Ted Danson returns to the Bronx. No, I'm not announcing a "Becker" reunion special, but "Knights of the South Bronx" (7 p.m., A&E;), an intelligent TV drama based on the real life of one man who changed the lives of dozens of students.
Recently fired from his high-paying corporate job, Richard Mason (Danson) decides to take a part-time job as a substitute teacher at an inner-city school. His wife is a tad horrified by the loss of income, piling bills and the fear that his "charity" job may be evidence of a midlife crisis.
As in similar dramas from the time of "Blackboard Jungle" and "To Sir With Love," Mason is initially shocked and a little scared by a class filled with kids from broken homes whose parents are often in prison, absent, in gangs or on drugs. He finds it hard to get their attention or command their respect. Jimmy (Malcolm David Kelley), the class clown, is particularly harsh, needling Mason for his old-school glasses.
But one day, while running from the police, Jimmy encounters Mason in the park playing a game of speed chess with 14 opponents at the same time. After watching him defeat them all, Jimmy realizes that his myopic substitute teacher is actually the Jackie Chan of the chessboard. Jimmy insists that Mason bring "his game" to school. And when he does, his students are hooked.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Our melancholy hero receives valuable spiritual insights from a friend with a blanket fetish in the beloved 1965 holiday favorite "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Joe Rogan hosts the 12,000th season of "Fear Factor" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Carrie Underwood ("American Idol") performs at "The 2005 Billboard Music Awards" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Ghosts of Christmas past on "My Name is Earl" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ A female vice president defies the powers-that-be and assumes office on the pilot episode of "Commander in Chief" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ "Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She" (8:30 p.m., HBO) takes a global look at gender roles and definitions.
¢ A British comic actress encounters eccentrics in the new series "Daisy Does America" (9 p.m., TBS).