“American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) may be dominating the ratings and the water-cooler conversations, but tonight’s schedule offers a powerful reminder that many of television’s best dramas are just now returning to the network and cable schedule.
“Lost” (7 p.m., ABC), easily one of the most rewarding and baffling mystery series ever broadcast, returns next Wednesday. Tonight, ABC offers a three-hour repeat of the two final episodes of last season in which the Oceanic Six fight to be rescued and then struggle with the aftermath of leaving the island (or was it losing the island?). Even those who have watched every murky moment of the series owe it to themselves to catch up with the action and the weirdness.
• Few dramas showcase as much acting talent as “Damages” (9 p.m., FX). And tonight’s episode sets up an eventual clash between Glenn Close’s Machiavellian lawyer, Patti Hewes, and corporate attorney Claire Maddox, portrayed by the always-rewarding Marcia Gay Harden. The probable fireworks between these two pros is reason enough to tune in, but “Damages” promises so much more.
But for all of the fine performances and shadow-boxing, back-stabbing maneuvering, “Damages” seems saddled with an atmosphere that may be too morose for many would-be viewers. Like “Breaking Bad” and, to a lesser extent, “Mad Men,” this fine series seems to have crossed that line between smart and serious and relentlessly grim. All three series would be enhanced by the occasional light moment.
• Early in “Make ’Em Laugh” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings), a six-hour survey history of American comedy and comedians, filmmaker Judd Apatow (“40 Year Old Virgin”) observes that somebody accused him of reviving “immaturity” in American comedy. He then argues that American comedy has always been about grown-ups acting inappropriately, and that launches an onslaught of clips of Harold Lloyd, Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Andy Kaufman, Robin Williams and too many other funny men and women to mention.
Billy Crystal introduces each segment and Amy Sedaris narrates. Don’t go looking for deep insights or any overarching theories on humor. But if it’s funny and rare clips you are looking for, “Make ’Em Laugh” more than lives up to its name.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Writer Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan star in the 2004 comedy “Mean Girls” (6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Family), a satire of teen pecking orders notable as the beginning of Fey’s emergence as a major comic voice and for being one of the last decent Lohan vehicles before she became a tabloid train wreck.
• Mike goes on auto-pilot on “Knight Rider” (7 p.m., NBC).
• A murder victim turns out to be a celebrated astronaut on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).
• “Spectacle with Elvis Costello” (8 p.m., Sundance) welcomes Rufus Wainwright.
• A fight over a wedding gown turns deadly on “CSI: NY” (9 p.m., CBS).