Planning couch time: A look ahead at what's 'Sucker Free' and on TV

Thursday, February 3, 2005

The place: Two problem-beset sections of San Francisco -- Chinatown and Hunter's Point, identified as the city's last slum.

The saga: An interlocking set of stories lived within the city's gang culture.

Spike Lee directs "Sucker Free City," a film that takes a riveting look at young people seduced and victimized by crime on a variety of mean streets.

Nick is a 19-year-old white teen toiling in an entry-level job in corporate America, while turning a quick buck with drug deals and credit card fraud. Gentrified with his family out of their formerly low-income neighborhood and into black-dominated Hunter's Point, he is tormented by local gang members. Then he strikes up a business deal with one of them: They will bootleg CDs after seeing how profitable this is in Chinatown.

But such an encroachment doesn't please a certain crime organization in Chinatown, where business is good extorting "protection" money from the local merchants (but also where one of the gang members is skimming from the receipts and ripping off the crime boss).

Turf must be defended. Pride must be upheld. The puzzle pieces fit together with tragic inevitability.

The large cast includes Ben Crowley, Malieek Straughter, Ken Leung, Anthony Mackie, Laura Allen, John Savage and Kathy Baker.

"Sucker Free City" premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday on Showtime.

Other shows to look out for

* While studying to take the bar exam and planning her nuptials to a lawyer in her office, paralegal Jess Gradwell is startled by the reappearance of a former lover, Dr. Alex Lofton, at the courthouse where, once again, he is testifying as an expert witness. Will Jess ditch her good guy fiance Steve for red-hot Alex, with whom, in their first encounter three years ago, she conceived a child he knows nothing about? Will Jess' 18-year-old daughter make good on her mission to lose her virginity -- like maybe with a 27-year-old motorcycle-riding photographer? Could this be anything but a Lifetime movie? Gail O'Grady is back for "More Sex and the Single Mom," a sequel airing at p.m. Monday. Grant Show plays the sexy doc.

* After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans had to face the fact that the Japanese held a military base just 750 miles from Alaska's Aleutian Islands. A highway was needed to serve as a vital supply corridor and a line of defense in World War II. PBS' "American Experience" tells the story of the nearly 11,000 Army engineers who battled freezing temperatures, ice and snow, mountains, mud and mosquitoes to blaze a 1,500-mile road through one of the harshest landscapes in North America, and to take a giant step in defending the nation from threats in the Pacific. On Nov. 20, 1942, the mission some had said was impossible was done. "Building the Alaska Highway" tells how. It airs at 8 p.m. Monday (check local listings).

* It's silly, preposterous yet unaccountably charming. Hallmark Channel presents "Family Plan," a romantic comedy starring Tori Spelling as an unmarried career woman who aims to win points with her new family-values-oriented boss by borrowing her best friend's little girl and retaining a husband-for-hire. The ruse works like a charm during a business dinner. Then the boss, taking a shine to his star employee's family, moves next door with his wife. How will the career girl keep up her charade? Not to damn with faint praise, Spelling has probably never been better, and, as her boss, Gregg Germann ("Ally McBeal") does what he does best: behaving officiously but comically distracted. Jordan Bridges ("Samantha: An American Girl Holiday") plays the charming actor hired as the make-believe mate. It airs at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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