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John Leonard's TV Notes


Dying to Be Thin (12/12; 9 to 10 p.m.; Channel 13) follows the public-television science series Nova into high schools, high fashion, the dance world, and the clinic to see what we know about anorexia nervosa, the incidence of which has increased in this country by 36 percent every five years since the 1950s, and what various therapies (hospitalization, psychiatric counseling, and antidepressants) do to stop 8 million Americans, most of them women between the ages of 15 and 24, from starving themselves to death. While an imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin is diagnosed, we should also be blaming our neurotic body culture.

The Stalking of Laurie Show (12/12; 9 to 11 p.m.; USA) is based on one of those true stories I'm sorry I ever heard about, with actors familiar only to regular watchers of such TV series as Dawson's Creek and The Bold and the Beautiful, about a teenage girl new to a high school in Amish country who is teased, then tormented, then raped, and finally stabbed by a pair of popular psychotics whose only excuse seems to be a sort of road rage at those bearded farmers in their horse-drawn buggies on the highway. It starts ugly and it gets worse.

A Diva's Christmas Carol (12/13; 9 to 11 p.m.; VH1) is a disco Dickens starring Vanessa Williams as Ebony (instead of Ebenezer Scrooge), a Diana Ross-like temper tantrum in taffeta, TLC's Chilli as Marli Jacob, who used to sing with her in a Supremes-like girl group but is very dead from drugs, Kathy Griffin as a wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past, Duran Duran's John Taylor as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and -- a genuinely witty touch -- a VH1 Behind the Music mock episode on the late Ebony as the Ghost of Christmas Future, all showing up the night before a benefit concert intended to benefit only Ebony. No harm, no foul, nice Vanessa.

Three Miracles (12/15; 10:30 to 11 p.m.; Channel 13) is the first installment of The Living Century series, executive-produced by Barbra Streisand and Cis Corman, that talks at length with ordinary citizens who happen to have lived every day of the twentieth century; in this case, Rose Freedman, born in 1893 and still going strong in California, cooking, painting, learning Spanish, and watching Lakers games. She is also the last remaining survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the occasion of a wonderful poem by Robert Pinsky, which the former U.S. poet laureate reads to us on camera.


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