Time flies when you span the globe on a regular basis. We're now up to the ninth installment of "The Amazing Race" (8 p.m., CBS). Tonight's two-hour season premiere takes would-be millionaires from Denver, Colo., to the skyscrapers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Along the way we're introduced to the participating couples, including a pair of love-struck, self-proclaimed nerds who emerge as my early favorites.
It's only fitting that "Race" begins its new season just after the Winter Olympics. Like that quadrennial exercise, "Race" features breathtaking scenery, drama and cinematography so consistently intimate and audacious that it's almost easy to overlook.
But "Race" has not been overlooked by its peers in the TV business. It is the only show to win an Emmy for best reality series, an award it has received for the past three years. The show also has won the Producers Guild of America Award for nonfiction television, as well as the 2005 Family Friendly Award.
¢ "Law & Order: SVU" (9 p.m., NBC) returns to its schedule, featuring a familiar face in her first dramatic TV role in more than a decade. Susan Saint James ("Kate & Allie," "McMillan and Wife") guest stars as defense attorney Monica Bradshaw.
¢ Chloe alert! Mary Lynn Rajskub ("24") appears on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC). The actress, whose character was described as "our Napoleon Dynamite" by a Fox executive, will be joined by Bruce Willis and the Dropkick Murphys.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ The top-10 female voices compete on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Rory remains at the top of her game on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
¢ "Nova" (7 p.m., PBS) glances back on efforts to discover the Northwest Passage, a long-sought link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
¢ The hidden-camera show "Hi Jinks" (8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon) returns for a second season.
¢ A brief honeymoon on "Boston Legal" (9 p.m., ABC).
An ambulance explodes under suspicious circumstances on "NCIS" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Howie Mandel hosts "Deal or No Deal" (7 p.m., NBC) ... On two episodes of "According to Jim" (ABC), blackmail (7 p.m.), one for the books (8 p.m.) ... A glance back at season five's finale on "America's Next Top Model" (7 p.m., UPN) ... On back-to-back episodes of "Scrubs" (NBC), a perfect pest (8 p.m.), fine-feathered filth (8:30 p.m.).
Barbara Walters and Tyler James Williams appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Julie Scardina and Zola on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Stacy Keibler and Three 6 Mafia appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC) ... Craig Ferguson hosts Regis Philbin, Tichina Arnold and Wolfgang Puck on "The Late, Late Show" (11:37 p.m., CBS).