A coming-of-age comedy narrated by comic Chris Rock set in Brooklyn in the 1980s, "Everybody Hates Chris" (7 p.m., UPN) has a winning combination of edgy wit and heart-warming reminiscence. Forget "The Wonder Years" - this is closer to radio raconteur Jean Shepherd's now-classic tales of his Indiana boyhood, the stories that would form the basis for the "A Christmas Story" movie that airs 5 million times between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. And that's high praise in my book.
Like Shepherd, Rock offers us a largely unsentimental view of childhood, and a warts-and-all depiction of his parents as flawed and occasionally frightening figures. But at the same time, the show is an affectionate memoir and one that never questions the essential decency of his beleaguered mom and dad. Best of all, "Chris" is grounded in the specificity of the daily grind. And these small but never petty details are the grit that produce many a comic pearl.
Chris's (Tyler James Williams) hard-working father, Julius (Terry Crews), knows the price of everything, even the two cents it costs to run an alarm clock over the course of the night ("when you can't see it!"). His mother, Rochelle (Techina Arnold), has a thousand ways of threatening to punish him, most of them involving sticking her foot deep into a painful place.
While Rock offers an adult's perspective on the proceedings, "Chris" does a great job of grounding the narrative in the overwrought emotional reality of kid-dom, where the fearful prospect of a lost bus pass or an after-school scuffle can loom as large and threatening as an oncoming tornado, and then pass as quickly as a summer storm.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Jeff Probst hosts "Survivor: Guatemala" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ CeCe Winans hosts "Gospel Angels: A Concert to Restore Hope" (7 p.m., i).
¢ The reading of Caleb's will on "The O.C." (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Holly Robinson Peete stars in the new comedy "Love, Inc." (7:30 p.m., UPN).
¢ Donald Trump evaluates 18 new wannabes on the season premiere of "The Apprentice" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Scheduled on "Primetime" (8:30 p.m., ABC): an interview with Barbra Streisand.