What's on TV
SHOWS FOR OCTOBER 4-10
L.A. Dragnet (ABC, 10-11 p.m.): This updated version of the frigid procedural drama is too real without ever bothering to touch or inform us. The producers promised to tell the real stories - from this week's episode about a brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl to gang bangs and other gruesome Los Angeles phenomena, but there is absolutely no character development and no sense of humanity. All one is left with is a feeling that your next-door neighbor is suspect, and evil outweighs good. Ed O'Neill ("Married with Children") stars as Sgt. Joe Friday. A new cast this season adds more diversity, which last year's première lacked.
Under the Influence (TCM, 8 p.m., Saturdays through October): Contemporary actors discuss the films and the directors who influenced them. Friday, William H. Macy analyzes Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." It's a gift to see these actors so relaxed, talking about things they love about the movies. Next week, John Turtorro introduces "On the Waterfront" and reflects on the direction of the late Elia Kazan. This will be of special interest to film students and film buffs.
Blessings (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): Based on Anna Quindlen's bestseller, the story concerns a rich woman (Mary Tyler Moore) who hires a responsible, creative young ex-con as her gardener. As she recalls certain tragic moments of her past in flashbacks, the young man finds new hope in a new life - a baby left on his doorstep by its teenage mother. Eventually the old woman and the young man conspire to raise the child without the usual sanctions of the law. The two begin to experience their own lives differently. Moore cools down the sentimentality of the story with dignity and a bright calm.
The Vice (BBC America, 9-11 p.m.): It should really be called "Vice Squad," but presumably we're supposed to blur distinctions with this well-made, raw new thriller. There is plenty of character development here, with tough storytelling, and perfectly timed, layered performances. The first in the series concerns the tough work of building a case against two pimps when witnesses are afraid to talk. Ken Stott is brilliant - a cross between a teddy bear and a fox - as the hero of the tale, Inspector Chappel.