Documentary gives long-lost Beach Boy reason to 'Smile'

The documentary "Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of 'Smile"' (8 p.m., Showtime) celebrates a personal and artistic rise from the ashes. For years, The Beach Boys' album "Smile" was considered the greatest album never heard. Writer/producer/arranger/ singer and lead Beach Boy Brian Wilson was working on this ambitious sequel to "Pet Sounds" when drug abuse, mental health problems and emotional issues caused him to abandon it. Some of the songs from "Smile," including "Good Vibrations," "Heroes and Villains" and the amazing "Surf's Up," were released on different albums. But for the next 30-plus years, Wilson and his project seemed to dwell in a tragic limbo.

But in recent years, encouraged by his wife and colleagues, Wilson decided to return to "Smile," an ambitious piece of music and a radical departure from rock and pop that Wilson long ago called "a teenage symphony to God."

The long, sad story of Brian Wilson has inspired numerous documentaries and miniseries. But this tale of talent, madness, emotional abuse and lost opportunities bears repeating. And even if Wilson does appear to be a Rip Van Beach Boy, finally waking after a generation-long hiatus, his "Smile" worth the wait.

  • Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards hold a vice presidential debate (8 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News).

If history is any guide, the debates between contenders for the No. 2 spot can generate more sparks than the main event. Some see the vice president's role as the "attack dog" of the ticket. That was certainly the case in 1976, when Republican candidate Bob Dole accused Democrats of starting all wars. Some think his angry performance cost Gerald Ford a close election. During the 1984 debate, congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro bristled at what she considered to be Vice President George Bush's patronizing attitude. Feelings hardened the next day when Bush told an audience of construction workers that he "tried to kick a little ass" during the debate.

The most brutal moment in any modern vice presidential debate occurred in 1988, when Democrat Lloyd Bentsen whiplashed Dan Quayle with the line, "You're no John Kennedy." Quayle got the job anyway. And any catalog of weird political moments has to include the 1992 vice presidential debate, in which Ross Perot's running mate, Adm. James Stockdale, seemed less than prepared and offered the often-parodied quote, "Who am I? Why am I here?" Debates between attack dogs are no place for such musings.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Major League Baseball divisional playoffs (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Luke and Lorelai reveal their relationship on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m).
  • Comic Wanda Sykes takes a series of odd jobs on her new series "Wanda Does It" (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central).

Late night

Annette Bening and Bill O'Reilly appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Dennis Miller, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Mark Knopfler on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Jamie Cullum appears on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).


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