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Underrated/Overrated

March 06, 2011

UNDERRATED

'An Idiot Abroad': Inexplicably airing on the Science Channel, this live-action extension of HBO's "Ricky Gervais Show" outdoes its animated counterpart. With the ever-cackling Gervais and Stephen Merchant pitting the cue ball-headed Karl Pilkington against a variety of indignities in visiting the Seven Wonders of the World, this is global travel without the camera-ready veneer — and Pilkington's simple but twisted wit is a lot smarter than you'd think.

Fred Hersch: It's hard to believe that just two years ago, this jazz pianist was in a fight for his life. Yet after two months in an AIDS-related coma and recovering movement in his atrophied hands, Hersch's musical comeback has been simply remarkable. His 2010 trio album "Whirl" was a masterpiece of understated beauty, and the just-released live recording "Alone at the Vanguard" finds Hersch sounding just as thoughtfully lyrical as ever. Thankfully.

OVERRATED

'Battle: LA': To echo a sentiment noted in the cult film "Los Angeles Plays Itself" (2003): What is Hollywood's fascination with destroying our fair city? After "2012," "The Day After Tomorrow" and countless other disaster flicks, it seems like every freeway interchange and iconic building has been blown to bits two or three times over. Wouldn't Miami and Boston pretend-burn just as effectively? And isn't there a cheaper form of therapy out there for filmmakers?

The Charlie Sheen trainwreck-a-thon: Yes, he's a warlock with tiger blood, a rock star from Mars and possibly his own controlled substance. And now that we've had a good laugh and all the hack joke writers have spooled up years of material, it's time to move along. Whether Sheen's on something stronger than his ego or not, this saga feeds into too many hazardous addictions on all sides. Time for everyone to recognize there's nothing to see here.

Chris Barton

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