If TV comedies owed their success to the peculiarity of their titles, then "Men in Trees" (9 p.m., ABC) would be a sure thing. Unfortunately, the show, like its title, is more cute and contrived than amusing.
"Men" starts out strong. Anne Heche has a ball playing Marin Frist, a 30-something author of self-help books aimed at single female readers. She's seen at book signings and motivational speaking engagements, spouting buzzwords and energizing her flock.
Marin's self-assured facade cracks shortly after her flight takes off for a book tour in Elmo, Alaska, a frozen speck on the map. Having taken her fiance's laptop by mistake, she happens upon his gallery of regrettable photographs featuring him with another woman.
Marin arrives in Elmo shorn of dignity and unsure of her private convictions and public persona. To her surprise, she discovers that Elmo doesn't seem to have too many women. She soon learns that the guys are of a rugged, shaggy and surprisingly sensitive stripe. They may look like the Brawny paper-towel guy, but all they need is someone to listen.
Unfortunately, it's about this time that "Men" lurches from whimsical to ridiculous. Marin's drunken, embarrassing introduction to the men of Elmo is silly enough, but when she starts sharing scenes with wildlife, you know "Men" has hit bottom and intends to stay there.
"Men" will air regularly at 8 p.m. on Fridays, beginning Sept. 15.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A winner leaves the house richer on "Big Brother: All Stars" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ A young patient claims he's the victim of experimentation by aliens on "House" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ The third season lineup on "Dancing with the Stars" (7 p.m., ABC) includes Emmitt Smith, Harry Hamlin, Vivica A. Fox and Jerry Springer.
¢ On back-to-back episodes of "Gilmore Girls" (WB), wedding plans derail (7 p.m.), enchanting April (8 p.m.).
¢ Work becomes a pressure cooker on "Standoff" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ The season finale of "Wide Angle" (8 p.m., PBS) looks at democracy in the Congo.
¢ Gibbs recovers his memory on "NCIS" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Childhood obesity looms large on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS) presents "The Boys of Baraka," about American students from troubled homes educated in a strict school in Kenya.