There was a time when I never thought about bounty hunters. Now cable TV can't get enough of them. Like methane bubbling up from a New Jersey landfill, certain long-buried aspects of down-market popular culture permeate the media atmosphere with the unmistakable aroma of desperation and sleaze.
"Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter" (8 p.m., WE) is not merely a shameless imitation of the A&E hit "Dog the Bounty Hunter," it is a very dull one, too. In fact, it is reality programming at its most conventional.
Not that anyone will confuse "Wife" star Sandra Scott with Duane "Dog" Chapman. The A&E celebrity bounty hunter has a face and hairdo that resemble 3-week-old Texas roadkill. Scott's countenance seems remarkably wrinkle free. It's not like she doesn't have anything to worry about. She's a furious multitasker.
In the first episode of "Wife," Scott feeds her dogs; rouses her sleepy-head teenager for school; prepares a birthday party for her young daughter; asks her husband for help with the party; resents her husband when he fails to help; goes to a gun shop; exhibits a fascination with firearms; squeezes off a few rounds of target practice; tracks down a methamphetamine addict with a pinched and careworn face not unlike that of Dog the Bounty Hunter; frets about the balloons for the party; gets word that her neighbor's dogs have mauled and killed her Chihuahua; asks her husband to break the news to the kids about the dead dog; sings the theme to "Cops" during a stakeout of the meth addict; arrests confused, manipulative and emaciated meth addict; goes home; sets up the water slide like she told her husband to do; does a little dance and sings "I don't need no man!"; has party; hugs child.
My feelings about this series lurched from bored to downright loathing when Scott and her crew broke into "Bad Boys" from "Cops." If there's anything duller than reality television, it's reality television in which the subjects know they are on television and mug and sing for the cameras.
The dead dog may have been another tipping point. For all of the efforts to depict Scott as an empowered, vital and funny woman, the show and its peculiar combination of maternal domesticity, banal workaday tedium and sporadic violence make for very depressing viewing. This "Bounty" is not a quicker-picker-upper. It's a boring bummer.
¢ "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) anticipates Earth Day with a glance at "The State of the World," featuring correspondents reporting from the world's seven continents. Diane Sawyer hosts.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Ecotourism and ectoplasm on "Ghost Whisperer" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ Ori soldiers threaten to occupy a village on "Stargate SG-1" (7 p.m., Sci Fi).
¢ An eccentric patient makes the staff walk an emotional minefield on "House" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ A young victim of a horrific crime reaches out to Raines on "Raines" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ A lake's bottom yields skeletal evidence on the pilot episode of "Bones" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ A sinkhole catastrophe may have unnatural origins on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).