An L.A. socialite bottoms out in The Starter Wife

    I panned The Starter Wife TV movie last year, which is hard to believe now that I’ve seen its new incarnation as a series (Friday, 9 p.m., USA). This time, the production strikes me as a masterpiece, an inside-Hollywood satire worthy of Entourage. All I can say is: My new medications must be working like a charm.
    {mosimage}The Starter Wife is Entourage from the female point of view. Molly (Debra Messing) once lived the high life as a smarmy producer’s spouse. Post-divorce, she has no money, no job and no prospects. To grow as a person, she must find the fortitude to “face the day in machine-wash clothes. ”Messing shines in this role, her face expressing 20 shades of comic humiliation. And the series’ take on Hollywood manners and mores is just plain wicked. Molly’s 7-year-old daughter wants a BlackBerry because other kids at her exclusive private school - namely “Skyler M. and Skyler P.” — have them. A typical movie-producer’s pitch goes something like this: “Think Big meets Die Hard. I call it Big and Hard.”
    I hope The Starter Wife holds up, along with my medications.

Kath & Kim
Thursday, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
    This adaptation of an Australian hit stars Molly Shannon as a tacky hairdresser and Selma Blair as her tacky daughter. They yell at each other, stuff chips into their mouths and get jealous of their tacky boyfriends. The screen is thick with condescension: Look how stupid lower-class people are! If the jokes clicked, fine; but since they don’t, you have plenty of time to get offended by the snobbery. Shannon and Blair act broadly idiotic, trusting their loud outfits to supply all the humor.
“Let’s go someplace fun!” Kath cries.
    “Applebee’s?” Kim answers, as if the mere mention of a moderately priced restaurant would send us     into hysterics.
    To be honest, Applebee’s sounds a lot more fun than Kath & Kim.

Life on Mars
Thursday, 10 p.m. (ABC)
    A modern-day detective named Sam (Jason O’Mara) gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Sam can’t believe he’s really time-traveled, and sadly, neither can we. Life on Mars is chock-full of detritus from the early ‘70s: eight-track tapes, bushy sideburns, Nixon portraits, Harvey Keitel. But it never seems authentic, and the script pushes the cute anachronisms way too hard. “Diet Coke, now that would be somethin’,” a 1973 bartender tells the perpetually disoriented Sam.
    I turned on the producers for good when they showed our hero gazing in awe at the intact World Trade Center towers, blithely milking our national tragedy for their two-bit drama.
    “I had an accident and woke up 35 years in the past,” Sam says. “That either makes me a time-traveler, a lunatic, or I’m lying in a hospital bed in 2008 and none of this is real.”
    You forgot one possibility: You’re in a lousy TV show.
Eleventh Hour
Thursday, 10 p.m. (CBS)
    Dr. Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell) is a brilliant scientist who solves mysteries for the FBI. You can tell he’s brilliant by his penchant for talking like the World Book Encyclopedia. He alludes to Rene Descartes and Catherine de’ Medici in the course of an investigation, and even finds an opportunity to quote Nietzsche: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
    Yes, Dr. Hood is smart, but Eleventh Hour isn’t. It takes the low road for emotional effect — dead children, anyone? — and offers the silliest solution to a mystery that I’ve seen in years.
    What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but Eleventh Hour might just kill me.

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