Based on a novel by Ann Packer, "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" (8 p.m., Lifetime) does a good job of exploring the complexity of a character's emotions - even when her choices defy expectations and the conventions of standard television movies.
As the film begins, Carrie (Michelle Trachtenberg, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") is clearly restless. She appears to be on the verge of breaking up with her longtime boyfriend and fiance, Mike (Rob Estes). When they gather with friends for their regular Memorial Day blast, she seems petulant and moody, tired of the same old jokes, the familiar stories and the suffocating role of being one-half of a small town's "golden couple."
Carrie clearly wants change, and soon everything does. After she storms off with a friend, Mike decides to break the mood by diving off the pier into icy water. He doesn't notice how shallow the lake has become and breaks his neck in the process.
With Mike paralyzed, Carrie is suddenly called upon to stand by her man and maintain a vigil. Her reluctance to visit and care for Mike shocks his family and her friends. And her growing attraction to a handsome stranger (Sean Maher) may even shock members of the audience.
Trachtenberg does a fine job of portraying a young woman trying to bottle unspeakable fears, resentments and confusion. Carrie may not be entirely likeable, but she is a fully realized, interesting character, and truer to life than most TV movie heroines.
¢ The intimate and strange documentary "Tammy Faye: Death Defying" (9 p.m., WE) follows the former televangelist as she copes with inoperable stage IV cancer. Like everything she has ever done, Tammy Faye confronts chemotherapy, nausea, hair loss, emotional tumult and holistic medical treatment with a camera crew in tow.
In this clearly affectionate portrayal, produced by the makers of the 2000 feature documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," the former host of the "The P.T.L. Club" maintains her buoyant, childlike enthusiasm. With her flame-red hair, perpetually sparkling (and heavily made-up) eyes and trademark cackle, Tammy Faye Messner could moonlight as a Lucille Ball impersonator. It's not giving away too much to say that "Death" has a happy ending, or that Tammy celebrates news of her cancer's remission by scheduling a new round of plastic surgery.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ The world's top golfers tee off at "The Battle at the Bridges" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Ray chides Amy and hurts Robert on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (7:30 p.m., CBS).
¢ A guest appears to do himself in on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Schedule on "History Detectives" (8 p.m., PBS): blues musician Taj Mahal leads a search for the identity of the inventor of the banjo.
¢ Allison's daughter has a prophetic dream on "Medium" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" (9 p.m., MTV) enters its second unscripted season.