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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Game Change

HBO, March 10, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


No one doubted that Julianne Moore would nail the physical details playing Sarah Palin in Game Change, about the Alaska governor’s astonishing explosion on the political scene in 2008 as John McCain’s running mate. So, yes, she does “the voice,” which is flat yet nasal. But that’s just the starting point. Moore is an unusual actress: At her best-and she is here-she’s completely empathetic but also mysteriously remote. Her Palin from moment to moment is absolutely real-but always open to interpretation. Members of the “lamestream media,” as Palin famously labeled them, will enjoy the satirical touches that glint like light off her spectacles. (When Palin finally pronounces Ahmadinejad correctly, the campaign staff applauds.) But you don’t have to be a Tea Partier to sympathize as Palin comes close to a breakdown after being mocked nationally for her ignorance: In Change’s best scene, Palin watches in mute despair and disgust as Tina Fey impersonates her on TV. The point, of course, is that we believe Moore is Palin. The movie itself isn’t great-Ed Harris is given a white comb-over and little to do as McCain-yet it plausibly lays out Palin’s path from unsteady candidate to confident (or arrogant) rogue player. Comparisons to The Iron Lady, a sloppy movie that has Meryl Streep in roaring good form, are inevitable. Is Game Change better? You betcha.

Bethenny Ever After

Bravo, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Bethenny Frankel is going to roll out a trial-run talk show this summer. If that means an end to Bethenny Ever After, fine. This third season is feeling like a big step toward the dreaded Warholian void. Frankel has managed and marketed her reality career with exemplary skill, from The Real Housewives of New York City on to her books and products. She knows how to play to the camera, whether being drippingly sarcastic or misting up, usually over the joys of raising daughter Bryn or out of concern for her husband, Jason. But apart from watching the upcoming boating incident that was so widely reported on last summer, I don’t know if I’m interested in any more of her validations and vexations. This is a Bravo show, not a Norse saga.


NBC, March 1, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Jason Isaacs, minus the Harry Potter wig that made him look like a blond iguana, is a detective whose life alternates between two realities-both tragic-after he survives a car accident. If the detective ends the day at home with his wife, they’re grappling with the aftermath of his son’s death in that same accident. Then in the morning he wakes to a world in which the son lives, but his wife has died. The detective also sees alternate therapists (B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones), who each try to determine if he’s fit for duty after his trauma. Isaacs is excellent: We sense the wheels in his head turning slowly, and slowly accelerating-all within greater wheels of fate and conspiracy. A tricky show with serious potential.