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0 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

'I have had enough of your hippy parenting psychobabble!"

Yes, The O.C. (Fox, CTV, 8 p.m.) is back. Skinny people rule! Mothers say things like the above declaration. Or, if they're in the, like, total rich-bitch category, they say, "I'm taking Caitlin to look at new ponies." Shopping for ponies is the cool thing in the fictional version of Orange County, Calif. that delighted viewers last season.

The dialogue on The O.C. is, of course, one of its outstanding highlights. It's the place where a gal gazes at her man and tells him, "I peeled your orange for you," and does it with a straight face. Me, I burst out laughing.

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Peel away the surface of the Orange County we see on The O.C. and what you've got is a gleefully foolish, camp soap opera. It's a very fleshy opera -- many of the characters spend so much time wearing very little that they seem to give off heat. Yet, because it airs at 8 p.m. and is an early prime-time soap, it manages to be very sensual without including anything to alienate conservative American viewers. And the core stratagem, which has been much noted, is the equal time given to the adolescent and adult characters. This is a glossy, pungent soap for both kids and parents to watch.

Anyway, it's mom Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) who tells dad Sandy (Peter Gallagher) that she's had enough of his parenting style. Thing is, their moody son Seth (Adam Brody) is still in Portland (who goes to Portland?) and sort-of-son Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) has moved out. Everybody is busy brooding about the recent past and deeply unhappy.

But here's good news for the lady viewers -- Ryan is working construction and spends most of this time wearing a tight muscle shirt. He even gets kinda dirty sometimes. He's going to be a dad and it's Theresa who is peeling his orange for him, if you catch my drift. But fear not, he's thinking of Marissa (Mischa Barton) all the time.

Oh yeah -- there's this guy who works around the yard and he's got his shirt off, all the time. He is so checking out Marissa. Especially her rack. Marissa isn't interested. So far, anyway. She is more into, like, screaming and having a fit in front of her stepmom. In the first episode tonight, there is an awful lot of rumination, dark looks and frustration. That Marissa so needs a man and that Ryan, he is, you know, so not happy being a reliable father and partner to a gal he, like, really doesn't love.

Seriously now, tonight's episode is a tad disappointing. There's a hangover feeling after the big operatic drama that propelled the ending of the show's first season. It's very subdued, by the standards of The O.C. Mind you, there are lots of lovely people to look at, fabulous clothes to consider and even the cars look pretty. Things are being set up for further lovely emotional messes. There's a lot of heat coming, you can be certain of that.

Alter Egos (Newsworld, 10 p.m. on Rough Cuts) is a very fine and sometimes heart-wrenching documentary about two Canadian artists, and the contrasting arcs of their lives.

It's really about Ryan Larkin. In the 1960s, Larkin was the rising star at the National Film Board. Recognized as an extraordinarily gifted artist, his groundbreaking animated film Walking was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969. Then Larkin fell apart. For years now, he's panhandled on the streets of Montreal, begging for a living and putting barriers between himself and the artistic world he once inhabited.

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But the entry point for exploring Larkin is Chris Landreth, a young man who is, today, what Larkin was decades ago. An award-winning animator, Landreth has made his own film about Larkin, called Ryan. It's a very powerful, disorienting film. Made in a visually stunning style, it manages to approximate Larkin's addled vision of the world. Alter Egos is about the two men, the film one made about the other, and the strange emotional, link between the two.

When we first meet Larkin, he's on the street and says, "I don't think I have anything really that interesting to say. Except to apologize to the world for not providing it with another beautiful film. I just couldn't handle the mathematics, to use an abstract expression, of making a good film. I'm only good at the creative process. Any other process, I can't do at all."

The story that's pieced together about Larkin's descent into hell is one of drugs, ego and emotional fragility. And then there is the presence of Landreth, who is very wary of making direct statements about Larkin. His statement is his own film. In that -- the art speaks for the artist -- the true connection between the two artists emerges.

At one point, Larkin says, ruefully, "A genius can be a genius, but is sometimes a jerk in other areas. I took early retirement, I guess. I decided it was more interesting just begging on the street."

One thing we learn in this truly original, tough documentary, is that Ryan Larkin is no jerk.

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