Can a Lifetime movie go too far? I know that just by asking that I’m helping to promote the movie, but when does a disturbing, "woman-in-peril" film become an exercise in disturbed sadism? And a dull one at that?
The phrase "based on real events" tends to wash away authorial culpability for concocting something truly twisted, but the 2021 shocker "Girl in the Basement" (8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime, TV-14) takes some liberties with its source material.
In 2008, authorities discovered a grim scene in Austria: a basement bunker where a disturbed dad had imprisoned his own daughter for some 24 years, raping her repeatedly and siring several children.
"Girl" places this story in an American suburb, and stars Judd Nelson as Don, the mother of all controlling dads, and Joely Fisher as his doormat wife, Irene. Stefanie Scott plays Sara, a spunky young teen who chafes at her dad’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude. In fact, she threatens to opt for the highway once she reaches 18. After breaking curfew and running off to a forbidden party where she meets a dreamy boy, Sara discovers that Don has descended into a new dimension of weird. He has turned an old bomb shelter into a dungeon to imprison her for her rebellion.
At first, Irene and Sara’s sister and friends think she’s made good on her threats to hit the road. But as weeks turn into months, hope fades. Meanwhile, Don’s behavior grows more disturbed.
A film this sick is hard to justify. But "Girl" is particularly pointless. There’s absolutely no explanation for Don’s pathology. Or why or when he snapped. And zero chemistry to explain why Irene sticks with him or married him in the first place. Worse, a film this claustrophobic could use some narrative tricks to break the monotony. "Girl" unfolds in a strictly linear, one-horrible-thing-after-another fashion. It’s not so much lurid as boring.
And it gets stranger still as Sara’s incestuous brood grows up in the basement. Despite horrific conditions, Sara never seems to age at all. Like the battered 2004 Subaru Outbacks featured in several scenes, decades apart, events seem to unfold in a time all their own. Take it from somebody who owned one, those things are ageless!
Judd Nelson is an old hand at deranged cable horror movies. While still most associated with his Brat Pack years, "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo’s Fire," he starred in the 2000 shocker "Cabin by the Lake" as a scriptwriter whose "research" included knocking off a series of lady visitors. He also starred in "Return to Cabin by the Lake" in 2001.
Anybody contemplating a sequel to this Lifetime atrocity ("Return to the Man Cave!") should be psychoanalyzed. At least Lifetime didn’t broadcast this on Father’s Day weekend.
— Just who is behind the Golden Globes? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of fewer than 90 correspondents, nominates series and movies in a desperate ploy to publicize themselves. It’s a neat scam that has worked for decades. And it was much more interesting when everybody was in on the joke and nobody took them terribly seriously.
We’re now up to the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards (8 p.m. Sunday, NBC, TV-14), and a celebrity-besotted culture appears to take them at face value.
The nominations and awards have often seemed peculiar at best. I’m old enough to remember when Pia Zadora won for "Butterfly" back in 1981! And perhaps because I am that old, I find some of this year’s nominations very mystifying.
To nominate "Emily in Paris" as the "best" of anything is rather perverse. Since there’s not a category for "Most Insipid," I don’t know what "Ted Lasso" is doing here. Gillian Anderson’s stilted performance as Margaret Thatcher was the weakest element in a strong season of "The Crown," so naturally she’s nominated for best supporting actress.
But I’m not a member of the foreign press, so nobody asked me.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are your hosts. Help yourself.
— The Brooklyn Nets host the Dallas Mavericks in NBA action (8:30 p.m., ABC).
— A bride-to-be questions her desires after her intended’s brother re-enters the picture in the 2021 holiday romance "It Was Always You" (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
— Nick Jonas hosts and performs on "Saturday Night Live" (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
— Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): the state of the vaccine rollout; the aftermath of a rocket attack on the Al-Asad airbase; a profile of novelist Colson Whitehead.
— Ryan Seacrest hosts "American Idol" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
— Young professionals turn to each other for comfort and more in the 2021 melodrama "Don’t Waste Your Pretty" (8 p.m., TV One).
— Zombies never die, and apparently neither does "The Walking Dead" (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA), returning to finish up its 10th season.
— "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" (9 p.m., CNN) visits Bologna.
— "The Food That Built America" (9 p.m., History, TV-PG) recalls Kraft "cheese" and Pabst beer.
— "Allen v. Farrow" (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) recalls a public scandal.
— Lydia prepares a banquet on "The Luminaries" (9:20 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
— A case involving an adult actor with a cult following attracts documentary coverage on "The Rookie" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
— Exhibitionism has its limits on "Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6ix9ine" (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
A minor TV writer (Woody Allen) is substituted for a blacklisted talent during the McCarthy era in the 1976 drama "The Front" (10 p.m. Sunday, TCM, TV-MA).
A teacher faces backlash on "FBI" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … Putting on airs on "Young Rock" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) … Boxing (8 p.m., Fox) … Cori’s secret on "Kenan" (8:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG).
Conspiracy theories engulf a police officer on "FBI: Most Wanted" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … Jane Lynch hosts "Weakest Link" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … "48 Hours" (10 p.m., CBS, r) … A vintage helping of "Saturday Night Live" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
Queen Latifah stars in "The Equalizer" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … Marge worries that Bart’s caddy job is morally corrosive on "The Simpsons" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Ryan’s kryptonite sickness worsens on "Batwoman" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) … Judy gets her dad out there on "The Great North" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Hetty’s murky message on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … A walk in the woods on "Bob’s Burgers" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … Macy’s frightening inheritance on "Charmed" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG) … Sports memorabilia on "Family Guy" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Another petty officer expires on "NCIS: New Orleans" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).