Tubegazing: Notable shows on TV this week
HBO condenses Dee Brown's bestselling 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'; 'The Starter Wife' is a bit of a nonstarter.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (HBO, Sunday, May 27, 9 p.m.): Thirty years of tragic history, including the stories of dozens of important native Americans, cannot be easily boiled down to two hours of television drama. HBO has been faulted for using the most famous Indian of the time, Charles Eastman, the part-Sioux, Dartmouth-educated doctor, and his New England writer/wife, Elaine Goodale, as narrators, or "witnesses," as the show calls them. These characters, played by Adam Beach and Anna Paquin, did not drive the original book. Rather than cover the betrayals, deaths, and disasters that befell numerous tribes from 1860 to 1890 as the groundbreaking Dee Brown bestseller did, HBO uses the duo to focus on the Sioux, culminating with the massacre at Wounded Knee. The producers should have trusted the original material, a sprawling narrative with many protagonists. Beach and Paquin are good in their roles, but it's the historical backdrop that's the true star. Grade:B+
The Starter Wife (USA, Thursday, May 31, 9 p.m.): The consummate beach read has been turned into a perfectly decent summer TV distraction. Based on the roman à clef by Gigi Grazer, wife of megaproducer Brian Grazer, this six-hour mini-series tracks the distress of a pampered Malibu denizen who is abruptly discarded for a younger model. Never deep enough to seriously address, well, anything, the show is meant to showcase the comic talents of star Debra Messing. But the best reason to watch this sudsy serial is the utterly gleeful, furniture-chewing performance by Judy Davis as her Ab Fab refugee of a best friend. Grade: B [Editor's note: The original version mischaracterized the relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Grazer.]