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Robert Lloyd Review-o-rama: 'The Tenth Circle,' 'Factory,' 'Election Day'

June 27, 2008 |  1:30 pm

Short reviews of coming distractions:

Tenthcircle "The Tenth Circle" (Lifetime, Saturday, June 28, 9 p.m.) Family-based mystery (adultery, drugs, teenage strip poker, dead high school football star, skeletons in closet) with lashings of seriousness (references to Dante, Eskimo culture). Based on a novel by Jodi Picoult, reminding us once again that the phrase “New York Times Best-Seller” is meaningless in literary terms. Difficult to buy overall, and it loses focus, but there are some nicely handled moments, and the always-interesting but too-little-seen Ron Eldard is in it. Kelly Preston is fine as Eldard's wife, and Britt Robertson, who plays their possibly raped, potentially murderous daughter is very good, although the part bangs her around a little much, as she goes from reasonable to hysterical and back. The conclusion seems to be that the wages of inattentive mothering are disaster and death.

"Factory" (Spike, Sunday, June 29, 10 p.m.). A partly improvised comedy from Mitch Rouse, a creator of “Strangers with Candy,” which might lead you to expect this to be better than this is. Four factory workers, who come across as four improv comics in coveralls, try to avoid work as they grouse about or lie about the women in or out of their lives. Factory_2 Clearly flung at the Spike's male demo –- "Get More Action" is the network tagline, which implies a viewership not getting as much as it would like -- it has a slightly sour edge that some will just read as The Way Things Are. (The female characters aren't particularly happy, either; Ritalin takes off the edge.) I did like little round Mark Beltzman, who plays a shady used car salesman-cum-funeral director, and Christopher Allen Nelson (who seems to work more often as an SFX makeup artist) as the guy none of the principals like. It would be nice to see a show about factory workers, even a comedy, that took them seriously. First sitcom for Spike, a historic moment by definition.

"Election Day" reviewed after the jump. (It's good, so click on.)

"Election Day" (KCET, Thursday, July 3, 9 p.m.). A terrific cinema verité documentary that quietly observes the events of Nov. 2, 2004, in city, town and country director quilts together footage from 11 locations, from tiny Stockholm, Wis. (pop. 97), to somewhat more populous New York.  Republican poll-watchers haunt Democratic precincts of Chicago; Native Americans get out the vote on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A 50-year-old ex-con prepares to vote for the first time, as does an 18 year-old (organic) farm girl. In Quincy, Fla. (in Gadsden County, where 12% of the vote was tossed out on technicalities in 2000), a closely monitored vote for sheriff comes down to the wee hours and ends with dancing in the street. The process doesn't go smoothly for everyone; names disappear from the register, voting gizmos go bad, ballots run low. In a black St. Louis neighborhood, short on voting booths and staff, citizens wait as long as two hours to vote. From the opening shot (which goes on what many might consider too long but signaled to me that good things were ahead), in which we watch a man smoke a cigarette in the Chicago pre-dawn, the film is finely observed and beautifully filmed -- with remarkable visual consistency, given the circumstances. Unfolding not only in polling places, but coffee shops, kitchens, bathrooms, dinner tables, a barber shop, it's a lovely group portrait of Americans who care.

--Robert Lloyd

(Photo of 'Tenth Circle' courtesy Lifetime Network; Photo of 'Factory' courtesy Spike TV)