By Kevin McDonough
Woody Allen may be in his 80s and all but banished from popular culture, but his influence endures. Borrowing heavily from the Allen approach, particularly from his early, funny movies, "Dave" (10 p.m., FXX, TV-MA) stars series …
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Woody Allen may be in his 80s and all but banished from popular culture, but his influence endures. Borrowing heavily from the Allen approach, particularly from his early, funny movies, "Dave" (10 p.m., FXX, TV-MA) stars series creator Dave Burd as a nervous young man just about to leave his 20s. Jobless and seemingly without skills, he has convinced himself that he's on the cusp of becoming the world's most famous rapper.
These dreams and/or delusions put Dave in the company of serious rappers with gang affiliations and houses filled with drugs, groupies and weaponry. What comedy arises from "Dave" is based on the ability of this nervous, "nice Jewish boy" to insinuate himself into a much rougher crowd and the rappers' consistent ability to defy stereotypes and defuse fear with gentle, even affectionate humor, consistently at Dave's expense.
The comedy of setting a 98-pound weakling among tough guys did not begin with Woody Allen. Allen freely admitted his debt to Bob Hope's combination of fear and unconscious bravado in the "Road" movies that Hope shared with the much cooler Bing Crosby.
What "Dave" also has in common with Allen's film persona is a sense of deep, almost damaged neurosis and a gleeful, even nonchalant, celebration of perversion. As in many Allen movies, Dave is first seen consulting a medical professional about his little "problem." But while Allen's afflictions were mostly psychiatric and his concerns very much of the cerebral, above-the-shoulders variety, Dave's obsessions lie consistently below the waist. His concerns and fears about his "equipment" haunt his daily life and even inspire his rapper "handle" and identity.
While Dave's sexual insecurities make him a perfect foil for the bravado of the world of "players," it's a bit of a one-note joke. Not without its amusing moments, a little of "Dave" goes a long way.
• Speaking of old show-business traditions, "Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) returns death-defying stunts to prime time. A seventh-generation member of a family known for spectacular feats, Nik will attempt a 1,800-foot tight-wire walk over the active Masaya volcano in Nicaragua. These events always raise unsettling questions about their audience. Are we watching to see Nik succeed or fail?
This TV event also arrives at a peculiar moment. Just last December, headlines brought gruesome details from New Zealand, where many had treated an active volcano as a "tourist" attraction. And just last weekend, "Mad Mike" Hughes, an amateur rocketeer, was killed when his homemade missile malfunctioned. The Science Channel was there to document his derring-do. Would he have taken flight without that encouragement? There's an entire subgenre of cable TV and YouTube documenting people doing dumb and dangerous stuff for our entertainment. Maybe we should think twice about sponsoring that.
• Netflix begins streaming the 2019 documentary "Everybody's Everything," a profile of late rapper Lil Peep.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• A killer con escapes on "Chicago Med" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• T-Pain guest-judges on "The Masked Singer" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• David Attenborough hosts a repeat "Nature" (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) examination of the prehistoric ichthyosaur, a lizardlike fish that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.
• A calorie-counting craze sweeps the firehouse on "Chicago Fire" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Will Arnett hosts "Lego Masters" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
• A break-in ends in murder on "Chicago P.D." (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• A custody case sparks a combat flashback on "Stumptown" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
A boy defies his father's demand that he not follow his footsteps into the ring in the 1934 pre-Code comedy "The Circus Clown" (8 p.m., TCM, TV-G). Joe E. Brown, best known for his role in "Some Like It Hot," plays both father and son. Like that 1959 comedy, "Clown" involves a misguided infatuation with a female impersonator!
Betty appears in a documentary on "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * An error looms large on "SEAL Team" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * Any witch way but loose on "Nancy Drew" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) * The hunt for the misogynist sniper on "S.W.A.T." (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Nneka Ogwumike appears on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Hillary Rodham Clinton, Noah Schnapp, Jane Birkin and Iggy Pop on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Ty Burrell, Susie Essman and Glen Sobel visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) * Usher, Judy Greer and Javier Hernandez appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2020, United Feature Syndicate
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