Must-See TV

Why go to the movies when television provides plenty of angst and entertainment?

My husband and I hardly ever get out, and we sort of worry about it. In fact, we signed a contract a while back, agreeing to see a movie every weekend. We really did. That was July, and I think we've been to three movies since.

We have reasons. Ed's back tends to crump up in theater seats, while I, a recovering movie reviewer, am still depressed by the smell of popcorn. And then there's the alluring glow of the electric hearth in our living room. Why go out and park and pay and breathe ersatz butter fumes when we've got 9 o'clock TV? The daily narrative fix we crave and all the pop culture we can handle is waiting right there on the credenza.

Most nights during the season, we've found something to watch we both enjoy--NYPD Blue, LA Dragnet, The Handler and, of course, all three flavors of Law and Order. (We like crime, and we like punishment even more.) On Sunday we have to start at 8 and also tape, because of HBO. Thursday, on the other hand, is a blank since ER went all to hell, and Monday night, the only thing on is CSI: Miami. This one we don't watch for its virtues, which are nil. Wait, that's not fair. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" plays at the beginning behind a zooming sun-and-water sequence ripped straight from the late, great Miami Vice. It's only after the credits that the show falls apart.

To tell the truth, CSI: Miami disgusts Ed, and I may not be able to cajole him into it much longer. I'm the one who relishes the show's insane stylization and lofty indifference to plausibility: The foxy girl-cops, for example, do autopsies in stretch pants and spike heels, while comically pompous lead detective Horatio Caine (David Caruso) solves crimes through psychic visions. I'm especially fascinated by Caruso's acting--he whispers his lines while taking his sunglasses off (pause), and then putting them (pause) back on again. Sometimes, when he's about to say something really important, he (pause) looks over the top of his sunglasses. That's it.

I'm also fond of the team's swanky secret headquarters, which features the black marble surfaces and the green-and-orange lighting so typical of a modern law enforcement complex. The very best part, though, is when Caruso roars around in his super-size Hummer looking exactly like a Weeble in a Tonka truck. Everybody looks teensy in those things, but with him, more so.

Interestingly, the show's producer, explosion-movie giant Jerry Bruckheimer, is also a funny-looking little guy who thinks he's God, and it's my belief that his boundless self-regard accounts for the show's insistence that Caruso is in some way impressive. (I should confess here that a deep and obviously active hatred for Bruckheimer underlies my appetite for the show. When I was reviewing, I not only had to see Bruckheimer's Con Air, Armageddon and Enemy of the State, I had to take notes. Watching CSI: Miami is my damaged idea of revenge.)

It never disappoints. So it was just like the cherry on a banana split when last week's ridiculous episode broke for a commercial that instantly became my new favorite. (My old No. 1 ad was the Mitsubishi car commercial where the bunch of cool friends are tooling around and the girl in the passenger seat gets all, like, snaky and boneless and her arms sort of flow in sync with the background music. The concept of a car that comes with hallucinogens factory-installed is too great.)

The new commercial is for Levitra (repeat after me: luh-VEE-tra), the longer-lasting Viagra rival. Just the name is brilliant--it's got that soothing Latinate-sounding "a" ending and three-syllable pattern so popular in car names these days. (Sierra, Sonoma, Sedona, Elantra--can the Caldera be far behind?) And it artfully evokes both the first syllable of "Viagra" and first two of "levitate," plus echoing the French nickname for drug, "Le Weekend" (luh-vee-kehnd). That's poetry.

The ad is just as crafty. A great-looking mid-40s guy and his great-looking mid-40s wife--we somehow know they're legally married--are hanging out at what could be their summer house. He throws a football at a tire hanging from a rope and misses. He looks sad. Then the wonder drug is mentioned and, my gosh, he starts bombing that ball through the hole time after time! Now he's happy! And so is the missus! And look! They're going inside!

The ad succeeds in being achingly wholesome (mellow light, gardening wife, tire swing), and at the same time way more blatant even than the Survivor ad that ran next--featuring belching chicks in bikinis and a rumored pelican attack. (Pelicans. Honest.)

See? Even when there's nothing on, there's still plenty to watch.

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