On PBS, family endures life in the good old days

Today's TV

June 12, 2000

"The 1900 House" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) is public television's entry into Reality Summer, a season of voyeuristic "reality" TV series led by CBS' "Survivor" and "Big Brother."

I'm not proud to admit that I got hooked on this four-week PBS series featuring a modern-day, middle-class English family living in a house equipped as it would have been a century ago - except for the cameras recording their struggle. The attraction had nothing to do with all the rationalizations about "experiential history" and "time travel back to the Victorian Age" that the series repeatedly offers via its narrator. I watched to see how long it would be before family members were at each other's throats, and which of them would behave the worst once it sunk in that they were actually going to have to live without hot water, electricity or pizza.

It doesn't take long. Just three days after their arrival, Mom is sitting in the backyard weeping shamelessly about the lack of shampoo and the crushing load of housework. But don't cry for her just yet. She hires a maid, and treats the woman like a pack animal, while Mom acts as if she was just named Queen of England.

This is not TV that speaks to our better angels. But, with this being public television, at least there isn't a $1 million reward at the end of the series for the participant who behaves the worst.-

David Zurawik

At a glance

"Ally McBeal" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) - Ling (Lucy Liu) has an erotic dream about Ally and decides it's about time they became friends. Repeat. Fox.

Cable

"Who Knows You Best?" (9 a.m.-10 a.m., Lifetime) - With a nod toward "The Newlywed Game," this weekday game show poses questions testing a woman's knowledge of her best friend. The host is Gina St. John, a former anchor of "E! News Daily."

"The Things We Do for Love" (10 a.m.-10:30 a.m., Lifetime) - This new half-hour program looks at the strong bonds between people in intimate relationships, such as husbands and wives; mothers and daughters; and best friends.

"Intimate Portrait" (7 p.m.-8 p.m., Lifetime) - Life has seldom been sweeter for actress Kim Cattrall, who's enjoying the popularity that comes with appearing on "Sex and the City," one of cable's most talked-about shows. Darren Star, the sitcom's creator, and co-star Sarah Jessica Parker offer insights on their colleague.

"Biography" (8 p.m-9 p.m., repeats midnight-1 a.m., A&E) - They liked her. They really liked her. Find out just how much in tonight's profile of Sally Field, the onetime TV star ("Gidget," "The Flying Nun") who later won an Emmy ("Sybil") and Oscar ("Norma Rae").

"Investigative Reports" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., repeats 2 a.m.-3 a.m., A&E) - "Inside Alcoholics Anonymous." AA has helped more than 2 million people control their addiction to alcohol since the organization was founded in the 1930s in Akron, Ohio. While some find the AA way too much like a religion or cult, many credit it with saving their lives. Tonight's documentary looks inside meetings and the AA General Services Offices and explores the basic workings of the international organization.

"Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., HBO) - Bernard Goldberg looks into major league baseball's recruiting practices in the Dominican Republic, and Larry Merchant reports on a Congressional bill that would ban betting on collegiate sports.

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