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Arts and Entertainment

TV Junkie: 'Pillars' Premieres Tonight, 'Mad Men' Sunday; TdF Concludes

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Donald Sutherland stars in "Pillars of the Earth" which premieres tonight at 10pm on Starz and is our pick of the night.


Donald Sutherland stars in "Pillars of the Earth" which premieres tonight at 10pm on Starz and is our pick of the night.
Weekend EditionOf course most of the media focus is on Sunday's season premiere of "Mad Men" (10pm on AMC): January Jones is on Fallon tonight, NBC is rerunning Jon Hamm's "Saturday Night Live" tomorrow. All we can say is, thank god "Mad Men" is running at 10pm so as not to interfere with "True Blood" at 9pm on HBO - since "Hung" and "Entourage" repeat a few times later on Sundays, we won't be missing those either.

What we really think you ought to check out is "The Pillars of the Earth" which premieres on Starz tonight at 10pm. We found it surprisingly good as we had been prepared for a computer-enhanced cartoonish schlockfest a la "Spartacus: Blood and Sand". If you ever enjoyed any of David Macaulay's excellent books brought to life on PBS (Cathedral or Castle, Roman City, etc.), you will find yourself drawn into this great new series from Starz. The plot follows the storylines of several characters in 12th century England who converge due to war, religious strife, and mercantilism. We have Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell from "Eleventh Hour"), desperate to be allowed to build a cathedral who may or may not be granted his wish; the Machiavellian (hey, he wasn't even around yet!) manipulations of the Bishop Waleran, masterfully played by Ian McShane; the honorable Earl Bartholomew played (all too fleetingly) by Donald Sutherland tries to set several characters on a path of righteousness only to be countered by a mercurial and epileptic Lord William Hamleigh (David Oakes).

Yes, there's plenty of gory battles but nothing nearly as over-the-top as Starz' other series, "Spartacus". The battles are all part of a much more solid script based upon the 1989 book by Ken Follett. It's good stuff that's relatively accurate when it comes to technology and history and there are many good performances in the first three episodes that we've seen. It's our pick for the night!
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This weekend concludes the 97th edition of the Tour de France and it's been a good one despite Lance Armstrong not being in contention after several unfortunate crashes and mechanical mishaps. Thursday's battle between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador on the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees was typically epic and probably the highlight of the last 3 weeks of racing. Saturday's time trial (5:30am on Versus) will seal the deal on the general classification - will Schleck be able to make up 8 seconds on Contador or be held off?

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Versus has done a better job this year compared to most. Somehow the commercials didn't seem as obnoxiously repetitive and more of the pre-recorded segments were of better quality compared to years' past. There was none of the ridiculous "weather" problems that plagued Versus' broadcast of the Tour of California (somehow we can get live footage of climbs in the high Alps during a rainstorm but we can't in flat central California? Gimme a break).

As usual, we found ourselves exclusively watching veteran commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin during the live morning broadcasts because, simply, they are the best of what Versus offers. We did watch streams of Eurosport broadcasts which were quite a lot of fun since commercial breaks seemed to occur only every half-hour or so and the commentators didn't feel like they had to constantly be yammering every second of the broadcast. Eurosport also seemed to have quick and easy access, either in studio or via phone, cycling legends like Magnus Backstedt to provide further (live!) insight on key stages. Thanks Versus, we hope to see more cycling from you through the end of the year.
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Lots of things are happening at Comic Con, among them was Showtime unveiling the trailers to several of their shows: "Dexter Early Cuts", "Weeds", "Californication", "Nurse Jackie". See the embedded videos at the end of this post.
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The TV Junkie Plan: Tonight - "Friday Night Lights", "The Neistat Brothers", "The Pillars of the Earth", Fallon (January Jones, Susie Essman). Saturday - Tour de France, "Doctor Who", "Being Human". Sunday - Tour de France, "True Blood", "Mad Men", "Russell Simmons Presents: Stand-Up at the El Rey".

Tonight

8:00pm Friday Night Lights NBC - Tami has to defend her actions and her job; Julie receives an unexpected phone call; Luke becomes more desperate to alleviate his pain.

8:00pm The Little Princess TCM - (1939) A poor but proud girl (Shirley Temple) searches army hospitals for her father, reported dead in the Boer War.

9:00pm The Neistat Brothers HBO - Casey and Van sell their show to HBO; Van is confronted with a decision in his personal life.

9:00pm Need to Know PBS/KCET - Bob Ivry; Crossing the Line; Tiny House Movement; Grousing at Windmills; Afghanistan; Next Week's News

9:00pm Man, Woman, Wild Discovery - Myke and Ruth's safari vehicle breaks down.

9:00pm Eureka Syfy - Blind rage infects everyone at Global Dynamics with catastrophic results.

10:00pm The Pillars of the Earth Starz - The succession of England's crown is in doubt and causes King Henry's daughter and nephew to compete for the throne; Fire destroys Kingsbridge church, giving Tom, son Alfred and stepson Jack the chance to build a new cathedral

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10:00pm The Whitest Kids U'Know IFC - "Cash Quiz"; "Great Grandmas"; "History Reset."

10:00pm The Soup E! - Joel McHale and Co. rock another week of pop culture

10:00pm Flashpoint CBS - The team questions a man's motives when he violently counters drug dealers vandalizing the bar he patronizes.

10:00pm Haven Syfy - Harmony

10:00pm Dual Survival Discovery - Dave and Cody must trek through tough Arizona terrain to find each other before making their way back to civilization.

11:35pm The Tonight Show With Jay Leno NBC - Actress Rachel Weisz; motivational speaker Tony Robbins; Gaslight Anthem performs.

12:35am The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson CBS - Actress Mindy Kaling; model Paulina Porizkova; MGMT performs.

12:35am Late Night With Jimmy Fallon NBC - Actress January Jones; actress Susie Essman; Rick Ross performs.

Saturday

5:30am Cycling: Tour de France Versus - Stage 19, Individual Time Trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac

8:00pm The Bridge CBS - Frank takes over as the negotiator when a police officer is shot in the line of duty.

8:00pm Persons Unknown NBC - Joe puts himself into a vulnerable position when he confesses everything he knows about the kidnappers and their organization

9:00pm Doctor Who BBC AMerica - The fates draw close around the TARDIS.

10:00pm Being Human BBC America - Vampire society is about to implode following the death of Herrick; George seems like a changed man; Nina reveals a shocking secret

Sunday

5:00am Cycling: Tour de France Versus - The Finale: Stage 20 From Longjumeau to Paris Champs-Elysees.

8:00pm Big Brother CBS - The nomination ceremony takes place.

9:00pm True Blood HBO - Bill's fate lies in Lorena's hands; Tara tries to stave off Franklin's advances; Tommy finds it difficult to leave his family; Jessica puts Pam's teachings into practice; Jason and Crystal's romance hits a snag; Russell visits Louisiana.

9:00pm Leverage TNT - After targeting a greedy debt collector, the crew discovers that their target is also a domestic terrorist who is funding an armed militia.

9:00pm Masterpiece Mystery! PBS/KCET - Poirot X: Appointment With Death On vacation in Syria, a Belgian sleuth gets involved with a murder investigation at an archaeological site.

9:00pm My Boys TBS - Season Premiere.

10:00pm Hung HBO - Ray gives Lenore an ultimatum; Ray considers Tanya's suggestion that Damon find a new hobby; Lenore offers Jessica some advice; Ray runs into Mike in a hotel lobby.

10:00pm Mad Men AMC - Season Premiere.

10:00pm The Real L Word Showtime - Family Ties

10:00pm Strange Sex TLC - A polyamorous trio is expecting a baby; a couple plans for an orgasmic birth.

10:30pm Entourage HBO - Turtle has a hard time trusting Alex; Drama enlists Bob Saget's help to smooth out a rough first impression with a potential sitcom co-star; Ari learns that Lizzie may be siphoning off some of his clients; Eric and Scott settle their differences.

11:00pm Russell Simmons Presents: Stand-Up at the El Rey Comedy Central - Comedians Felipe Esparza and Lil Rel are among those that will appear

"Dexter Early Cuts: Dark Echo Trailer"

"Californication" Season 4 Trailer:

"Nurse Jackie" Trailer:

"Weeds" Season 6 Trailer: