The televisionist, June 18 

  • 'MERLIN'


Starts 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 21


Watching the evolution of Bill Murray in recent years has been a real treat. Sure, “The Life Aquatic” wasn't that good, but Murray has been breathtakingly beautiful in films like “Lost in Translation,” “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Like many great comics, Murray seems to have mellowed with age and gotten more morose, in a Mark Twain-ish way. That's a good place for an actor of his vintage to be, and — coupled with a real sense of daring when it comes to the roles he takes on — it has saved Murray from going the way of actors like Eddie Murphy or Dan Aykroyd. Still, we can only take so much of the new, dimmer-but-long-burning Bill Murray before we have to take the antidote — which is a shot of the young, frantic, possibly coked-up Billy Murray. Here, AMC presents a dose of that fine medicine via a block of four classics from the master. First up is what might be his best pure-comic turn ever, as semi-lucid greenskeeper Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.” That's followed by Murray's take on Army life in the underrated “Stripes.” Then it's the immortal “Ghostbusters,” followed by the not-quite-so-good “Ghostbusters 2.”   



8 p.m. Sunday, June 21


Ever since I took an in-depth course on Arthurian Legends my first year of college, I've been partial to all that: the Grail, the sword in the stone, Guinevere, Arthur, the Round Table, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and even that goody-two-shoes Galahad, who showed up Lancelot thanks to some clever rewrites by medieval monks who couldn't stand that an adulterer was the paragon of knighthood. And then there was Merlin. Merlin, in many respects, was on par with Arthur himself for me, the literal man behind the throne, who seemed to be constantly conflicted about the part he had to play in the whole business. Whatever the case, he was doing dark and moody magic two centuries before J.K. Rowling ever picked up a pen. In this American-shores rerun of a 13-part mini-series that appeared on the BBC last year, we get the origin story of a teen-age Merlin (Colin Morgan), Arthur (Bradley James) and the knights of the round table. The series was well-received by critics during its UK run, and the BBC has a great batting average when it comes to cranking out great costume drama. There's every indication that this one will be a hit with American audiences as well.      



9 p.m. Tuesday, June 23


To be honest with you, while watching the online preview for the new Bravo reality show “NYC Prep” — which follows the lives of a group of well-to-do teen-agers in New York City — I couldn't tell if what I was feeling was revulsion or envy. Sure, there's some envy there: who wouldn't have wanted to have all the booze, smokes, money and sex they could handle back when they were 16? But that's also where the revulsion comes in. Teen-agers — even rich, connected, grown-up-too-soon teen-agers — are notoriously stupid, even the smart ones. Given that, all I could think while watching the preview was: Where are these kids' parents? And: How is this possibly legal? Every shot seemed to be of a 16-year-old with a drink in his hand, and I ain't talking cherry Coke. Does Bravo have a Get Out of Jail Free card for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or does New York City not prosecute that kind of thing anymore? Sex, say these kids, is as casual as a kiss, and drugs are plentiful. Expressions, probably not coincidentally, are vacant and jaded. Ever wonder how all those Master of the Universe types who crashed the stock market then skated off to Aruba in their Lear jets got to be such greedy, soulless d-bags? Tune in and find out.  


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