Friday, March 02, 2007

TV: Watching The Detectives

New month, new leaf. I’m going to be a giver.

So is Turner Classic Movies, with their festival Watching The Detectives. 53 films shown every Tuesday and Wednesday night in March.

Things kick off next Tuesday, March 6, with the most famous gumshoes in their most famous cases: Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep), Mike Hammer (Kiss Me Deadly). More obscure titles come to the fore on March 7, with the TCM premieres of four Lone Wolf films. I haven’t seen any of these movies starring Warren William as Louis Joseph Vance’s gentleman thief Michael Lanyard. I assume that the keeper of the lot is 1939’s The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt, featuring Ida Lupino, Rita Hayworth and a script by novelist Jonathan Latimer. Later in March is an entire evening of Boston Blackie films starring Chester Morris that haven’t been seen on TV – or anywhere else, most likely – in ages. Fire up that DVR.

TV: Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

I’m sure this Fox game show will grow old quickly. I already hate the music. But I have to admit that the concept is ingenious. The questions are drawn from elementary school textbooks – in other words, everyday stuff the contestants learned ages ago and have stopped thinking about.

So when host Jeff Foxworthy asks how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, you think, “That’s easy. Two ... right? No, wait, it’s three. Or two. Hang on.” And next thing you know, you’re copying answers off a ten-year-old. (It’s three, by the way. I did know that five U.S. states border the Pacific Ocean, and if my answer of ‘Kodiak’ had not been accepted in response to the question “What is the largest species of bear?,” I would have appealed to the judges. Or the hall monitors. Whoever. Kodiaks are comparable in size to polar bears. Honest.)

The crowning touch is that when contestants get an answer wrong or opt to take the money and run, they must look into the camera and say, “I am not smarter than a fifth grader.” That kind of mortification will keep me tuning in for at least another week.