Monday, January 12, 2004
Before she turned into a tabloid headline, Anne Heche was quite a capable actress. Proof of that fact can be found in "Gracie's Choice" (7 p.m., Lifetime). Heche turns in a frightening and believable performance as Rowena Larson, the abusive mother of five children by five different fathers, whose careless flirtation with a string of drug dealers threatens to send her brood to separate foster homes.
Like many substance abusers, Rowena is well-versed in the arts of deception and manipulation. Her Bible-reading mother (Diane Ladd) tries to disown her, but Rowena plays on Mom's guilt and always talks her into a new loan or a few months' stay at her house. Rowena's teenage daughter, Gracie (Kristen Bell), emerges as the strongest woman in this dysfunctional trio, and eventually adopts her siblings to keep the family from being broken up. Based on a true story, "Gracie" eventually follows the uplifting story arc of your average TV film, but not before showcasing strong performances by Heche, Ladd and young Bell.
"Reconstruction: The Second Civil War" on "The American Experience" (8 p.m., PBS) recalls one of the most contentious periods in American history. This two-part series could easily have been subtitled "The Second American Revolution," because it was during the period after the Civil War that the American notions of citizenship, civil rights, federalism and the presidency were tested and redefined.
New York's Orange County may not be as fabulous as California's "O.C.," but it is home to Paul Teutul Jr. and Sr., the father-son team of motorcycle customizers chronicled on "American Chopper" (9 p.m., Discovery). The series kicks off a new 13-episode season of metal grinding, family bickering and male bonding, beginning tonight.
Patricia Heaton and Kate Bosworth appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Ben Stiller, Pete Rose and Leann Rimes on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).
Quentin Tarantino, Molly Sims and author Chuck Palahniuk chat on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Arsenio Hall is booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).