New 'Biography' profile goes too easy on Rice

For years now, I've lamented how the folks at "Biography" have abandoned serious subjects for the likes of Hulk Hogan, Adam West and the cast of "Gilligan's Island." Now the folks at the Biography Channel have decided to smarten up the franchise with hourlong profiles they are calling "Lives That Matter." This week, the cable network will offer "Biography" installments on Condoleezza Rice (today) and Ariel Sharon (Wednesday), as well as Blake Edwards (Tuesday) and Pete Sampras (Thursday).

So now I should be happy, right? Well, not so fast. Tonight's "Biography: Condoleezza Rice" (8 p.m., Biography Channel) does offer some fun home movies of the future national security adviser when she was a cute little tyke sitting on Santa's lap.

We learn that she was an extraordinarily focused and serious child and young adult, graduating early from high school and college, abandoning classical piano when she realized she wouldn't be the best and embarking on an academic career in Soviet studies that would have her advising presidents before she was 40 years old.

Rice has certainly had a remarkable life, worthy of "Biography." But real biographies of serious people offer at least a few contrary voices. Rice was national security adviser when the current administration embarked on a war with Iraq and announced its policy of pre-emptive war. What do people think of these foreign policy developments? We don't hear.

We learn that she likes disco dancing, silly movies and shoe shopping. Can you imagine "Biography" profiles of Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld that failed to discuss their policies and acknowledge their critics?

It's not like Rice's critics are hard to find. Check out the current (October) issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine, where military and intelligence experts (almost all Republicans who voted for Bush) reach the consensus that the Iraq war may be the greatest strategic blunder since Vietnam. At a time when Rice's decisions, advice and even competence are at the center of a debate in a presidential campaign, this fluffy treatment is beyond absurd. It's a disservice to viewers and an insult to Rice.

¢ Florence Henderson is host of the "Mrs. America Pageant" (8 p.m., PAX). This annual guilty pleasure is the only beauty contest to include married women. The winner will compete in the 2005 "Mrs. World" pageant in Bombay, India.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ President Bush sits down for an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor" (7 p.m., Fox News). Bush also will appear on "Factor" on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

¢ With the folks gone, things seem too good to be true on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ Ed's past returns with a vengeance on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet on "Monday Night Football" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ A child witness needs protection on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).

Late night

Queen Latifah and Jack Hanna appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Garry Shandling and Hilary Duff on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Dennis Franz, Ali Landry and The Used appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

Tom Selleck, Macauley Culkin and Dave Attell are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Michael Ian Black welcomes Amy Brenneman, Meat Loaf and Tears for Fears on "The Late, Late Show" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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