Now in its second season, “The Rachel Zoe Project” (9 p.m., Bravo) features an underfed and overworked stylist to the stars who barks out orders with one of the least-pleasant voices on television.
Zoe’s husband arrives from time to time, just to remind us that he exists and that she’s never with him. Instead, Zoe spends all of her waking hours with her assistants Taylor and Brad.
Brad favors large glasses and an exaggerated preppy style. He makes double-entendres that wouldn’t tax the dirty minds of seventh-graders. Tragically coiffed Taylor has been working for Zoe long enough to resent her, mostly because Zoe treats her like a go-fer and conspires with Brad to tease her for having a woman’s body.
Zoe and her team invest their “work” (providing party clothes for celebrities), shopping and an attitude of fretful materialism with all the importance of a surgeon performing an organ transplant.
I respect hard work and professionalism as much as the next guy. But the rule on the “Rachel Zoe Project” is substitute work and celebrity obsession for what some of us call “a life.”
The life/work ratio on shows like “Zoe” reflects a 180-degree departure from classic television. Did we ever learn what Hugh Beaumont’s character did for a living on “Leave it to Beaver”? Ward certainly wasn’t on the dole, but his job was a means to an end — providing June with pearls and fancy clothes to wear while washing dishes. His unmentioned job also gave Ward plenty of time in the den to dispense wisdom to Wally and the Beav. For Ward, life, family, friends (even Eddie Haskell) and neighborhood preceded work and status-seeking.
How 20th century!
In sad contrast, Rachel Zoe cries when an actress wears her gown well for a few seconds on a red carpet. She compares this achievement to carrying a baby for nine months and giving birth.
I’m not certain that she’s the only one who has her priorities confused.
Tonight’s other highlights
• “PopularSci’s Future Of” (8 p.m., Science) looks at research into technical advances in personal security that may involve mind-reading, weapons detection and rescue by robots.
• The documentary “Join Us” (8 p.m., Sundance) examines the international appeal of religious cults.
• “9/11: Science and Conspiracy” (8 p.m., National Geographic) conducts engineering tests and computer simulations to address doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center and other theories posed by a loose coalition who call themselves “Truthers.”
• A who’s who of Nashville talent perform on “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” (7 p.m., ABC).
• A POW’s portrait raises questions on “History Detectives” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
• Cappie ponders the real big questions on “Greek” (8 p.m., Family).
• The documentary “Youth Knows No Pain” (8 p.m., HBO) examines America’s $60 billion anti-aging industry and the lengths people will go to deny their years.
• Nancy tries to stay afloat in the season finale of “Weeds” (9 p.m., Showtime).
• Our host takes questions from viewers on “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (9 p.m., Travel).
• A house’s dark spirits speak to a delicate soul (Julie Harris) in the superb 1963 shocker “The Haunting” (9 p.m., TCM), directed by Robert Wise, whose next picture would be “The Sound of Music.”