''Studio 60'': It's almost over!
1. The end of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip draws near
(NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m.)
I know, only a couple of weeks ago I said I was looking forward to this curious botch coming back but what creator Aaron Sorkin has done in the past couple of weeks is so egregious, I'm living to see this canceled series end (June 28 is the blessed finale). The subplot in which Nathan Corddry's Tom Jeter is told his brother in the Air Force has been taken hostage in Afghanistan is a shameless, appalling sympathy ploy. To use an overseas military hostage situation to goose the ratings of your flailing prime-time drama, pumping up the melodrama to such an extent that you feel sorry for Corddry having to enact almost unplayable scenes with any sense of dignity...well, I'll tune in to see if Sorkin can pull this one out of his you-know-what, but I think I'll also be saying ''Good riddance'' to the screen.
2. Liz Phair's ''Perfect Misfit'' on Nancy Drew: Music From the Motion Picture
Don't know whether Emma Roberts' movie is going to get the 'tween set into theaters (and honestly, I doubt I'll be there in person to find out), but this new Phair offering is the first terrific summer song of 2007, as catchy and breathy and hard-headed as you'd want from a Liz tune.
3. Bill Paxton in Big Love
(HBO, Mondays, 9 p.m.)
Is there an actor on TV who looks happier to be in a classy HBO show than Paxton? It's not merely that his character, Bill Henrickson, is pretty pleased to have three (count 'em, three!) prickly but smart wives it's the actor himself, who, after giving many first-rate performances in films both good (Apollo 13, One False Move) and bad (too many to list), finally has a role he can make his own. His lusty relish is a joy to behold, even when the Big Love plots sometimes stretch credulity.
4. 52 Pick-Up, the DVD and the novel
The 1986 film of Elmore Leonard's 1974 book is released on DVD this week. Directed by John Frankenheimer, the movie stars Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret (and Vanity and John Glover and Kelly Preston as a stripper) in an unsettling thriller about a blackmail scheme that goes awry. Even better, however, is the '74 novel, which is grittier and has of course better dialogue. The twist that sets the action in motion (ordinary guy gets blackmailed; instead of backing down, he fights back) is just the starting-point for one of Leonard's most terse, tense thrillers ever.
5. Find out what ''the Force'' really is on Robot Chicken: Star Wars
(Cartoon Network, June 17, 10 p.m.)
A parody so funny even George Lucas gave it his blessing, Robot Chicken's intentionally crude-animation deconstruction of Star Wars transcends mere nerd appeal (I can attest: I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan) to become one of the season's wittiest bits of television. And twice as long as most Robot Chickens: a full half-hour! It's a saga, after all...