I have always been fascinated by the ability of personalities from basic-cable shows to turn themselves into bigger stars than actors on network shows that have much bigger audiences. Folks who play themselves, like Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin and the lazy creatures from "The Hills," are more recognized and get more buzz than actors who play characters on relatively popular shows like "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "Flashpoint."
Fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief and imagine that the same Joe Mantegna who starred in "Godfather III" and provides the voice of Fat Tony on "The Simpsons" can be the dedicated agent David Rossi on "Criminal Minds." Reality television appeals to our lazier nature, feeding us a steady parade of "characters" who can play only themselves.
And nobody has done a better job of extending his fame, brand and celebrity than Cesar Millan of "The Dog Whisperer." He appears tonight on an episode of "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox).
Millan, author of several popular books, has certainly made the rounds of both cable and network series. He has appeared on an episode of "The Ghost Whisperer" on CBS, "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" on Bravo and even "The Girls Next Door" on E! Millan's "Dog Whisperer" character was featured in an episode of "South Park," where he succeeds in taming the raucous Cartman after several "Supernanny" types had failed.
Tonight's "Bones" involves the peculiar murder of a local veterinarian with a weakness for gambling. His shady past and gruesome wounds quickly link his murder to the dogfighting underground. Booth and Brennan hire Millan (as himself) to help find the dog and the homicidal owner behind the crime.
¢ As it does every year, "Live From Lincoln Center" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) will cover the opening-night performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Tonight's program features guest flutist James Galway in a performance featuring Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ The top 10 compete on "America's Got Talent" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Contestants design outfits for recent graduates making their transition to the workforce on "Project Runway" (8 p.m., Bravo).
¢ A crime scene erupts around Mac on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ A priest's request reopens an old case on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (9 p.m., NBC). This episode marks Chris Noth's second departure from the franchise.
¢ Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, appears on "Hannity & Colmes" (8 p.m., Fox News).
¢ A murder unfolds at an English country house in the 2001 mystery "Gosford Park" (8 p.m., IFC), directed by Robert Altman and featuring an extensive and impressive cast.
¢ The gang races to find a woman's attacker on "Sons of Anarchy" (9 p.m., FX).
A crooked politician (Walter Huston) becomes president of a Depression-wracked America, and he is transformed by a visiting angel into a dictator-like super-president in the 1933 political fantasy "Gabriel Over the White House" (11 p.m., TCM).