Pat Clark

New experiences with a couple of old subjects

Old dog, old tricks.

Dog with a bone, part II: I've already risked ad nauseam territory over my dismay at Hollywood's lack of brainwaves when it comes to movies for children and the ratings they earn. So let me apologize early for my inability to let it go.

While filmmakers make pinheaded choices sometimes, in the end it's up to parents to look after their children's viewing habits. And, yes, this parent decided her son could see the latest Harry Potter movie despite its PG-13 designation. He's read all the books, knows what to expect — and I weighed family-oriented reviews and comments from friends who'd seen the film.

And I was right. The movie was perfectly appropriate for his maturity level.

But the previews before the movie? Well, now we're talking a whole different level of PG-13.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" preview, for instance, was not perfectly appropriate for his maturity level. One look at his wide eyes as they surveyed the rapid-fire violence prompted me to lean over and whisper to him to let it go because he was so not seeing that movie.

What gives? You're sitting there, a person who's taken the whole parental guidance thing seriously and decided a particular film is fine for your child, only to be bitch-slapped by the powers that preview.

Sure, there's the 2-second green-screen disclaimer before the preview letting you know it's going to be PG-13 and parental guidance is suggested — but parentally guiding anything is hardly an option at that point, now is it?

That jig is pretty much up.

Dog days of summer TV, part II: So, I'm still sick of summer proper and feeling like a loaf of baking butter-basted bread every time I step outside. But at least our handy-dandy cable networks have come through big time with some cool shows to watch during the long and dreadful wait for fall.

The great thing about cable networks is they often replay past shows leading up to new episodes, so if you haven't checked out, oh, say "State of Mind" or "Damages," there may be opportunity to catch up. And if you can't catch up, check them out, anyway.

One new show I almost missed has turned out to be a major winner: "Mad Men." It's like a history lesson on domestic America in the 1950s, but with a lot more dramatic flair than those old film strips we suffered through in school.

The show looks at the men in the Madison Avenue advertising game in that seemingly halcyon era, how they shaped the ad game — for better or for worse, but definitely forever — and how sickeningly oppressive a time it was for women. Stick around for the post-show interviews and glimpses into the homework that goes into the drama. (Thursdays, AMC)

(P.S.: They sure did like their cigarettes back then.)

It was no surprise to find summer's best new show is "Saving Grace." Holly Hunter stars as a hard-living police detective in Oklahoma who's urged to change her rough and wanton ways, by a tobacco-chewing angel named Earl.

Two things about this show that I particularly like: One, Holly Hunter. She's so darn good; and two, the writers don't leave the notion of an angel up for debate. There's no room for "maybe it's all in her head" or "it's her conscience talking" explanations. She has her best friend in forensics testing Earl-related matter, including his DNA (it's not human).

Another cool thing: seeing Modesto native James Marsters show up in a guest role on a recent episode. Doubt he'll be back, though, given the arrest for murder and all. (Mondays, TNT).

One note of caution: It may be rooted in faith and divinity, but trust me, this show is not for the "Touched By An Angel" crowd. They get away with a lot of risky, raunchy and risque stuff over on cable.

And Grace really, really — ahem — needs that angel.

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