It's hard to complain about a week in entertainment that promises such a smorgasbord of tradition, high culture and delicious trash.
Sting revives obscure music, Jerry Lewis does a guest turn in "Law & Order: SVU," John Grisham launches his first non-fiction book, and Toby Jones hits the big screen looking so much like Truman Capote that it's almost frightening.
Speaking of frightening, they're releasing a DVD package of horror flicks from the '30s, featuring such fabulous actors as Bela Lugosi and Lionel Barrymore.
Let's take a walk around the buffet table, shall we?
The big question this week: Is there room in the universe for two movies about Truman Capote that even focus on the same period of his life? "Capote" got a lot of attention and brought nearly every available award to the feet of Philip Seymour Hoffman for his awesome portrayal of the title character – even the Oscar for best actor.
Now, along comes "Infamous" (Oct. 13) with Toby Jones as the ever acerbic and complicated Truman Capote, again sending him to Kansas in the 1950s to research the book that would become his masterpiece, "In Cold Blood." Along for the ride as Nelle Harper Lee is not Catherine Keener; this time, it's Sandra Bullock. It's surely worth the price of a ticket also to see Peter Bogdanovich as Bennett Cerf and Sigourney Weaver as Babe Paley.
Robin Williams is back in "Man of the Year (Oct. 13), playing a comedian who becomes a candidate for president of the United States. It's a role that's right up his quirky alley, and he's supported by King of Quirk Christopher Walken, as well as Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum and "Daily Show" fixture Lewis Black.
You can see Laura Linney also in "Driving Lessons" (Oct. 13), which also gives us Rupert Grint playing someone other than Ron Weasley, Harry Potter's best mate. He plays a loser named Ben who has pivotal life experiences while on school holiday. Helping things along is Julie Walters, who also plays Grint's mum in the Potter movies.
Here's a bit of trivia: Toby Jones, who plays Truman Capote in "Infamous," also has a Potter connection. He provided the voice of Dobby the house elf in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002).
Reality TV is becoming tiresome for many people, but "Off the Leash" (Monday, Oct. 9, Lifetime) offers an interesting twist as an agency conducts a search for its next big star – of the doggie persuasion. This is the premiere, in which the canine casting call is unleashed in L.A.
One more word about reality programming: "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" (Monday, Oct. 9, MTV) is having its season debut.
"Egypt: Engineering An Empire" (Monday, Oct. 9, History Channel) is a series that was inspired by a special last season about how Rome was engineered. This two-hour premiere promises to make structural engineering as fascinating as can be, using computer imagery and the expertise of Egyptologists to show how the pyramids and other ancient edifices came into being.
The life and career of journalist Daniel Pearl is narrated by CNN's Christiana Amanpour in "The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl" (Tuesday, Oct. 10, HBO). Pearl was working for the Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped and beheaded in 2002. The report includes interviews with his family.
Jerry Lewis plays a homeless man who turns out to be a relative of Det. Munch (Richard Belzer) in this week's episode of "Law & Order: SVU" (Tuesday, Oct. 10, NBC). It's rare to see Jerry on primetime television, and he certainly made a good choice here. "SVU" is a consistent ratings winner.
Remember when we said a lot of people are weary of reality TV? Well, that's nothing compared to how some people feel about awards shows. Yes, there is a new one, "Scream Awards 2006" (Wednesday, Oct. 11, Spike TV), honoring scifi, fantasy, horror and even comic books. Might be worth a glance just to see what the trophy looks like.
More interesting guest stars this week: Brooke Shields and Larry Hagman on "Nip/Tuck" (Wednesday, Oct. 11, FX). Shields plays the therapist of star dreamboat Julian McMahon, and Hagman plays a cuckolded husband with an unusual proposition.
Finally, singer and actress Audra McDonald is on "Live From Lincoln Center" (Thursday, Oct. 12, PBS) to give your ears a huge treat. Although she is promoting her new CD, "Build A Bridge," she won't be limiting her set list. If you've never had the pleasure, you might discover a new musical fave when you tune in.
Speaking of music, three major recording artists are out with new CDs Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Rod Stewart releases "Still the Same … Great Rock Classics of Our Time," which include "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," "The Best of My Love" and "It's A Heartache."
Jimmy Buffett gives his loyal Parrot Heads a treat with "Take the Weather With You" with his usual tropical musical concoctions with the bite of wit and hint of whimsical poetry. Song titles include "Cinco De Mayo in Memphis," "Hula Girl at Heart" and "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On."
"Songs From the Labyrinth" is what happens when someone gives Sting a lute. Yes, a lute. This is a collection of 17th century music composed by John Dowland. It seems Sting was presented with a lute as a gift about two years ago, and this is what has come of it.
It actually seems a good match with Sting's style, and you have to pay attention with tracks that have titles like "Then in time passing on Mr. Johnson died" and "And from thence I had great desire to see Italy…" It sure is a long way from 1980 and "Don't Stand So Close To Me."
For the first time, John Grisham has written a nonfiction book, "The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town" (Oct. 10), which follows the case of Debra Sue Carter, a cocktail waitress who was raped and murdered in Ada, Okla., in 1982. Actually, it tracks the prosecution and sentencing of Ron Williamson, a broken baseball player, and his friend, Dennis Fritz. The case against them: A rickety conglomeration of jailhouse snitches and bad science.
The last volume in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is out Oct. 13, with the title "The End: Book the Thirteenth." Author Lemony Snicket himself writes on the back cover of the book: "…even if you braved the previous twelve volumes, you probably can't stand such unpleasantries as a fearsome storm, a suspicious beverage, a herd of wild sheep, an enormous bird cage, and a truly haunting secret about the Baudelaire parents." But Snicket's diehard fans, no doubt, will be willing to see it through.
Finally, we have books by business people. "Tough Choices: A Memoir" (Oct. 9) by Carly Fiorina is the author's own account of her life and her six-year tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and "Why We Want You To Be Rich: Two Men, One Message" (Oct. 9) by the omnipresent Donald Trump and Robert T. Kiyosaki (author of the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book series), with help from Meredith McIver and Sharon Lechter.
In New York, a revival of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" opens Monday, Oct. 9, with Cynthia Nixon in the role that was defined by Dame Maggie Smith on stage and on the big screen. It should be interesting to see what Nixon does with the part.
The Big Apple also sees the openings of "Heartbreak House" (Wednesday, Oct. 11) from the Roundabout Theatre Company, starring Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, and "Losing Louie" (Thursday, Oct. 12), with Jerry Zaks directing Matthew Arkin and Mark Linn-Baker.
And get your umbrellas ready: Here comes the musical stage version of kiddie classic "Mary Poppins", which begins previews Saturday, Oct. 14.
On the West Coast, look for David Alan Grier playing the title role in "The Wiz" (opened Sunday, Oct. 8) at the La Jolla Playhouse. He plays it in a bright green suit and a wig reminiscent of George Washington.
Here are a few titles that will be released Tuesday, Oct. 10:
"Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection: Doctor X / The Return of Doctor X / Mad Love / The Devil Doll / Mark of the Vampire / The Mask of Fu Manchu" brings forth a stew of old favorites like Boris Karloff (the evil Fu Manchu) and Bela Legosi (THE vampire), as well as Lionel Barrymore as the owner of the toy shop that that's home base to "The Devil Doll" and the oddity of seeing Humphrey Bogart as a zombie in "The Return of Doctor X."
If you blinked, you missed it in the theaters, but here comes "A Prairie Home Companion," the big-screen adaptation of Garrison Keillor's much-lauded radio show. It's worth a look just to see Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin having such a great time together, and Lindsay Lohan's take-no-prisoners performance of "Frankie and Johnny."
TV fans will be happy to see the releases of "Scrubs: The Complete Fourth Season" and "Magnum P.I.: The Complete Fifth Season".
And finally, for the kiddies, there's "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties," which offers a double serving of the snotty but popular cartoon cat.