Labor Day TV Programming

Got the day off? Time to work the couch

Sure, you could spend Labor Day at a BBQ cookout or splashing around a swimming hole… but gaw, that sounds like so much work, right?

Ellen Burstyn, suitably creepy in 'Coma'
I've got Monday off, and I'm planning on spending a good chunk of it on the couch. BECAUSE I'VE EARNED IT. Also, after two years cable-free, the DirecTV fairy came last week, and I've been on an unholy binge ever since. (My roommate, too: Monday I caught her weeping at an Intervention episode.) But what you don't want to do is waste the day aimlessly jumping channels. A plan of attack is in order.

Noted Empty Chair Medium Clint Eastwood dominates AMC's Labor Day programming, starting at 9:15am with The Man With No Name trilogy, Eastwood's career-kickstarting collaboration with Spaghetti Western icon Sergio Leone: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More (11:45am), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (2:45pm). Later in the day, two of his Seventies pictures, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (7pm & 11:30pm) and Joe Kidd (9:30pm), air.

'For a Few Dollars More'

Clint a little too much gruff stuff for your taste? Like your men a little more like women? Logo rebroadcasts the entire fourth season of RuPaul's Drag Race from 9am to 9pm.

If you've never seen a Powell & Pressburger film (The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death), now's your chance: TCM screens their masterful Black Narcissus (4:45pm). Here's what I wrote about the film in a P&P retrospective ("Such Great Heights," June 11, 2010) a couple years ago:

"Black Narcissus thrums with, as Martin Scorsese describes it, 'a psychosexual energy.' Deborah Kerr … plays Sister Clodagh, who leads a sect of Anglican nuns up the mountain to start a school in an abandoned palace. The palace, one should point out, used to house a Native American general's kept women, and that is one of many delicious sacrileges in this brutally sensual film. (The color palette – engineered by cinematographer and Technicolor wiz Jack Cardiff – is a beautiful battering ram to the senses.) The altitude makes everyone go a little off their rocker, most especially Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who imagines a love connection with David Farrar's wolfish land agent Mr. Dean. That obsession culminates in the film's bravura climax, a stark and silhouetted sequence (in fits it recalls The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), and is set on the thin ledge of a cliff in the clouds.

'Black Narcissus'

Maybe on paper a story about nuns going nutter doesn't appeal to you, but I swear – give it 10 minutes and you'll be hooked. This movie is crazy-good (also just… crazy). And as for the fine work of cinematographer Jack Cardiff – prior to Black Narcissus, TCM will air Craig McCall's engrossing 2010 documentary Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (3pm).

So all that's old. You say you want new? How about the return of Anthony Bourdain? The ninth and final season of his popular culture + cuisine show No Reservations premieres at 8pm on the Travel Channel. Guess where he decides to kick off the season? At a little something called SXSW. Highlights include Tony getting sloppy drunk and tatted with Sleigh Bells (see clip below) and a Quality Seafood sojourn with the Sword.

Also premiering at 8pm: Part 1 of the new A&E redo of Michael Crichton's Coma, starring Lauren Ambrose, Richard Dreyfuss, Geena Davis, James Woods, Steven Pasquale, and Ellen Burstyn. Vulture blog's Matt Zoller Seitz calls it "exuberantly batty … a soap opera from hell. It looks like a German Expressionist 'Rebuild Detroit' ad and hypes up already-tense scenes with synthesized burbles, groans, and chants." (Part 2 airs Tuesday night at 8pm.) Behind the scenes trailer below.

Got your own TV coma going now? Then we've done our job well.

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TV, Labor Day, Clint Eastwood, Coma, Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations, Black Narcissus, Jack Cardiff, Powell & Pressburger, Sergio Leone, RuPaul's Drag Race

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