America has a problem that nobody wants to discuss. We've acknowledged our problems with obesity, smoking, drinking, red meat and other "sins." We're even taking a long, hard look at our addiction to oil.
America, when are we going to tackle cuteness?
There, I've said it. Americans are hooked on cute. We've become a nation of adult teddy-bear buyers. Open any Sunday supplement and you're assaulted with ads for life-sized baby dolls marketed to grown-ups. People, presumably older than 12, commemorate kittens and angels with collectible plates. Armies of Hummel and Precious Moments figurines besiege us at every turn. Is a generation of "Love Is" panels to blame for this epidemic?
And now, the WE Network enters the enabling game, offering addicts a saccharine-laced hypodermic called "America's Cutest Puppies!" (8 p.m. today, WE). Yes, it has come to this.
Every week for 11 episodes, "Puppies" travels to a different city to crown that burg's "Cutest." The spectacle kicks off in Los Angeles, where a trio of judges, including the editor of "Pawprints" magazine, winnows the choices from a barking battalion down to one. Warning: The competition even includes a frisky three-legged puppy.
Resistance is futile. Words like "precious" and "adorable" will be uttered more than once. You will find yourself thinking, "They're all cute!" Their heads are too big for their bodies and their eyes are too big for their heads. They shiver in excitement and some even piddle on the floor. You are hot-wired to love them, to gush, to hope one will lick your face as you are reduced to a quivering puddle of sugar-shock.
¢ "The Sopranos" (8 p.m. Sunday, HBO) returns for the second half of its final season. After surviving a brush with death after being shot by his presumably delusional Uncle Junior, Tony Soprano has decided to accept each new day as a gift. But, as he asks his therapist, "Does it have to be a pair of socks?"
In the half-season opener, Tony and Carmella celebrate Tony's 47th birthday at the lakeside home of Tony's sister Janice and her husband, and Tony's hefty underling Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri. An innocent game of Monopoly becomes the perfect setting to explore each character at his or her most extreme. Make that a very boozy game of Monopoly. When Carmella suggests they pool all of the fines and Community Chest money into a prize pot, Bobby dissents and argues that the Parker brothers thought long and hard about the rules. But this isn't the first or the last example of boundary crossing that will upset Tony's in-law.
If you're watching the remaining "Sopranos" to see who "gets whacked" when, then you're missing the point. No series on television has so involved us in so many overlapping family sagas and presented so many richly drawn and eccentric characters. And at the end of nine weeks, they will all be gone. So savor them while you can.
¢ The entire final season of "Punk'd" (noon, MTV) unfolds in marathon fashion.
¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): interviews with presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and lobbyist Rick Berman; nuclear power wins new supporters.