Friday, April 11, 2008

'Sarah Jane' Good For The Kids

It wouldn't be hard to argue among us old-school "Doctor Who" fans that Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) is the most popular of the Doctor's long list of companions.

Sarah Jane, an investigative reporter who travelled with the Doctor through parts of his Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker incarnations in the 1970s, and was the companion they chose to base the spinoff "K-9 & Co." in 1983. She was also brought back for the 20th anniversary special, "The Five Doctors" that same year.

When producer Russell T. Davies revived "Doctor Who," Sarah Jane was the lone human character brought back from the original series to the new one in the episode "School Days."

Now Sarah Jane is back with "The Sarah Jane Adventures" (Sci-Fi, 7:30 p.m.) the newest spinoff to the "Who" franchise. Unlike the other spinoff, the adult-oriented "Torchwood," "SJA" is aimed squarely at the kids' audience. That's not to say adults won't find the show enjoyable in a whimsical sort of way, but "SJA" falls into the "family" category.

Sarah Jane, fresh off her adventure with the Doctor, has taken up investigative reporting again full-time. But the Doctor has left her with a bunch of gadgets that allow her to combat alien menaces when she uncovers them.

A teenage girl named Maria (Yasmin Page) moves into the house next-door to Sarah Jane, and one night catches her neighbor having a conversation with an alien. Needless to say, she's intrigued. Maria will become the companion as Sarah Jane takes on the Doctor-like hero's role as they investigate a soda pop factory.

Sladen, looking fantastic at 60 (all those years in the TARDIS must really do stop the aging process) steps back into her character with ease and confidence, and seems to be having fun. She's also the den mother to Maria and other kids who pop up in the first two episodes.

For parents looking to introduce their kids to science fiction without worrying about scaring them, "SJA" is a good start. And it's a good warm-up for the return of all-new episodes of "Doctor Who" beginning next week.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Sci-Fi fans are in for a treat. Not only is there the 90-minute debut of "SJA," but it's followed by two new episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.)

CBS returns with new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m.

The documentary "Meeting David Wilson" (MSNBC, 9 p.m.) has gotten a lot of buzz as a commentary about race relations in this country. It follows a young black man named David Wilson, who travels to North Carolina in search of his roots, including meeting the great-grandson of the slave-owner who is also a distant relative of Wilson's.

Enjoy "Canterbury's Law" (Fox, 9 p.m.) while you can: it almost certainly won't be renewed.

The Miss USA Pageant airs tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC.

On Saturday, "Torchwood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), the "Doctor Who" spinoff you probably don't want your kids watching, airs its penultimate episode for this season.

Sunday marks the return of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.), followed by a new episode of "Eli Stone" (ABC, 10 p.m.) on a special night, as well as the return of Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D'Angelo) on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.)

"Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) begins a remake of E.M. Forster's "Room With A View." And speaking of costumed historical dramas, there are new episodes of "John Adams" (HBO, 9 p.m.) and "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.)

New episodes of "Cold Case" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Dexter" (well, new for CBS at least) also air.

Finally, the documentary "The Human Footprint" airs at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel


Anonymous said...

Sorry to see Canterbury's Law on the chopping block. What will replace it ? Big Brother 19 or another comedy ? Have the networks given up on adult entertainment ?

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, this being Fox, I think it will be another day of American Idol. Dramatic TV is certainly going the way of the dinosaur.