Famous families, unhappy in their separate ways
By Kevin McDonough December 12, 2010 12:00 AM
Beware of being born to famous parents. That's the lesson of no fewer than three specials airing this weekend.
At first glance, the sports profile "Lombardi" (8 p.m., Saturday, HBO) seems like an act of nostalgia, a glance back to the birth of America's near-religious devotion to televised professional football, right down to its "NFL Highlights"-inspired score. The film develops some personality only when Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi's children discuss their less-than-lovely upbringing, their mother's loneliness and alcoholism, and the difficulty of eking out some Daddy-time with a man for whom winning was everything.
Football aside, "Lombardi" is a fascinating glance at male attitudes and behavior from the "Mad Men" era and its turbulent aftermath. Lombardi's way — the relentless pursuit of professional perfection coupled with a near complete absence from home life — was passing from the scene even as he was heading toward an early grave in 1970. The children of Lombardi, and more importantly, the children of men who worshipped and behaved like Lombardi, would develop new attitudes toward masculinity.
"Lombardi" features numerous clips of NFL legends heaping praise on Lombardi the coach, the teacher and leader. but one of the most revealing and poignant scenes is watching Lombardi's son and namesake reflect on his failure as a father.
– Robert Osborne interviews one of Hollywood's most celebrated offspring on "Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli" (10 p.m., Eastern, Saturday, TCM). a star of Broadway and screen, and Oscar winner for "Cabaret," Minnelli discusses the work and influence of her parents, director Vincent Minnelli and actress and singer Judy Garland.
While Osborne plays the ever-gracious host, his guest often seems physically uncomfortable while discussing her upbringing. Minnelli is often more revealing for what she does not say. Her affection and devotion to her father are obvious, but when asked why she never followed up her laudatory profile "Minnelli on Minnelli" (7:30 a.m., Sunday) with a tribute to Garland, she proves to be a master of diplomatic evasion. "Private Screenings" offers a glimpse of what it was like to be raised by Hollywood royalty and the lifelong costs of being born to that inner circle.
– "Wishful Drinking" (9 p.m., Sunday, HBO) continues actress and author Carrie Fisher's decades-long effort to mine comedy from her weird and extraordinary Hollywood childhood and career.
Alone on stage and armed with a biographical flowchart and vintage clips, she tries to explain the world of near-incestuous relationships resulting from her parents' (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher) frenetic marriages, divorces, adoptions and relationships. She argues that during Hollywood's golden age, its "royalty" was as eccentric, inbred and self-destructive as Europe's sceptered aristocracy during its decadent decline.
This stage production was taped last June before the death of her father, Eddie Fisher. with a kind of exasperated affection, she informs us that he has spent his dotage smoking four joints a day, a habit that earned him the family nickname "Puff Daddy." After skewering her parents in the first act, she spends the second discussing her failed marriage to Paul Simon and the joys and burdens of enduring in men's fantasies as the barely clad Princess Leia of "Star Wars" fame.
And after that, she discusses her institutionalization for drug abuse and mental illness, her taste for electroshock therapy and her emergence as a spokeswoman for the bipolar. to call this self-indulgent is completely accurate, but entirely besides the point. Just as the poet William Wordsworth called poetry "emotions recollected in tranquility," Fisher sees comedy as the only sane way to reflect on years of dysfunction, numbness and pain. "If my life wasn't funny," she observes, "It would just be true … and that is entirely unacceptable."
– "William and Kate: Modern Monarchy" (7:30 p.m., BBC America) anticipates the next royal wedding.
– Jimmy Durante narrates the 1969 special "Frosty the Snowman" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-G), followed by "Frosty Returns" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-G) and "The Flight before Christmas" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-G).
– Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed star in the 1946 holiday favorite "It's a Wonderful Life" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-G).
– Special effects animate "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG), the 2006 adaptation of the C.S. Lewis fantasy.
– Jacqueline Bisset stars in the 2010 holiday movie "An Old Fashioned Christmas" (8 p.m., Central, Hallmark).
– The earth moves in the 2010 shocker "Ice Quake" (9 p.m., Syfy, TV-14).
– The "30 for 30" (9 p.m., ESPN) documentary "Pony Excess" recalls the heyday of SMU's football program.
– Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (10 p.m., CBS): a survivor recalls a serial killer's spree.
– Neil Patrick Harris hosts the 2010 Video Game Awards (10 p.m., Spike).
– Justin Bieber, Jack Black, John Waters and Miranda Hart appear on "The Graham Norton Show" (10 p.m., BBC America, TV-MA).
– Paul Rudd hosts "Saturday Night Live" (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Paul McCartney.
– Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): an interview with Rep. John Boehner (R, OH), the next Speaker of the House; a profile of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; Brazil's emergence as an economic superpower.
– a winner emerges on "Amazing Race" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
– Christina Milian and Ashley Benson star in the 2010 holiday fantasy "Christmas Cupid" (8 p.m., ABC Family, TV-PG).
– Genevieve Gorder hosts "White House Christmas 2010" (8 p.m., HGTV).
– "A very BET Christmas" (8 p.m., BET) concert raises money for charity.
– Dallas hosts Philadelphia on "Sunday Night Football" (8:15 p.m., NBC).
– "Hot in Cleveland" (9 p.m., TV Land) glances back at the first season.
– Dexter senses a trap on the fifth season finale of "Dexter" (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
– Cathy Hughes interviews Snoop Dogg on "One on One" (9 p.m., TV One).
– Kate Gosselin camps it up on "Sarah Palin's Alaska" (9 p.m., TLC, TV-PG).
– Santa needs help on "Leverage" (9 p.m., TNT, TV-PG).
– a sugar refinery explodes on "CSI: Miami" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14,V).
– Nora departs on short notice on "Brothers and Sisters" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14). Richard Chamberlain guest stars.
– "Robot Chicken" (11:30 p.m., Cartoon Network) completes its "Star Wars" trilogy.
Director D.W. Griffith explores human cruelty in four separate historical eras in the 1916 silent epic "Intolerance" (12:45 a.m., Sunday/early Monday, Eastern, TCM).
On back-to-back episodes of "Cops" (Fox, TV-14,D,L), Amarillo (8 p.m.), Portland (8:30 p.m., r) … John Walsh hosts "America's most Wanted" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Homer undercover on "The Simpsons" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG,D,L) … Mariah Carey chips in on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) … a trip to the North Pole on "Family Guy" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Short order work on "Undercover Boss" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … Paul wants some changes made on "Desperate Housewives" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14) … Fully loaded on "American Dad" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG ,D,S).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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