Archive for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

‘America’s Got Talent’ has NBC’s best ratings

August 25, 2009

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The folks at NBC must be wishing the summer would never end. The last-place network that just fired its president on the eve of launching its fall schedule continues to dominate the summer ratings with healthy doses of “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., NBC).

There’s little to dislike about this talent/variety show, with its ecumenical mix of singing, magic, contortion acts, comedy and even a smattering of classical talent. Somewhere in show-biz heaven, Ed Sullivan is looking down and smiling and wondering where all the plate-spinners and marionette acts have gone.

“America” continues the uniquely American tradition of casting British-accented judges as arbiters of American talent. Piers Morgan, a staple of “Britain’s Got Talent,” is firmly established in the Simon Cowell role, happily dispensing unpopular opinions to choruses of derisive boos. Sharon Osbourne, whose British inflections have survived decades of residence in Los Angeles, does her own variation on Paula Abdul, doling out knowledgeable nuggets of encouragement and cheer. David Hasselhoff, the sole Yank in the “Talent” troika, has gained the most from the show. He’s put notorious YouTube exposure behind him, offering short bursts of EveryGuy enthusiasm. He reminds me of the nicest gym teacher I never had.

My quibbles with “Talent” are few. Why, for instance, were the judges so curt with Dave Johnson, a guy with the temerity and cleverness to sing a joke-folk song about the cast of “The Golden Girls”? Is he Vegas material? No. But maybe not everybody wants to sing for desperate casino denizens down to their last roll of quarters. He offered a brief moment of wit in an irony-free zone, and for that he gets my commendation.

Still, who doesn’t love the sight of The Footworkingz, seriously amazing street performers wearing black-light regalia and full war paint, towering over the renegade Brownie troop known as Pixie Mystere? That’s America. That’s talent. And that’s entertainment.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Every handle is a love handle on “More to Love” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Schedule on “NOVA ScienceNow” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings): the Hubble fix; “gangster” birds; memory decoded.

• Through the looking glass, Vegas-style on “Warehouse 13” (8 p.m., SyFy).

• Jane targets a pick-up artist on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Franco enters the ring and instantly regrets it on “Rescue Me” (9 p.m., FX)

Cult choice

A Texas congressman (Tom Hanks) with a taste for excess becomes an unlikely Cold War hero in the fact-based 2007 drama “Charlie Wilson’s War” (7:15 p.m., Cinemax).

Series notes

An investigation sends Gibbs into uncharted territory on “NCIS” (7 p.m., CBS) … Screaming and yelling on “Hell’s Kitchen” (7 p.m., Fox) … Two episodes of “Shaq Vs.” (ABC), playing quarterback (7 p.m.), beach volleyball (8 p.m.) … On two episodes of “90210” (CW), flesh and fantasy (7 p.m.), an early trip to the showers (8 p.m.) … Julie Chen hosts “Big Brother” (9 p.m., CBS).

Late night

Eugene Levy and Jet are booked on “Late Show with David Letterman” (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Conan O’Brien hosts Quentin Tarantino, Mark Feuerstein and Smokey Robinson on “The Tonight Show” (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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