Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Fresh from delighting viewers with a guest spot in A Colbert Christmas, Elvis Costello has a new TV gig as talk-show host in the Sundance Channel series Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ... .

Describing it to USA Today, he said, "I set out knowing that I wasn't going to be looking for dark secrets." So if you're seeking dirt from guests such as Bill Clinton and the reunited Police, you'll have to look elsewhere (Shatner's Raw Nerve, for instance).

The most you'll get here, judging by the debut episode with guest (and executive producer) Elton John, is a slightly naughty, self-deprecating anecdote. Instead, the guests go in-depth about the performers that influenced their lives and work, stopping regularly for live music interludes.

For guests, it has to be one of the nicest talk-show experiences out there. After watching Costello open with a reinterpretation of a song written or inspired by them, the show's subjects get to jam with the host, speak at length about what they love and promote their favorite overlooked artists. In John's case: Leon Russell and Laura Nyro from the past, and upcoming guest Rufus Wainwright in the present.

For viewers, enjoyment may be proportionate to interest in whoever's guesting. But with an open mind, you'll find something interesting and educational in every show, like the affection John has for all covers of his songs - William Hung included.

"Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ..."

9 p.m. Wednesdays, Sundance Channel

Grade: B+