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"Coming Home" runs on reunions and tears from everybody

Critics who throw reality shows into one 'it's demeaning garbage' basket, aren't really watching. Why reality TV has become so ubiquitous, there are sub-genres.

"Coming Home" (Lifetime, 10 tonight) belongs in the "weepy inspirational" queue (you know with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"): it's an hour of watching U.S. armed forces service members' surprise family reunions. It's built to exercise your tear ducts.
 

Thoughtful "Amanda Knox" movie seems fair-minded

I guess I can understand why those representing Amanda Knox were trying to stop Lifetime from airing "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy' (9 tonight). After watching the movie, I can't decide if Knox is guilty or crazy or both. I sure don't see her as innocent.

Of course, it's a movie and we've watched enough of them to know filmmakers always take liberties. In fact, in a CYA move, Lifetime is airing an hour-long documentary "Beyond the Headlines: Amanda Knox" at 11, right after the movie, that includes Amanda's mother, father, friends, investigators and legal types discussing the case. (And, apparently, a murder scene has been cut to appease the families.)

So, we should just think about it as a piece of entertainment, and as far as that goes "Amanda Knox" is pretty good. It's pretty fair too. Although it leaves one with a sense that there was enough reasonable doubt to avoid conviction, it doesn't let Knox or the others convicted off the hook. This is a complicated case with a lot of unanswered questions, yet you're left with a sense that you've been shown all that's known and left to make up your own mind.

What to Watch on Monday: 'The Bachelor' goes to Charlotte

The Bachelor (8pm, ABC) - Brad visits the four remaining bachelorettes in their hometowns, which means he accompanies Emily Maynard (left) to Charlotte. Will she let him meet her daughter with late NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick? Will she make the cut and move on to the South Africa trip next week?

The Chicago Code (9pm, Fox) - Jarek and Caleb chase a bank robber and try to uncover details about him. Elsewhere, Teresa and Gibbons discuss a pivotal construction site.

It's Good to be President (9pm, History) - The life of the U.S. president is explored, focusing on daily tasks outside of the political arena, and the perks and dangers that go with the job.

BET Honors (9pm, BET) - Gabrielle Union hosts the awards show, which pays tribute to Linda Johnson Rice, Herbie Hancock, Jamie Foxx, Cicely Tyson, and Lonnie G. Bunch.

Amanda Knox: Murder Trial in Italy (9pm, Lifetime) - Hayden Panettiere plays the Seattle exchange student accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy. Read Adrienne's review.

Castle (10pm, ABC) - In part one of a two-part story, an investigation of a murdered cab driver reveals his involvement in a high stakes conspiracy. That leads to a federal agent (Adrian Pasdar) taking charge of the case.

President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon (10pm, MSNBC) - In another Presidents Day offering, this "Hardball" documentary examines the life and legacy of President Bill Clinton. Includes footage of Chris Matthews' weekend with Clinton attending the Clinton Global Initiative in New York and a visit to Ireland. Also includes interviews with Clinton's close friends and colleagues.

Lincoln's Secret Killer (10pm, National Geographic Channel) - The health of Abraham Lincoln in his final year of life is probed by experts, who perform a DNA analysis on a piece of fabric stained with his blood. Some believe Lincoln was dying from a rare form of cancer when he was assassinated.

You won't be taken with "Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story"

When you see that an Academy Award nominated actress is starring in a Lifetime movie, you could think 'Hmm, how the mighty have fallen," or "That's gonna be a good movie!"

I went with the latter thought in approaching "Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story" (Lifetime, 9 tonight) starring Taraji P. Henson (who was nominated for her role in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button").

Oh well. I wouldn't say Henson has fallen, but this wasn't a good movie, and worse, Henson's performance won't attract any award attention.

Based on a true story, the movie introduces us to Tiffany Rubin, a happily married mother of a young son Kobe (Drew Davis). Her son's father (Sean Baek), we learn, is shady, but Tiffany believes he's more stable now and trying to be a good dad. So despite her mother's warning (mom is played by Beverly Todd), Tiffany allows dad to take her son for a week's vacation to Florida. Instead dad flees to his native country, Korea, kidnapping their son.

What to Watch on Monday: Conquering a cold case on "Castle"

Chuck (8pm, NBC) - Sarah sets out on a perilous undercover mission by assisting Mary Bartowski (Linda Hamilton) in a bid to finally crush criminal mastermind Volkoff (Timothy Dalton).

The Bachelor (8pm, ABC) - Crazy Michelle wakes up with a black eye and says she has no idea how she got it. Also, nine of the women visit with therapist Dr. Drew.

Final Sale (9pm, Lifetime) - A woman (Laura Harris) receives a kidney illegally from a younger girl and later learns the donor died during surgery. Horrified, she sets out to stop the crime ring that supplied the organ, butting heads with her detective husband (Ivan Sergei) along the way.

Castle (10pm, ABC) - Beckett (Stana Katic, left with Nathan Fillion) meets the retired detective who handled her mother's homicide case, but he is killed right before he can tell her anything. The subsequent probe may finally reveal who committed her mother's murder.

Harry's Law (10pm, NBC) - Harry (Kathy Bates) defends a poor elderly woman who committed armed robbery to get money for food, and Adam faces a famous lawyer when he defends a Laundromat owner who fired a woman because of his "one child only" policy.

"The Craigslist Killer": Highlights without insight

The 'ripped from the headlines' TV movie seems a great go-to; after all, you've got built-in interest and familiarity. Yet what makes one successful is when the filmmakers can fill in some of the details. We haven't all been paying attention closely, so the movie can give us some information and some perspective we may have missed.

Unfortunately, "the //craigslist.killer" (Lifetime, 9 tonight) screens like it's really ripped from the headlines. It's thin, and unfocused. In fact, I don't even think it's telling the best story.

In case you missed this one, the "craigslist killer" was the named given to Phillip Markoff (here played by Jake McDorman), a straight-arrow Boston med student by day and a freak by night (or afternoon) who trolled the erotic services section of craigslist, tying up young women offering massage services and robbing them. He cuts off their underwear for souvenirs.

What to Watch on Monday: The new old "Bachelor" and "The Closer" season finale

Bachelor (8pm, ABC) - ABC has brought back former Bachelor Brad Womack for a do-over. You may remember him as the slow-talking Texan who didn't choose anyone at all in his 2007 stint on the show (after leading both women to believe he would be picking one of them). Tonight, before he meets the 30 new fools, he must first confront the two finalists he passed over in '07. Then, the first new contestant out of the limo slaps him. Will she get the First Impression Rose?

The Craigslist Killer (9pm, Lifetime) - The story of Boston University med student Philip Markoff (Jake McDermott), dubbed the Craigslist Killer for an alleged spree of attacks against women who advertised erotic services on the website.

Castle (10pm, ABC) - Beckett and Castle tackle and upscale matchmaker's murder case, and they have company: the actress (Laura Prepon) cast as Nikki Heat for the film version of Castle's book wants a deeper grasp of her character. Beckett doesn't like it.

The Closer (10pm, TNT) - In the Season 6 finale, a crack addict, a potentially shady rehab facility and a missing young woman complicate a murder investigation. Before long, Brenda's judgement comes into question and Fritz must disclose dark secrets from his past.

Hawaii Five-0 (10pm, CBS) - McGarrett's sister is kidnapped and the investigation uncovers new clues about his mother's murder, which include possible ties to the Japanese mafia.

In the Bedroom with Laura Berman (10pm, OWN) - The series premiere of a new show hosted by sex therapist Laura Berman, who offers couples advice on relationships and sex. Find OWN.

What to Watch on Monday: Fa-la-la-la-la with 'Sing Off' and a Mariah Carey's Christmas

Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (8pm, TCM) - The series finale examines the change in the cinema-scape from 1960 to 1969 as old studio heads died and maverick new filmmakers addressed controversial topics such as drugs and changing political attitudes.

The Sing-Off (8pm, NBC) - The groups perform rock songs and guilty pleasures, and collaborate to sing Green Day's "21 Guns."

Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to You (9pm, ABC) - Mariah Carey performs songs from her second holiday album, "Merry Christmas II You," including "Oh Santa!" Taped at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.

Marry Me (9pm, Lifetime) - The conclusion of the two-part Lifetime movie starring Lucy Liu.

The Closer (9pm, TNT) - Did you read that 'The Closer' is ending after next season? Savor the eps while you can! Tonight, new Chief of Police Tommy Delk (Courtney B. Vance) enlists the team to investigate thefts at various medical-marijuana dispensaries. The seemingly inconguous assignment takes a perilous turn when one robbery results in murder. The cases tests Brenda's readiness to rise to a higher departmental post.

Men of a Certain Age (10pm, TNT) - Joe tries to open his schedule to practice golf, and Owen's new job as manager puts stress on his marriage, while coworkers pull a prank on Terry after they dig up video of one of his old commercials.

What to Watch on Sunday: 'Dexter' and 'Amazing Race' finales

Amazing Race (8pm, CBS) - The final three teams race to the finish line to claim the $1 million top prize.

The Simpsons (8pm, Fox) - After Homer is jailed on New Year's Eve for bribery, he agrees to go undercover as an informant against mobster Fat Tony (voiced by Joe Mantegna) to reduce his sentence. Jon Hamm does the voice of the FBI investigator.

Dexter (9pm, Showtime) - In the fifth-season finale, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) smells a trap being set for him and Lumen (Julia Stiles, left) and pulls out all the stops in an effort to avoid getting caught in it. Elsewhere, personal feelings get in the way of Debra's investigation into the Barrel Girls, and Quinn gets in a bind from which only Dexter can extricate him.

Wishful Drinking (9pm, HBO) - Carrie Fisher's autobigraphical stage production chronicles her life in and out of show business as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Here's our review.

Hot in Cleveland (9pm, TV Land) - Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick look back at the best moments (and bloopers) of their inaugural season. They also preview Season 2, which begins in January.

Marry Me (9pm, Lifetime) - In part one of a two-part movie, a social worker (Lucy Liu) with aspirations of a fairy-tale romance is torn between three suitors, all of whom propose to her. Steven Pasquale and Bobby Cannavale also star. Adrienne reviews it.

Sarah Palin's Alaska (9pm, TLC) - Palin takes fellow reality star Kate Gosselin and her brood on a camping trip.

Brothers & Sisters (10pm, ABC) - The Walkers are without their matriarch for Christmas when Nora takes off for a last-minute vacation with Karl. Meanwhile, Saul runs into a former lover (Richard Chamberlain).

"Marry Me" makes a too-lengthy proposal

The romantic comedy has a pretty straight-forward play book. What makes one fresh is either a good performance and a nice twist before we get to the expected happily ever after.

"Marry Me" (9 p.m. Lifetime, Sunday & Monday) has one of the two qualities. Which makes it a not-unpleasant way to spend four hours, but not a grand slam.

It tells the story of Rae Ann Carter (Lucy Liu), a social worker with artistic aspirations who wants the fairy tale -- the handsome man who's smart, funny and will love her always. When we meet her, she's on her way to meet her boyfriend of two years Adam (Bobby Cannavale), who she thinks is going to propose. Turns out he's not.

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