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A select viewing guide for Wednesday, Oct. 10
DOCUMENTARY: Nature (PBS, 8 p.m.) Being the fittest may determine survival in the animal kingdom, but this venerable PBS series has survived three decades by telling remarkable stories with award-winning cinematography. Tonight’s 30th season opener follows renowned conservationist Chris Morgan on a personal quest to Siberia to meet Korean filmmaker Sooyong Park, who has devoted the past decade of his life to tracking the wild Siberian tiger. Although an endangered species, the tigers have been hunted to near extinction and have thus become experts at avoiding human contact on any level. When they finally capture footage of the elusive, majestic creatures – each up to 10 feet long and weighing up to a quarter-ton – the resulting footage is breathtaking.
DRAMA: Law & Order SVU (NBC, CTV Two, 9 p.m.) Now in its 14th season, the sole survivor in the Law & Order franchise still pulls in strong ratings, very likely because the show continues to integrate real-life events into its plotlines. Exhibit A: Tonight’s new episode starring Anna Chlumsky as the author of a freakishly successful S&M romance novel, à la Fifty Shades of Grey, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a famous TV talk-show host. While detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) try to convince the alleged victim to press charges, the SVU squad digs into the author’s background and uncovers some unpleasant evidence that could derail the young woman’s career.
DRAMA: Chicago Fire (NBC, Global, 10 p.m.) Remember Third Watch? NBC squeezed six successful seasons (1999-2005) out of the premise dramatizing the lives of heroic police officers, firefighters and paramedics in New York City. This new show set in Chicago revisits the exact same TV territory, except without the cops and with much better-looking actors. Tonight’s opener sets into play the format of merging pulse-pounding drama with occasional flashes into the personal lives of the principals. The main players: Firehouse 51 boss Matthew (Jesse Spencer), who is at odds with his Rescue Squad counterpart Kelly (Taylor Kinney, a.k.a. Lady Gaga’s boyfriend) over the recent death of a team member. Also along for the ride is Peter (Charlie Barnett), a rookie trying to live up to the reputation of his firefighter father and grandfather, and weary veteran Christopher (David Eigenberg, a.k.a. Miranda’s husband on Sex and the City). As TV drama it’s fairly turgid stuff, but that never stopped Third Watch.
REALITY: Duck Dynasty (A&E, 10 p.m.) Some good ol’ boys are made for TV. Back tonight for a second season, this engaging series profiles the Robertson clan of Monroe, Louisiana, who just happen to be millionaires courtesy of their lucrative business of manufacturing and distributing duck calls (the “Duck Commander” being their biggest seller). The business is run almost singlehandedly by Willie Robertson, who has a business degree and little patience with his siblings and relatives who would much rather be hunting or fishing or anything else except work. Unlike most reality shows today, Duck Dynasty can never be accused of setting up scenarios for dramatic impact; if anything, the show consistently holds true to the low-key work ethic of the entire Robertson clan. The highlight in tonight’s season-opener finds Willie trying to help daughter Sadie prepare for her driver’s test, with begrudging assistance from his brother Jase and Uncle Silas.
MOVIE: House on Haunted Hill (TCM, midnight ET; 9 p.m. PT) Although tame by today’s horror-movie standards, this low-budget film scared with daylights of moviegoers when released to theatres in 1959. Directed by the infamous schlock-meister William Castle, the thriller casts the ever-reliable Vincent Price as the eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren, who resides in a creepy mansion where several grisly deaths have occurred. Just for kicks, Loren invites five complete strangers to a “Haunted House” party and promises that whichever guest survives the entire night will collect a whopping $10,000 (apparently a princely sum back in 1959). But beware the dangling skeleton!