What's the difference between a parody and a remake? Tonight, Comedy Central offers "The Gong Show with Dave Attell" (9 p.m., Comedy Central) and "Reality Bites Back" (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central), in which 10 comedians appear in a series of ridiculous reality spoofs, hosted by Michael Ian Black.
The original "Gong Show" was always beyond parody. The mid-afternoon talent show became a metaphor for the tacky excesses of the mid-'70s. Attell makes no efforts to re-create the manic energy of the legendary host and "Gong" creator Chuck Barris. Instead, Attell acts as a straight man and a defender of even the most odious contestants and lets his three judges, Brian Posehn, Steve Schirripa and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, do all of the heavy lifting. It's hard not to get the feeling that this has all been done before and better, or filthier, on some random "Howard Stern Show." And I mean that as a compliment.
In contrast, Black takes center stage on "Reality Bites Back," using his patented brand of haughty self-involvement to stand out as a sadistic host amidst a crowd of 10 comics competing in a new reality show every week. The silly shows range from "Extreme Manipulation House" and "Hunting with the Stars" to my favorite, "So You Think You Can Dive?" - a show that promises to turn amateur minor celebrities into Olympians in 10 short days.
¢ CNBC offers a documentary whose title and timing could not be more telling. "American Originals: Budweiser" (8 p.m., and 11 p.m., CNBC) looks at the enormous American corporate icon from its immigrant roots to its growth to become America's largest brewer. And no profile of Budweiser is complete without an exploration of its massive marketing efforts from its traditional Clydesdale horse to sports sponsorship. It's the official beer of the 2008 Olympics.
This documentary has been revised quickly to reflect the recent purchase of Budweiser by the Belgian brewer InBev for a reported $52 billion.
¢ There's no escaping dog-centric programming, from "Greatest American Dog" (7 p.m., CBS) to the repeats of "Animal Planet Dog Championships" (6 p.m., Animal Planet) and "Animal Cops: Philadelphia" (9 p.m., Animal Planet). Starz Kids and Family has scheduled an entire day of critter movies, from "Ratatouille" (9 a.m.) to "Underdog" (9 p.m.).
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A new member helps investigate a killer with a three-decade record on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ Props and product placements loom large on "Last Comic Standing" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Wilhelmina sparks a crisis on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Bands including Pearl Jam, the Foo Fighters and the Flaming Lips pay tribute to The Who on "VH1 Rock Honors" (8 p.m., VH1).
¢ Drama intrudes on a pool party on "Swingtown" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ A woman awakens on New Year's Day to discover the world overrun by zombies on "Fear Itself" (9 p.m., NBC), directed by Darren Bousman ("Saw II, III and IV").
¢ Sheryl Crow, Hard-Fi and Diana Krall appear on "Live From Abbey Road" (9 p.m., Sundance).