America's pastime showcases its most popular talents and its many assets, quirks and contradictions on the Major League Baseball All-Star game 2006 (7 p.m., Fox).
Let's take the venue. The Pittsburgh Pirates host this year's midsummer classic. A venerable franchise, the Pirates are now considered a small-market team. In the logic of baseball financing, this means the Bucs are confined to a payroll only a fraction the size of its big-city rivals. As a consequence, Pittsburgh is deep in the cellar of the National League's central division. Contrast this with football, where salary caps bring a level of parity. Where did last season's Super Bowl champs come from? Oh yeah, Pittsburgh. And if their hirsute quarterback keeps his helmet on, they may just make it again.
Once considered a consequence-free spectacle, the All-Star game ups the ante tonight. The winning league will gain home-field advantage in the World Series. No small thing - and no small controversy among baseball purists. This change was made to keep players interested and involved. In recent years, stars were seen leaving the game in their private jets after their few innings of "work" were over. Interest in the game reached a nadir of sorts in 2002 when the baseball commissioner declared a "tie" when it went into the 11th inning. To paraphrase Tom Hanks, "there's no tying in baseball!"
The American League enters the game a clear favorite, having walloped the senior circuit in recent interleague play. Given its Pittsburgh setting, the game will follow National League rules, so we will dispense with the dreadful designated hitter, an "innovation" that has robbed the game of drama and, to paraphrase a certain former owner of the Texas Rangers, "strategery."
¢ The "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) "Tintin and I" uses innovative animation and film techniques to profile Herge, the Belgian creator of Tintin, one of the most widely read and beloved comic-book characters of the 20th century.
The film also traces the comic's origins from a strip appearing in a right-wing Catholic paper in the 1930s, Herge's turn against Fascism, his decision to continue drawing Tintin while France and Belgium suffered under Nazi occupation and his difficult post-war years. As Herge explains, his many personal and artistic crises ended up on the page, culminating in "Tintin in Tibet," a 1960 work considered one of the great masterpieces of popular art.
¢ Julie Chen hosts "Big Brother 7: All Stars" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ On two episodes of "Veronica Mars" (UPN), Veronica finds a relic from her mother's school days (7 p.m.) and gets called for jury duty (8 p.m.). Isn't she in high school?
¢ On two episodes of "Gilmore Girls" (WB), the ever-receding wedding date (7 p.m.), out of touch (8 p.m.).
¢ Wannabes vie to join a prefabricated group on "Rock Star: Supernova" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ Anthony Clark hosts "Last Comic Standing" (8 p.m., NBC).