Garden guerrillas land in 'Ground Force'


My great, secret pleasure this summer has been gardening. Well, not exactly gardening, but as befits a television critic, watching gardens being made on a television show - specifically, one called Ground Force on BBC America.

The premise is simple: A team of three gardening experts is called in by family, friends or neighbors to secretly transform someone's sorry back yard or lot into a paradise in 48 hours. As the BBC promotional material puts it: "Turfing, trimming, planting, paving and decking, they turn garden chaos into havens of tranquillity, style and calm."

Each episode is nothing less than a miniature re-enactment of the taming of the frontier. At least, that's what I tell myself to try to intellectually justify the endless hours I've spent watching the show this summer. I even watch reruns of episodes - like the one that featured the Ground Force team in South Africa transforming Nelson Mandela's garden.

Anyway, tonight at 8, Ground Force leaves the U.K. and comes to New York to take a weedy, trashy lot in the East Village and make it into a marvelous neighborhood oasis for local residents. They do it under the auspices of Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project - an effort funded by the entertainer to reclaim neglected urban spaces. There's an appearance by Midler, with her being appropriately wowed at the end of the show.

But forget Midler. What matters is seeing an abandoned piece of land in New York City built up and made over into a space of peace and beauty through hard work and imagination. It's a tiny but elegant response to the awful destruction of last September.

At a glance

The Rerun Show (8 p.m.-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) - Give these guys credit for their choice of targets. Over two episodes tonight, the reinterpreted shows will be Saved by the Bell, The Jeffersons, Bewitched and The Partridge Family. NBC.

Monk (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) - Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) is brought in to learn why a billionaire with a beautiful wife and home would attempt to mug a couple outside a theater. ABC.

American Idol: The Search for a Superstar (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) - It's down to four - Justin, Kelly, Nikki and Tamyra. One will go home after the audience votes on tonight's live performances. Fox.

Misunderstood Minds (10 p.m.-11 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) - One in five students has difficulty learning, and this program follows five such students as they, with the help of parents, teachers and experts, try to pinpoint the cause. PBS.


Biography (8 p.m.-9 p.m., A&E;) - Not your typical Hollywood star, Antonio Banderas began his 25-year acting career in the offbeat work of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and quickly moved on to Hollywood - before he could speak English. Now he has appeared in more than 60 films. Wife Melanie Griffith is among those interviewed in this profile.

BattleBots (10 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) - They're back! More than 700 Bots competed to make the fifth season, which will be shown for 20 weeks starting tonight. Also returning is Carmen Electra, whose duty is to provide "witty insight" as the sideline reporter.

Compiled from wire reports by Sarah Kickler Kelber

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