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What's On

7/21/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

Sci Fi Channel Thursday, July 27 (9 p.m.)

It’s something a lot of us fantasized about when we were kids: The ability to become our favorite superhero. It’s also the premise of Sci Fi Channel’s Who Wants to be a Superhero? — and proof that some people never grow up. That’s particularly true of the 11 contestants being judged in this reality contest by Stan Lee, the man behind classic Marvel Comics heroes such as Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, series executive producer Bruce Nash isn’t exactly Mark Burnett. (Nash is the man responsible for, among other things, TBS’s regrettable damsel-in-the-wilderness contest Outback Jack.) And the kind of character exposition that draws viewers in to Burnett offerings like The Amazing Race and The Apprentice is missing here. We get only snippets of the contestants as they’re introduced ( “Cell Phone Girl,” for instance, likes to talk on her cell phone) so we don’t really get to know them before the games begin.

As for the show itself, it’s yet another take on The Apprentice, albeit with some interesting twists. The first challenge: Change into your superhero costume without being seen and make it to the finish line. But a lost child is inserted in the course of play, and the heroes who fail to “save” her are penalized.

At nearly 85 years of age, Lee (visible only from a TV monitor in the show’s debut) just comes off as too kindly to intimidate contestants a la “The Donald” on The Apprentice.

Still, Superhero’s got some potential. But one would need the power of foresight to see if the game becomes more compelling as it goes on, since Sci Fi only made the pilot available. — Michael Demenchuk

Dog Whisperer

National Geographic Channel Sunday, July 30 (9 p.m.)

National Geographic Channel is going to the dogs for six consecutive nights as the network unleashes back-to-back primetime episodes — including three new installments — of its successful reality series Dog Whisperer. Since debuting in September 2004 as a half-hour daily strip before moving to weekly hours, Whisperer has proven to be a solid performer for Nat Geo and its star — dog-behavior expert Cesar Millan, who helps rehabilitate problem canines — has become a celebrity in his own right.

Dog Whisperer Week,” which runs nightly from July 30 to August 4, doesn’t break any new ground, but pet-loving viewers will undoubtedly welcome the chance to spend some extra dog days of summer with affable yet assertive leader-of-the-pack Millan. The most interesting of the three debut episodes, airing August 1, centers around Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles, and how he uses some of the refuge’s resident dogs to work on other canines’ behavior.

The latest Whisperer installments are an entertaining and, for fans of fido, informative diversion. Just don’t call them “the cat’s meow.” — George Vernadakis

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