Gossip Girl Wrestles With The Big Problems

        The new season of Gossip Girl (Monday, 8 p.m., CW) heats up as the beautiful young Manhattanites make messes of their privileged lives. This week’s episode hinges on an explosive plot point: Should Vanessa call Nate? Or, conversely, should she, like, not call him? Jenny, the blonde would-be designer, comes up with a brilliant solution based in syllogistic logic: “You like him, he likes you, so just call him!” But Vanessa remains torn, uncharacteristically so. “I am so not the whiny should-I-call-him girl!” she whines.
    {mosimage}The philosophical questions become only more perplexing. Should Serena and Dan get back together? Should Blair have a quickie with Chuck? I can’t decide if Gossip Girl is the most enjoyable show on TV, or the silliest, or both. And that’s weird, because I am so not the whiny should-I-pan-this-series TV critic!

Wednesday, 10 p.m. (Bravo)
    Project Runway makes fashion design compelling, and the same goes for Top Chef with cooking. But Top Design can’t pull off the trick with interior design. There are no vivid personalities in the new season, either among the judges or the contestants. Despite the stress of competition, most of the designers get along pretty well. “We know what we have to get done,” one of them says happily during a challenge, “and we’re going to work as a team to pull it off.”
    Well, that’s just great, but it means we have to sit there watching people paint and saw with very little underlying drama. For many of us, matching the drapes with the bedspread is not a scintillating payoff for an hour of TV viewing.

Saturday, 8 p.m. (Lifetime)
    Shirley MacLaine affects thick red lipstick and an even thicker French accent as legendary designer Coco Chanel. This TV movie flashes back to Chanel’s upbringing in an orphanage, followed by her success with jersey dresses and perfume. Despite the abundance of Chanel No. 5, the movie stinks, indulging in every inspirational biopic cliché. The only real drama is whether MacLaine will tip forward or backward from the weight of her enormous hat and horn-rim glasses.

Sunday, 10 p.m. (Fox)
    HBO’s masterpiece shows no signs of decline in season five, setting the standard for inside-Hollywood satire. At this point in the story, budding star Vince (Adrian Grenier) and his horndog entourage hit the bad side of the town’s boom-and-bust cycle. Vince’s last movie flopped, and nothing feels right with sex or society life. “You’re in movie jail until the stench from Medellin clears,” declares his subhuman superagent, Ari (Jeremy Piven).
    As always, Piven steals the show with his portrait of a man who would sell his soul to the devil for a deal — if he had a soul, and if the devil had access to a major studio. Ari is our ticket to the sick side of Hollywood, repulsive even when he’s trying to be reassuring.
    “You can come back stronger than ever,” he tells Vince. “Like Lance Armstrong, but with two balls!”

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