Not to be confused with Mercy, here comes Trauma. This new NBC series—which has the snazziest ad campaign of the fall (non-Man Men edition)—eschews whiny nurses for tough-as-nails EMT workers and hopes to give action junkies a boost of adrenaline. Of course, that all sounds perfectly generic, but remember: Peter Berg is an executive producer, and, in addition to shepherding Friday Night Lights, he’s also the man behind such films as The Kingdom. The guy knows how to blow stuff up real good. [NBC, 9 p.m.]
As a movie, Choke is scattered and messy, which given that it’s an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s scattered and messy novel should be expected. But as a study of the genius that is Sam Rockwell, it’s focused and brilliant. Mr. Rockwell preens and mugs, all herky jerks and fits of motion. He’s a virtuoso here, every bit as mesmerizing as a Young Robert De Niro. (That he’s playing Mr. De Niro’s son in the upcoming Everything’s Fine is not an irony lost on us.) And, hey, if all of that doesn’t float your boat, at least stick around for the final scenes, which get underscored by Radiohead’s “Reckoner.” [More Max, 9 p.m.]
Wednesday: Modern Family
Frankly, we’re a little concerned that we didn’t go head-over-heels for the debut of Modern Family. The new ABC familial comedy—think: a castrated version of Arrested Development—received some of the best reviews of the fall (our esteemed colleague even loved it!) but when we sat down to watch it last Wednesday, our apartment was stricken with an infestation of crickets. What are we missing? The ratings were huge in week one, so we’ll give this one another shot, on the off chance that it becomes the kind of zeitgeist-y hit that we simply have to be watching. But we’re skeptical… [ABC, 8 p.m.]
Thursday: My Cousin Vinny
Many times, the movies you found hilarious as a kid, don’t hold up when you become an adult. That’s not the case here. My Cousin Vinny is just as funny now as it was—hold onto your butts—17 years ago. (Where has the time gone!) Joe Pesci won his Oscar for Goodfellas, but we’d call My Cousin Vinny his tour-de-force. As the titular cousin, he’s frantic, foul and utterly hilarious, blessed with brilliant comic timing and a streak of New York bitterness. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast: the late Fred Gwynne, the late Lane Smith, Ralph Macchio and Marissa Tomei, who, of course, actually did win her Oscar for My Cousin Vinny. Somewhere, Vanessa Redgrave is still smarting over that loss. [Encore, 3 a.m.]
Occasionally, it’s hard to separate an actor from a role. Take Saoirse Ronan. The teenage starlet is so unctuous and horrible as the busybody sister, Briony, in Atonement, we can’t think of her doing anything else. This doesn’t bode well for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, where she’ll play the murdered protagonist, but it works to her advantage here. The adaptation Ian McEwan’s novel is gorgeous—director Joe Wright and his cinematographer Seamus McGarvey make sure of that—but without Ms. Ronan, it wouldn’t have such a biting edge. [@Max, 5 p.m.]
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