Four lawyers and a funeral on HBO

Michael Sheen ("The Queen," "The Deal," "Frost/Nixon" and "Twilight: New Moon") has made a career out of playing former British prime minister Tony Blair. He returns to the role of his lifetime in "The Special Relationship" (8 p.m., HBO, Saturday), a smart and entertaining historical film and character study of the friendship turned rivalry between Blair and his mentor, Bill Clinton, played with casual authority by Dennis Quaid.

A tale of history and of a master-student relationship turned on its head, "Special" is also a story about married power couples. Helen McCrory portrays Cherie Blair, a role she had in "The Queen," and Hope Davis ("In Treatment") almost steals the film from the two leads with her convincing and understated performance as first lady Hillary Clinton.

None of the performances descend into mere impersonation. Neither Quaid nor Davis resemble either Clinton, but you can't help believing them from the moment they open their mouths.

"Special" covers a lot of ground in a brisk fashion, beginning in 1992 when British Labor leader Blair visits the campaign staff of the just-elected Clinton to learn a few pointers on winning. We fast-forward to 1997 when a just-re-elected Clinton welcomes Blair's landslide parliamentary victory and the two men discuss changing the world and permanently shifting world opinion toward center-left progressive politics.

After a bright moment when Clinton helps bring warring Irish parties to the peace table, their personal and political friendship becomes overshadowed by the toxic Lewinsky scandal. The film does a remarkable job recalling the atmosphere of the times, when children often had to be rushed from the room whenever the news came on, and simple conversations about politics and law took on a vaguely pornographic tone. But the film is not really about the scandal, and viewers looking for tabloid-worthy brawls between the Clintons will be disappointed.


After standing by the wounded Clinton, Blair would go on to outshine the president on the world stage. The film ends with the muddled 2000 election and offers hints that Blair's penchant for military action, his frequently religious and moral pronouncements and his eagerness to work with the White House would lead him toward his fateful partnership with George W. Bush. And all of that points in the direction of a possible sequel.

• "Lost" (7 p.m., Saturday, ABC, r, TV-14) fans who missed the big finale, or want to see it again, have one more time to revisit the head-scratcher. Not to read too much into things, but between the time Jack and Locke finished their epic battle on the cliff and when Kate dived into the surf, I distinctly remember a moment when the weather started getting rough, and the tiny ship was tossed.

A repeat of "Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to Lost" (9:05 p.m., r, ABC) follows.

• Two former presidents take part in the National Memorial Day Concert (7 p.m., Sunday, PBS, check local listings). OK, they're not two real presidents, but men who played them on television. For the fifth year running, Gary Sinise ("CSI") and Joe Mantegna ("Criminal Minds") co-host. Viewers may recall Sinise's remarkable turn in the 1995 HBO biographical miniseries "Truman." Dennis Haysbert, the beloved President Palmer from the first season of "24" will also be on hand.

The acting presidents will be joined by the real-life retired general Colin Powell and country star Brad Paisley, classical crossover artist Katherine Jenkins, Broadway star Kelli O'Hara and gospel singer Yolanda Adams in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra. Pop star and Oscar- and Grammy-winning former Commodore Lionel Richie also performs. For viewers of a certain age, he's better known as Nicole's dad.

In honor of Memorial Day, HBO repeats the 2009 original cable-film "Taking Chance" (8 p.m., Sunday, HBO), starring starring Kevin Bacon. He's Marine Col. Michael Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran filled with guilt about working in a cubicle while so many fellow Marines are facing dangers in Iraq. In a gesture of expiation and respect, Strobl offers to provide the personal Marine escort for the remains of Marine Chance Phelps, a stranger from his hometown. The film follows Strobl and Phelps' body from the time it arrives in Delaware to its final burial.

This ritualized procession is so essential to the film that dramatic dialogue often seems dispensed with entirely. Nearly a half hour passes before Strobl has a conversation of any duration. For reasons both emotional and dramatic, this may be too much for some viewers to endure. For those who hang on, Bacon offers a memorable performance of quiet, often mute strength, projecting a brand of haunted, taciturn dignity that recalls Clint Eastwood and the best of the strong, silent types.

Saturday's highlights


• Spend the day with "Deadliest Catch" (9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Discovery). The "Catch"-athon resumes at 8 a.m., Sunday and concludes 2 a.m., Monday.

• Catch a 12-hour "Doctor Who" (7 p.m., BBC America, TV-14) marathon.

• Nothing says the unofficial start of summer like "Amusement Park Eats" (7 p.m., Food).

• Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (CBS): A tycoon's playboy lifestyle may have been fatal (8 p.m.), a shipwreck forces a mother to make a gruesome choice (9 p.m.).

• Dylan Walsh stars in the 2009 shocker "The Stepfather" (8 p.m., Starz), a remake of the superb 1987 classic starring Terry O'Quinn ("Lost").

• Ryan Phillippe hosts "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14), featuring musical guest Ke$ha.

Sunday's highlights

• Spike channels the force with a "Star Wars" marathon beginning with "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (8 a.m.) and ending with "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" (8:40 p.m.).


• As it has for 46 Memorial Day weekends, ABC will broadcast the Indianapolis 500 (noon).

• NASCAR racing (4 p.m., Fox).

• On two episodes of "Cold Case" (CBS, r, TV-14), a debater's suicide reconsidered (8 p.m.), a second look at a jockey's demise (9 p.m.).

• On two episodes of "Law & Order" (NBC, r, TV-14) a whistle-blower silenced (8 p.m.) a mugging sends a message (9 p.m.).

Cult choice

Stranded in West Virginia, wayward motorists encounter cannibals in the 2003 shocker "Wrong Turn" (8 p.m., Saturday, SyFy), part of Syfy's four-day, 40-film marathon of creature features.

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