If you don't believe that the summer onslaught of "talent" shows are the reincarnation of the old TV variety show, then you didn't see last week's installment of "America's Got Talent" (7 p.m., NBC).
Somewhere between the trio of drag performers, the pogo-stick boy and the charming, if obese, crooner, a Chinese acrobat wowed the crowd by spinning multiple plates to the tune of "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams.
Both "Gas" and the spinning plates offered a flashback of sorts to the days of "The Ed Sullivan Show," when it seemed that every act, from Elvis to the Beatles, was preceded by acrobats, ventriloquists and the obligatory moment of spinning dinnerware. It may not be a "really big show," but so far "Talent" is the top-rated series of the summer.
¢ With "Endgame," the news magazine "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents its fifth installment in a worthy history of the Iraq war. "Endgame" examines the current surge strategy and its origins.
Along the way, "Endgame" provides a survey history of the military strategies, or lack of strategies, that have been used in Iraq since the invasion in 2003. Despite tough rhetoric about "victory" in Iraq, the military has, with few exceptions (including two bloody battles in Fallujah), resisted direct engagement with insurgents in favor of a "light footprint" strategy that some here deride as nothing more than "war tourism."
In 2006, inspired by Col. H.R. McMasters' success in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began to champion a plan to use American forces to "clear, hold and build" specific Iraqi towns and cities. Her suggestions clearly irked then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who attacked the policy in the harshest terms.
But after Rumsfeld's political demise, the surge strategy was adopted. While some in "Endgame" embrace the surge as a last best hope, others believe that the additional forces (30,000) don't amount to a surge but a "trickle."
¢ "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) enters its 20th season with the documentary "Rain in a Dry Land," following refugees from an African civil war from their lives in a displaced-persons camp to their resettlement in American cities.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ "Nova" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) follows scientists into Australia's Outback to dig up prehistoric bones of a giant marsupial.
¢ Director Wes Craven joins the judges on "On the Lot" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Emily ends up behind bars on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., CW).
¢ Infiltrating Iran on "The Unit" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ A teenage father figure might not make it on "House" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ "Critical Situation" (8 p.m., National Geographic) recalls the rescue of a pilot downed in Bosnia.
¢ Crab season concludes on "Deadliest Catch" (8 p.m., Discovery).
¢ As fans of "My Life on the D-List" (9 p.m., Bravo) know, Kathy Griffin's parents are the real stars of the show. In tonight's installment, Kathy receives devastating news about her father's health and puts her comedy on hold to be by his side.