'Sniper' is 120 minutes of banality

Proof that not all "ripped from the headlines" TV movies are timely, or even interesting, can be found in the listless and perfunctory true-crime drama "D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear" (8 p.m., USA).

Charles S. Dutton ("Roc") plays police Chief Charles Moose, the embattled cop and spokesman who became the human face of the sniper drama that gripped metropolitan Washington, D.C., last autumn. With the terror attacks of 2001 still fresh in our memories, the emergence of a mystery killer whose victims crossed race, class and gender lines put the entire country on edge. "Sniper" follows Moose as he tries to pull together the largest investigative task force in U.S. history.

For all of its somber self-importance, "Sniper" does little more than rehash recent events and media moments. We never enter the lives of any of the victims or their families. We're shown both Moose and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan (Jay O. Sanders) as they adjust their daily lives to cope with the crisis -- but to little effect.

  • A very Noah-like story line unfolds on tonight's "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m., CBS). The teen's sudden interest in boat building seems a tad too eccentric for her worried mother (Mary Steenburgen). "Joan" has emerged as one of the bona fide hits of the young season. It has already driven "Miss Match" to a later (and more appropriate) time slot.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Holly moves next door on "Wanda at Large" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Mario Van Peebles and Billy Zane star in the 1993 western "Posse" (7 p.m., UPN)
  • Mac defends a soldier accused of causing the death of two Marines on "JAG" (8 p.m., CBS).

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