, and it's a whole lot of fun. Basically "Three's Company" with death and bloodsucking, it features the adventures of 20somethings Mitchell, George and Annie, roommates who are a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, respectively. While the show goes a lot deeper than who left the cap off the blood jug again and whether or not the werewolf should pay the full cost of getting his wiry hairballs snaked out of the tub drain, at its heart, it's a moving treatise on the perils of being different. Though the transfer process from British TV to American TV isn't always smooth (witness the always-brilliant UK version of car-church automobile show "Top Gear," versus the dull, dismal and stupid U.S. version of the same) we've got high hopes for the SyFy turn. The bones are there. All they have to do is not screw it up.



Fridays at 9:30


Fred Armisen, of SNL fame, and Carrie Brownstein, formerly of riot grrl rock outfit Sleater-Kinney, have put together a sketch-based masterpiece about living in Portland, a magical wonderland where the environmentally-friendly, feminist, vegan, hipster, artsy-fartsy class goes to live locally. In the show's first episode, we see Armisen returning to Los Angeles to tell Brownstein about a recent visit to Portland. "Do you remember the '90s?" he asks. "You know, people were talking about getting piercings and tribal tattoos. And people were singing about saving the planet and forming bands. There's a place where that idea still exists as a reality. And I've been there." The characters and settings change throughout the show but the transitions are seamless. There's Peter and Nance, a couple who leave a restaurant before ordering the chicken to visit the organic farm where said chicken was purchased, to make sure he had grown up in a good environment. There's Toni and Candace, feminist bookstore owners who talk about drinking trendy tea. There's Bryce and Lisa, who create Etsy-worthy art by "putting birds on things."

"The dream of the '90s is alive in Portland," the characters sing in the debut episode. Check out "Portlandia" and live that dream.

Gerard Matthews


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