Blades of glory

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“The Tonight Show”

Weeknights 11:35pm, NBC
In June, Conan O’Brien took over “The Tonight Show” from 17-year host Jay Leno, who apparently didn’t really want to leave. To placate Leno—and to shore up holes in its pathetic primetime schedule—NBC gave the big-chinned “comic” his own show at 10pm, five nights a week. “The Jay Leno Show” pulled middling ratings and pissed off affiliates and Hollywood, and NBC is using the impending Olympics as an excuse to shuffle Leno back to late night come February. That would have necessitated bumping “The Tonight Show” to an after-midnight slot (technically making it “The Morning Show”), and O’Brien wasn’t having it. In a heartfelt open letter he explained his refusal to participate in what he sees as the destruction of one of TV’s greatest franchises. Well, Conan got screwed, Leno is inexplicably coming out on top at 11:35pm, and NBC has yet another PR nightmare on its hands.
 
“Spartacus: Blood and Sand”
Friday 10pm, Starz
This new gladiator drama from producer Sam Raimi extrapolates from the story of Spartacus, the legendary soldier betrayed by his army, forced to fight for his life as a gladiator, sold into slavery, and eventually leader of the oppressed. I don’t think we’ll get to that last part for a few seasons (and we will get a few seasons, as Starz has so much faith in the series that it picked up Season 2 before the first episode even aired). The cast features Andy Whitfield in the title role; he’s a little-known Australian actor, but he sure is nice to look at. More interesting are erstwhile Xena Lucy Lawless and droopy Brit John Hannah as Spartacus’s scheming owners, and the fact that the show is really selling its graphic violence and sex scenes. Sold!
 
“U.S. National Figure Skating Championships”
Saturday 3-6pm, 9-11pm; Sunday, 9-11pm, NBC
Get pumped for the impending Winter Olympics by catching up on arguably the best sport in the competition: figure skating. Sure, the sport isn’t quite as buzzworthy as it was back in the heyday of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal (How amazing was that whole mess in retrospect?) or the reign of plucky Michelle Kwan. But we’ve still got plenty of talented skaters fighting for a spot on the team heading to Vancouver next month, including puckish Johnny Weir and possible comeback queen Sasha Cohen. The men’s and pairs’ competitions took place last weekend, but you can catch the ice dancing and ladies’ competitions this weekend, followed by an exhibition skate and Olympic sendoff Sunday night.
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