by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Prison Break

Fox, Mondays, 8 pm

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & roadly speaking, there are two kinds of TV dramas. There are shows with plots and shows with a Plot. The former usually revolves around characters going about their lives. Things happen to them. Some of those things lead to other things, which develop across several episodes. But generally, characterization develops.

Shows with a Plot, however, revolve around a Big Event -- a plane crashes somewhere in the South Pacific, for example. Prison Break, the Fox drama that turns 3 in mid-September, has its event -- its whole story arc -- built right into its name.

One of the big problems (for network executives) with shows like Prison Break, is that the story has a natural, definite endpoint. The survivors get rescued, the prisoners get free -- that kind of thing. High ratings, though, often make people antsy to forestall the inevitable. The dilemma, then, is whether to give rabid fans what they want or to respect the art, respect sanity, and end the show where it should be ended. You can always get rich off the DVD sales later on.

In the case of the ridiculously-popular-for-a-summer-series Prison Break, Fox execs have decided to give us more.

The first two seasons of Prison Break fell easily within the scope of the series' premise. Michael Scofield got himself sent to prison to break out his brother, Lincoln Burrows. They succeed with the help of a ragtag group of sociopaths with hearts of gold. Season Two follows the brother's attempts to flee the country and their fellow escapees' attempts to get redemption, money or love, etc.

While hardly brilliant, there was a certain clumsy grace to the impenetrableness of the prison fortress and the showy, absurd lengths Scofield and Burrows had to go to get out and stay out.

Almost as soon as the show proved popular, though, the writers began expanding on a conspiracy thread that took a show already bordering on the absurd and plunged it, well, most recently, into a Panamanian Gulag.

With the Panama nonsense and all conspiracy signs pointing directly to the female (gasp) President (gasp again) of the United States, Prison Break's third season officially has more in common with Lost than Oz. Set to outstrip its natural conclusion, the show can just wind out its days chasing down conspiracies. If ratings are still high? Well, they can always discover new ones. That's the nice thing about conspiracies.


The Late Show With David Letterman

I seriously thought I'd never suggest watching this again. Letterman started phoning it in when he hit CBS and never hung up. Here, though, in the space of four days, my former favorite late-night host (in, like, sixth grade, when I discovered sarcasm) books Hillary Clinton, then Bill. Jay Leno is kicking himself for that decade of Monica Lewinsky jokes. (CBS, Friday and Tuesday, 11:30 pm)


Some 15 years after he began narrating and starring in Showtime's Red Shoe Diaries -- with a little show called The X-Files in between -- Showtime finally returns the favor, giving David Duchovny a series of his own. The plot? Same as every other dramedy on TV: powerful/famous/smart people have screwed-up lives, just like the rest of us. Duchovny, for the record, plays a novelist. (Showtime, Mondays, 10:30 pm)

The Power of 10

Here's a quiz show that doesn't actually require you to know anything. Drew Carey hosts an hour-long 1 vs. 100 look-alike wherein contestants try to guess the answers to inane questions such as "What percentage of women consider themselves feminists?" (CBS, Tuesdays, 8 pm)

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
  • or

About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.