'Howe' did he do it? Hallmark tells all
Today's highlights Sunday season finales More Sunday highlights Critic's choice Today's series Sunday series BY KEVIN McDONOUGH
Hockey on the Hallmark Channel? Cable dramas and cable networks often adhere so strictly to formula that any deviation is welcome. But I'm still scratching my head over "Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story" (9 tonight).
In stark contrast to Hallmark's regular slate of romances, "Mr. Hockey" focuses on a brutal sport, one that is not necessarily the favorite of female viewers. And it's set, faithfully, in the shaggy end of the early 1970s.
In fact, "The Brady Bunch"-meets-"Mad Men" set design, costuming, hair and makeup featured in the production might be one of the movie's chief pleasures.
"Mr. Hockey" begins with Howe (Michael Shanks) retiring in 1971 after a quarter-century with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. His jersey enshrined, he's kicked upstairs to a do-nothing job with team management.
When his two young hockey-playing sons attract the interest of the new Houston Aeros franchise of the upstart World Hockey Association, the Red Wings' owner lambastes Howe and orders him to keep his kids in line.
Bored, insulted and incensed, Howe quits the team and joins his son on the Aeros at the age of 45, forming the only father-son act in professional sports.
Is this a hockey movie? A film about a family held together by a strong wife and mother, Colleen Howe (Kathleen Robertson)? Or a story about folks from the frozen North settling in semi-tropical Houston?
Unfortunately, "Howe" is all of these things and more, with a particular emphasis on the arcane history of the WHA. To say it gets bogged down is an understatement.
At the end (and I'm not giving anything away here), we learn that the film is dedicated to Colleen, "Mrs. Hockey," who died in 2009. Maybe it is a Hallmark movie after all. Gordie Howe turned 85 on March 31.
n The series "Locked Up Abroad" (10 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic, TV-14) returns, turning to "Argo" for inspiration.
Tony Mendez, the CIA agent portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winner for best picture, appears here to describe the covert operation to rescue a handful of the hostages seized by the Iranian regime in November 1979.
As fans of "Argo" know, the ploy involved the "making" of a fake science-fiction movie. Mark and Cora Lijek, two diplomats involved, also recall the remarkable rescue mission.
n The exquisite pleasures of fishing are best enjoyed by the doer -- not the watcher.
As such, the makers of long-running reality series like "Deadliest Catch" have been wise to emphasize the dangers of the sea and the weather, management problems and the relationships between eccentric characters because watching fishing can be dull.
But catching fish also can be lucrative. That's why tonight's new episode of "Wicked Tuna: Money on the Line" (9 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic, TV-14) is like a watery variation on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" -- or at least a thousand-aire. Fish are introduced with weight and price tags, and "players" have their "total" enumerated for us.
Add to that the show's stereotyped characters and you can see how "Wicked Tuna" and its ilk have combined the two lowest forms of TV entertainment, the game show and professional wrestling. Imagine "Let's Make a Deal" where every contestant is Hulk Hogan and you're getting close.
A singular event brings rival casts together on "Smash" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Conflicting tales unfold on the hourlong season finale of "Cops" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Parents cajole their toddling youngsters to dance and spin repeatedly on "Bet on Your Baby" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG). I hope they don't have to hose down the set.
Waxy bodies point to grim deeds on "Doctor Who" (8 p.m., BBC America, TV-PG).
Princess Puffy Pants makes her feelings known outside the litter box on "My Cat From Hell" (8 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-PG).
Joe wants to go out with a bang on "The Following" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
"20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) explores people's boiling points.
Scheduled on two helpings of "48 Hours" (CBS): a dad's killer (9 p.m.); pushed too far (10 p.m.).
Alison's fears might bring danger to the clones on "Orphan Black" (9 p.m., BBC America, TV-MA).
Cats do the darnedest things on "America's Cutest" (9 p.m., Animal Planet).
Jack McBrayer, Eliza Dushku and Joseph Keckler appear on "The Nerdist" (10 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
Zach Galifianakis hosts "Saturday Night Live" (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Of Monsters and Men.
A winner emerges on "The Amazing Race" (8 p.m., CBS). This energetic contest will return.
Jane whittles down the list of possible Red John suspects on "The Mentalist" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14), scheduled to return next season.
I wouldn't count on another season of "Red Widow" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14), ending tonight with Marta scheming revenge.
Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): military veterans returning with traumatic brain injuries; a profile of Paul Tudor Jones and his Robin Hood Foundation; using techniques learned in Iraq to fight street gangs in America's cities.
Moe's homemade whiskey attracts attention on "The Simpsons" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG). Jazz veteran Sonny Rollins makes a guest-voice appearance.
The inventory of magic beans comes up short on "Once Upon a Time" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Four compete on the finale of "Chopped All-Stars" (9 p.m., Food).
Author Arthur Conan Doyle takes part in a store promotion on "Mr. Selfridge" on "Masterpiece Classic" (9 p.m., PBS, channels 12 and 33, TV-PG).
Tywin devises an alliance with the Lannisters on "Game of Thrones" (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
Selena feels undercut by the White House's choice of a photo on "Veep" (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
Pete's unraveled life begins to affect his work on "Mad Men" (10 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
Alexander announces a new Crusade on "The Borgias" (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
A vaudeville comedian (Barbra Streisand) falls for a gambler (Omar Sharif) in the 1968 musical "Funny Girl" (9:45 p.m. Sunday, TCM).
The hunt for Finch's kidnapper on "Person of Interest" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... Highlights from this season of "The Voice" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... "Saturday Night Live" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
Knockout round on "The Voice" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... A trip to the museum on "Bob's Burgers" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
The clouds move in on "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... A saloonkeeper expires on "Family Guy" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Emily hatches her new scheme on "Revenge" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Old home week for Roger on "American Dad" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).