by BEN KROMER & r & & r & The Shield & r & & r & (Season seven begins on 9/2 on FX, iTunes) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & t some point during the Bush administration, America got torture fever. We couldn't talk about it enough. Turns out the majority of people are against it but the small minority who aren't is also part of the yet smaller minority that gets to make decisions about America's torture policy. Truly, a world gone mad.

But an opportunity. A squandered opportunity. Maybe torture is too serious a subject for pop-culture references, but it's still unfortunate that the best anyone could do was to bring up Jack Bauer from 24. I guess that's the easiest way to go, since Bauer is associated with terrorists, or to put it in the ACLU's sissy terms, "human beings with rights." The problem was that Bauer was/is always dealing with the hypothetical (though not for him) "ticking-bomb scenario," while I imagine that wherever the CIA is torturing people they're dealing with something more like a "if we keep hurting this guy he might tell us something useful" type of situation.

More realistic scenarios like that find parallels with a mean L.A. cop like Vic Mackey from The Shield more than a Jack Bauer from 24, which is why it's a pity that our nation's opinion-makers and arm-wavers wasted an opportunity to talk about the under-watched Shield and instead bolstered the more-than-sufficiently-hyped 24.

Most people are against torture and many of those people say torture is wrong under any circumstances: any, always, forever, that's that. Which seems unlikely. Moral absolutes are difficult to hold up, especially one that prescribes something as basic as inflicting pain. Whatever the ends and means, it's always finally a matter of how one's moral abacus is calibrated and how the sliding beads are pulled by the gravities of infinite possible contexts, with Bauer breaking fingers to save millions around one end and the Spanish Inquisition around the other.

That's an excessively roundabout way of saying that Vic Mackey is a complex character. Or just a rotten villain who's about to get what he deserves, depending on your own subjective personal moral calibration. Last season, Mackey got it completely wrong and tortured a relatively innocent suspect to death. In the seventh and final season, he's likely to go further round the bend.

Still the best show on TV, subjectively speaking.


Love Me, Love My Doll

The story of men who have fallen in love with their RealDolls, which are lifelike tailor-made mannequins that put your grandpa's plastic, rubber and horsehair blowup dolls to shame. Includes a tour of the RealDoll factory which is shockingly not located in Japan but in San Marcos, California. (Sunday, 9/7, 8 pm, BBC)

Born in the Wrong Body

"A Change of Heart." The story of two men who underwent procedures to become women -- and then changed their minds. A tragic situation, I'm sure, but imagine the hilarious Arrested Development moment: "I've made... a huge mistake." Also, this first happened on South Park. (Saturday, 9/6, 8 pm, MSNBC)

2008 MTV Video Music Awards

Owing to the fact that it necessarily focuses on horribly awful music and videos, MTV's Video Music Awards is inferior to their Movie Awards but should at least be better than the Grammys. Presenters include Scarlett Johansson, Lindsey Lohan and Michael Phelps. The mummified creature known as "Madonna" is nominated for dancing in a video. Britney will again try to rehabilitate her career-- hopefully not by kissing the mummy. (Sunday, 9/7, 9 pm, MTV)

Dressing the Abbey: The Iconic Wardrobe of Downton Abbey @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 2
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