Natalie Wood tale reflects why celebrity biopics obsolete

Monday, March 1, 2004

Every so often, a television celebrity biography comes along that proves why the made-for-TV dead-celebrity biopic is dead. Add "The Mystery of Natalie Wood" (7 p.m., ABC) to this list of genre-killers.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, "Wood" uses the reflective talking heads of real-life friends and Hollywood acquaintances, including "Man From U.N.C.L.E." star Robert Vaughn, but this "True Hollywood Story" touch fails to provide much insight or sizzle to the story.

It's well-known that Natalie Wood (Justine Waddell) slipped off a boat and drowned in 1981. What I didn't know is that Natalie "knew" how she was going to perish. Apparently, a gypsy warned her mother before dark-haired Natasha-turned-Natalie was even born. So mawkish foreshadowing darkens the entire movie. We know she's going to drown. She knows she's going to drown. Guess what? She drowns.

Tonight, Fox launches what it calls "an open-ended, unscripted soap opera" called "Forever Eden" (8:05 p.m., Fox). A review tape was not available. Here, 11 contestants dwell in a tropical paradise but are called upon to rely on their wits and their sense of good and evil to survive.

"Average Joe Hawaii" (9 p.m., NBC) wraps up its contrived romance tonight when Larissa Meek chooses between one of the original average slobs and a taut-tummied ringer from the good ship Studly. The show generated some fireworks last week when the genuine, if slightly scary-looking, cement-contractor contestant, Fredo LaPonza, left in a huff after catching his Snow White canoodling with one of the dwarves.

Tonight's other highlights

Late night

Cee-Lo performs on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Ebert and Richard Roeper on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).