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Archive for Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lazy programming offers hints of fall

August 11, 2009

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The second week in August is as good a time as any to book a vacation, and that’s precisely what the networks seem to have done. One glance at the night’s schedule and you get the feeling that everyone’s gone fishing.

NBC slides into its comfort zone with three hours of “America’s Got Talent.” (7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., NBC). The network has a long history of running its few unscripted successes (“The Apprentice,” “Biggest Loser”) into the ground through overexposure. Come September, they will make saturation a permanent part of their strategy with a five-night-a-week prime-time Jay Leno barrage. I suspect this will go over about as well as “Knight Rider.”

Viewers can’t be blamed for thinking that ABC has been on vacation all summer long, propped up by endless helpings of “The Bachelorette,” “Wipeout” and “I Survived a Japanese Game Show.” This week, the alphabet network takes coasting to a whole new level by recycling “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (7 p.m., ABC), a series introduced as lazy summer programming during the summer of 1999. It’s a little like going to a dinner party and being served pot roast that’s been in the freezer since the previous century.

Back in the day, Fox would create a beachhead for its youth-oriented series by debuting the season openers of “Beverly Hills 90210” and other fare during the August doldrums. But now, they’re much like every other network. Tonight they offer a showcase to an internationally loathed kitchen bully followed by a plus-sized variation on “The Bachelor.”

CBS has continued to dominate ratings, not with its silly summer fare but with repeats of its hour-long dramas. It’s interesting to note that on Thursday night, “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS), the network’s only original (and I use that term loosely) series is its least-watched. Repeats of “CSI” beat “Brother,” and “CSI” is in turn beaten by repeats of “The Mentalist.” These are the shows that will go up against NBC’s Leno experiment. Except, come fall, they won’t be repeats anymore.

• stand by my “Knight Rider” analogy.

• And the networks are hardly alone in the uncreative recycling department. MTV offers a second season of “Daddy’s Girls” (9 p.m., MTV), a spin-off series featuring the daughters of Rev Run. Just in case you cared.

• A&E offers a documentary look at Warren Boyd, the real-life inspiration for their scripted series “The Cleaner.” Meredith Vieira narrates “Extreme Interventionist: The Man Behind the Cleaner” (10 p.m., A&E). Does that also make him the man behind “Intervention”?

Tonight’s other highlights

• “Lords of the Revolution” (7 p.m., VH1) profiles Cheech and Chong.

• Luke stages a prom night on “More to Love” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Scheduled on “NOVA ScienceNow” (8 p.m., PBS): leeches, ETs and stem cells.

• Pete and Myka return to Secret Service duty to retrieve an enchanted artifact on “Warehouse 13” (8 p.m., SyFy).

• Agent Cooper’s ghost returns to offer some advice on “Medium” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Scheduled on “Primetime” (9 p.m., ABC): living with lions. Not to be confused with “Lion Feeding Frenzy” (9 p.m., Animal Planet).

• Tommy comes between Kelly and Damian on “Rescue Me” (9 p.m., FX).

• “Made in L.A.” on “P.O.V.” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at immigrant garment workers.

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