April 29, 2005

TV: marathon recommendations

A pair of terrific TV shows are having marathon showings on Sunday, and both are worth either watching or taping.

Sundance will air all 8 episodes (at roughly 45-50 minutes each) of The Staircase, a documentary about the North Carolina murder trial of writer Michael Peterson. Peterson's wife died in their home, and the police believed that he had beat her to death. The defense claimed that she had drunk a bit too much wine that evening and slipped while going up a narrow, dimly lit stairway; she smashed her head into the wall once or twice before falling to the ground, and continued to bang her head as she slipped in her own blood while trying to stand. I haven't yet watched the final two episodes, but the first six are riveting.

We follow the preparation and the trial from the point of view of Peterson's defense team, and the twists and turns the case takes would, if presented in fiction, be laughed off as unbelievable. Marvelous stuff.

And the third season of Project Greenlight is currently underway on Bravo (the first two seasons aired on HBO). This is a contest show that chooses a writer and a director, then follows them through the process of making a low-budget movie. The first two seasons produced coming-of-age stories that bombed at the box office (Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights), so this year, the Greenlight team specifically set out to make a genre movie that might actually draw an audience.

They selected a horror script called Feast about aliens attacking a group of strangers in an isolated bar, and chose as director John Gulager, who has become the star of the season. He's an insecure guy who seems to have very clear ideas about how he wants the movie to turn out, and almost no skill at communicating those ideas to the cast and crew. We're seven episodes into the Greenlight season, and six of those episodes will air on Sunday (they're skipping the first episode, in which the winning writer and director were chosen).

No comments: