TV Eye

Devil's advocate

<i>The Winning Season</i>
The Winning Season

You know, I try to do the right thing. I try to support high-quality TV, TV that's good for you, TV that matters. But sometimes I fall off the wagon. I watch some good trash, and I feel oh-so-lucky that I have this job (professional TV watcher – sweet!). I'm going to hell. Oh well, that's where all the fun people are.

So, let me try to buy some time out of the bad place by at least telling you about some family-friendly fare – one of those projects I should feel high minded and responsible about recommending, The Winning Season.

Based on Dan Gutman's book, Honus & Me, the film follows Joe Soshack (Mark Rendall), a 12-year-old baseball player and fanatic who finds a valuable Honus Wagner (Matthew Modine) baseball card among the trash of an elderly woman he does odd jobs for. Thrilled that his find will help his cash-strapped parents, he's frustrated when they tell him he must return the card to its rightful owner. When Joe takes off to blow off steam, he discovers that the card is – little suck of air – magic! It transports him to the 1909 World Series, where Joe is a young adult (played by Shawn Hatosy). He gets to drink beer, becomes Wagner's pal, turns heads with his contemporary slang, and tells Wagner about the future of baseball (when Joe says he's from 1985, Wagner and his buddies shrug it off as peculiar). From Wagner, Joe learns about honor, family, love, and most important of all, baseball – which I think is supposed to be synonymous with honor, family, and love.

What is it about baseball that inspires fantasy, and why did I have such a hard time buying it? Perhaps because I kept bumping into the fantasy's clunky conventions. Why, for example, is Joe an adult in the past? Why is the card magical? When Joe covers for Honus in the seventh game of the World Series, it's not kooky enough to be absurdly funny, or seamless enough to be clever: It's clunky.

Throughout the film, there are plenty of opportunities to comment on how contemporary sports have been corrupted by money and greed, punctuated by a weighty, head-shaking moment when Joe tells Wagner that one day, ballplayers will be paid more than the president of the United States.

The warm fuzzies and deep wisdom that this film intends to impart are spoon-fed in thick doses, so that by film's end, you leave feeling bloated instead of inspired. Young children may enjoy this film, though I can't imagine a reasonable child not asking some of the questions I raised (and more) throughout the film.

The Winning Season premieres April 4 at 7pm on TNT, with encores throughout April. Check local listings.


Fast forward to the present, and we get a very different look at celebrity, this one definitely aimed at the jaded. Comedian Kathy Griffin is a self proclaimed D-lister, who walks that tenuous line between telling it like it is and talking her way out of work. Watching to see if she'll go too far is part of the spectacle that audiences relish as she serves up her scathing observations of celebrity behavior in her Bravo special, Kathy Griffin: The D-List.

The great thing about Griffin is that she's as starstruck as the average person. But instead of being blinded by the glamour, she tears back the proverbial curtain to reveal stars in their least dazzling light. Lucky for her salivating audiences, we get to hear all about it.

Granted, some of her targets are far too easy. Busting on Anna Nicole Smith and Whitney Houston (who she has nicknamed "Crackie") is like shooting fish in a barrel. But when Griffin relates the antics of stars that are perhaps too invested in the value of their own celebrity, Griffin's sharp wit surgically snips them back to human size.

If you consider yourself too nice to make fun of Hollywood celebrities, you'll blanch at what comes out of Griffin's mouth. It's just not nice, which makes it all the more delicious.

Kathy Griffin: The D-List airs throughout March on Bravo. Check local listings.


Also in April

The Territory: Now in its 28th season, the series features experimental, documentary, and animated shorts from Texas and around the world. The new season premieres Wednesday at 10pm on PBS.

The Street We Live On: A special celebrating 35 years of Sesame Street (35 years!) airs on PBS Sunday. Check local listings.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Sesame Street, The Territory, Kathy Griffin: The D-List, The Winning Season

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