TSUNAMI: THE AFTERMATH
HBO• Sunday, Dec. 10 (8 p.m.)
Nearly two years after the Indian Ocean rippled into twelve countries, claiming more than 227,000 lives, HBO has portrayed the wreckage in a three-hour fictional drama.
Melancholy but suspenseful, the two-part film is based on the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami. It takes place in a small portion of coastal Thailand, where a Christian aid worker, an ambassador from the United Kingdom, a world-weary journalist (played by Tim Roth), and a handful of survivors struggle to put their lives back together.
Despite multiple storylines and an ambitious array of issues, writer Abi Morgan and director Bharat Nalluri offer a convincing portrayal of mass chaos, missing people, the emotional backlash from survivors and the ineptitude of disaster relief. Many depictions are based on actual interviews and research into the natural disaster.
Heightening the intrigue throughout the film are conflicts between Buddhist and Christian beliefs, coastal land-rights issues, government corruption and corporate profiteering.
The end result: a conscience-driven disaster epic bridging docudrama and historical fiction.
What the film lacks in original dialogue is usually made up for in plot momentum and cinematography. And though some scenes feel contrived to illustrate higher moral ground, lending the film an air of self-righteousness, that air is often tempered by the unchecked realism of Roth's cynical journalist. — Linda Haugsted
SLEEPER CELL: AMERICAN TERROR
Showtime • Sunday, Dec. 10 (9 p.m.)
Showtime will once again expose viewers to the inner workings of a terrorist cell with the second-season debut of Sleeper Cell. The eight-part miniseries picks up several months after the FBI narrowly thwarted a biological terrorist attack at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium during last season's finale.
Most of the cast returns for the show's sophomore run, including FBI agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed (Michael Ealy), whose infiltration of a Los Angeles-based Islamic extremist terror network helped stop the aforementioned attack, terrorist leader Faris Al-Farik (Oded Fehr), the captured architect of the strike, and Ilija Korjenic (Henri Lubatti) a Bosnian terrorist who escaped authorities after the failed assault.
Opener begins with Al-Sayeed looking to leave the bureau for a teaching job, only to be cajoled by the FBI to participate in one last case. His job, to check out a Muslim ex-convict, eventually pulls Al-Sayeed back undercover and into another terrorist group planning an attack on U.S. soil.
The first episode sets the stage for another fascinating and exciting rollercoaster ride for fans and newcomers. Much like the first season, the second season of Sleeper Cell provides a look — albeit fictitious — at the dedication and conviction of both the terrorists and U.S. agents carrying out their respective missions amid the backdrop of the all too real war on terror. Showtime will run all eight new episodes on consecutive nights. — R. Thomas Umstead
THE BAD GIRLS CLUB
Oxygen • Tuesday, Dec. 5 (10 p.m.)
Oxygen's upcoming The Bad Girls Club is the story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house. The set-up sounds familiar because the producer of The Real World, Bunim-Murray Productions, is replicating itself.
In this mutant, viewers get smack-talking, hair-pulling and general disrespect from the selfish girl-children selected for their multimillion dollar media fishbowl in the Hollywood Hills. These are the kind of girls that will threaten your life in a club if you don't save their seats and protect their beer while they go for a quickie in the back of the room with your man. Sample scene: Leslie kicks off her shoes to better street-fight a bouncer, while insisting she be treated like a lady.
The participants are reprehensible, and so is this show. — Christian Lewis