September 29, 2008

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ Goes Weekly in Animated Series

By FRAZIER MOORE of The Associated Press

Tough times! War rages on, with shrinking numbers of good guys left to fight for freedom and restore peace. And, all happening in a galaxy that definitely isn't close, close by.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a very cool weekly cartoon series from Lucasfilm Animation that finds a fresh new style for depicting the struggle of the Jedi and their army of genetically engineered clones against the seemingly indomitable droid army of evil Separatists.

It's Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Ahsoka Tano and other Star Wars heroes pitted against the evil Count Dooku, his assassin Asajj Ventress, their master Darth Sidious, the mechanical General Grievous and assorted other villains, with the future of that galaxy far, far away at stake.

This season's 22-episode saga premieres Friday on Cartoon Network with back-to-back half-hours, beginning at 8 p.m. (It was introduced in theaters with a feature-film version.)

First up: Jedi Master Yoda is on a secret mission to forge a treaty with the king of Toydaria when his ship is ambushed by Count Dooku. Then, at 8:30 p.m., a Separatist mystery weapon terrorizes the clone Starfleet.

Don't worry if this kind of action lies far, far away from your zone of interest. Even for viewers who don't give a flip about the Star Wars mythos (can there really be such philistines on this planet we call Earth?), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is worth checking out.

Other shows to look out for:

-- HBO weighs in with a pair of oddball comedies Sunday.

At 9:30 p.m., "Little Britain USA" imports the chameleonic Matt Lucas and David Walliams to America in a Yank version of their no- holds-barred British sketch-comedy hit.

Characters embodied by this twisted twosome include Bing Gordyn, the little-known eighth astronaut to go to the moon; Phyllis, who can't help obeying the demented demands from her King Charles Spaniel; kindly elderly Mildred, who shares details from her drug- and-booze-filled past ("We didn't KNOW it was bad for us") with her grandson Connor; and argumentative hospital receptionist Carol Beer ("The computer says'no'"). There's bad taste and outrageousness galore, and even more laughs.

Then at 10 p.m., "The Life & Times of Tim" explores the wrong- headed world of a young office drudge with terminal passivity. The animation style on "Tim" is sufficiently bare-bones to make "South Park" look like "Shrek" being screened at an Imax.

Tim subsists at a level of meaninglessness that would make any member of the "Seinfeld" crew seem like the Dalai Lama in comparison. Created by adman-filmmaker Steve Dildarian, it's cringingly hilarious.

-- "Taxi to the Dark Side" is a wrenching documentary with heavy relevance for Election Year 2008 and beyond.

The title refers to an innocent young Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was killed while being held in Bagram prison in 2002. And, it refers to a statement from Vice President Dick Cheney a few days after the 9/11 attacks: "We also have to work the dark side, if you will," he said, describing U.S. strategy for bringing terrorists to justice.

The film examines highly questionable interrogation practices used by U.S. military guards on prisoners in Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Written, produced, directed and narrated by Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"), "Taxi to the Dark Side" won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and a 2007 Peabody Award, among its many honors. It premieres on HBO at 8 p.m. Monday.

-- "Friday Night Lights," the football-and-family drama that glowed the past two autumns on NBC, returns for its third season Wednesday at 8 p.m. - but not on NBC.

In an unusual arrangement, DirecTV subscribers will see these 13 weekly episodes first.

Starring Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and a team of other fine actors, the Emmy- and Peabody-winning series will air on NBC in early 2009. Can't wait until then? There's still time to subscribe to DirecTV.

-- Troy Dunn finds people for a living. And, his most compelling cases find their way onto his series, "The Locator," airing Saturday at 8 p.m. on cable's WEtv.

This week, former "bad girl" Annie wants to reunite with Nicole, the friend with whom she shared a destructively wild life when they were teens a quarter-century ago.

Now, Annie is an artist and teacher, she's married with two children and has been sober for a dozen years. What has become of Nicole in the meantime? That's what Dunn will try to find out.

-- Their name isn't Earl, but the "Trailer Park Boys" have blazed a similar, and even longer-lasting, trail of low-rent living during seven seasons of this Canadian comedy hit, which was followed by a feature film named, cleverly, "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie."

This sidesplitting cinematic return to Sunnyvale Trailer Park catches up with Ricky, Julian and Bubbles - three lifelong thirtysomething BFF - as they bungle such capers as an ATM heist, the harvest of sidewalk parking meters and a hockey game in the local prison yard.

Comedy Central airs it Saturday night at midnight. Here's something to do when the bars have closed.

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