(Fridays, 9 pm, History Channel)
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & had a chance to ask TV's Phil Harris what movies he likes and he mentioned Top Gun, briefly describing its appeal as "the music, going fast ... and jets." That's a perfectly succinct distillation of what's awesome about Top Gun, not just for TV's Phil Harris but for all of us. No matter what you thought of the rest of the movie, the aerial dogfight scenes were great. Surprisingly, given how popular Top Gun was, Hollywood mostly gave up on movies about jet fighters after making only a few rip-offs. What a shame.
Meanwhile, the computer-generated images (CGI) on television are consistently shoddy. It's like they're not even trying.
I'm the sort of person, you see, who actually thinks about such problems. I have a lot of free time. I watch a lot of the History Channel. But that's where I found Dogfights, and at least a couple of the minor annoyances in my life vanished into thin air.
Dogfights is, in brief, a show that recreates historical airplane battles with CGI, punctuated by interviews with the pilots and other experts. I think that's just about the best idea for a TV show anyone ever had, maybe because it works on so many levels.
First there's the level of the kids with plane models, flying them around with their hands and doing sound effects with their mouths. (By the way, that's still fun when you're 26.) But it's more socially acceptable to let the History Channel do it for you. Dogfights, which has the best-ever use of CGI on television, knows its limitations. Computers render humans badly and monsters only a little better, but they can replicate a F-15 pretty accurately. The recreations on the show work perfectly, even if they aren't graphically up to par with movies.
Dogfights is also educational. Some of the accounts from the actual pilots may seem unbelievable -- but then you have to believe them, because everyone else who was there is dead. Filled with interviews with pilots and experts, plenty of CGI and actual footage, Dogfights is the most exciting series from History Channel since their last good one. And yeah, it's got Nazis.
It's like Man vs. Wild but slightly different. For instance, the star is named Les Stroud. The first episode of the second season finds Les in the Kalahari Desert with scorpions, cobras and puff adders. No word yet on which he eats. (Discovery Channel, Friday, 9 pm; Saturday, 11 pm; Sunday, 10 pm)
The Office (British version)
Parts of the original, British Office are so acidic they'll make you wince away from your telly. This is undoubtedly one of the best sitcoms ever made, and the BBC is rerunning it at the moment. If you can't record it, then buy the series on DVD. (BBC, Friday, 8 pm, 10 pm, 11 pm)
Lobstermen: Jeopardy at Sea
Which are deadlier: lobsters or crabs? It's difficult for a layperson to say for certain. Luckily you can compare and contrast this show with Deadliest Catch and reach your own, educated conclusion. (Discovery Channel, Friday, Aug. 17, 8 pm)