"Five": The best TV movie in years

OK, people have had some good excuses lately for not watching TV. The weather has been perfect in many places. It happens.

Now, however, it's time to start watching. Tonight (Monday, Oct. 10) is big, with:

-- A makeover for the struggling Oprah Winfrey Network, starting at 7 p.m. with Rosie O'Donnell's new talk show (see previous blog).

-- The departure of "The Playboy Club," a dark and dreary show that didn't deserve to live (see two blogs ago).

-- Lots of sports, as usual. In Michigan, where I live, people are giddy about a double-header of storts -- the Tigers in the play-offs (4:20 p.m., Fox), the undefeated Lions hosting the Bears (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

-- And much more, including "Five" -- which is very simply the best TV movie in years. Here's the story I sent to papers:



This is the sort of starpower that's
rare for TV – Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Alicia Keys.

The catch: None of them are on-camera
in the movie “Five”; instead, each makes her directing debut.

“Great actors do often make great
directors,” said actress Patricia Clarkson.

The idea was hatched in a meeting the
Lifetime cable network had with Jennifer Aniston and her friend,
producer Kristin Hahn: Combine five mini-films about breast cancer.
“We call it a film in short films,” said producer Marta Kauffman,
who came up with a way for all of them to be related.

Then the powerhouse people converged.
In order, the films are directed by:

– Moore. Her film is set on the night
of the moon walk, with a little girl shielded from the fact that her
mother (Ginnifer Goodwin) is dying. Jennifer Morrison and Annie Potts

– Aniston. Clarkson plays
someone who rants at her own advance funeral. “It was so emotional
and physically so brutal at times,” she said. “(Aniston)
understood the humor of this character.”

– Keys. An in-control lawyer (Rosario
Dawson) finds herself still sparring with her sister (Tracee Ross)
and mother (Jenifer Lewis). “When a woman who is diagnosed with
breast cancer still has to deal with her mother, it can be funny,”
Kauffman said.

– Penelope Spheeris, best known for
directing “Wayne's World” and rock 'n' roll documentaries. Her
film has a young stripper (Lyndsy Fonseca) who may need both breasts
removed. Unlike the other films, this has a gritty, blue-collar
setting. “I know that territory,” Spheeris said, “so it was perfect
for me.”

– Patty Jenkins, who directed
Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning work in “Monster.” Her film has
an oncologist (Jeanne Tripplehorn) facing her own crisis. “We knew
it was new territory for everybody, and that sort of gave it this
freshness and excitement on the set,” Tripplehorn said.

Many of these women are best known for
comedy – especially Kauffman, the “Friends” co-creator and
co-producer – and Aniston, one of the “Friends” stars. So humor
emerges in surprising places.

“When we are in the most
extraordinary circumstances,” Kauffman said, “we react in one of
two ways. Either we completely freak out or we go toward humor.”

The film has both, Spheeris said. “You
cry and you laugh and you do so many different emotions.”

At the core is Lifetime's ongoing push
for women to get mammograms. “There are currently 2.5 million
breast-cancer survivors in the U.S.,” said Nancy Dubuc, president
of the cable channel.

This film could stir some more.
Tripplehorn said Keys asked her to be at a script-reading. “I said,
'You know, I'm a professional and I want to be (there). But frankly,
I'm getting a mammogram.'”

– “Five,” 9 p.m. Monday,
Lifetime; repeats at 1 a.m.

– Also, 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday,
Oct. 15-16; repeats at midnight each time