Life is about choices. For one of the deranged stage mothers featured in the documentary series “Toddlers & Tiaras” (9 p.m., TLC), it comes down to the decision whether to apply a spray tan to a 2-year-old.
Tonight’s premiere episode covers a mother-daughter pageant in Austin, Texas, where the competitively glitzed-out moms are “in it to win it,” while the daughters seem barely beyond toilet training. This doesn’t stop their mothers from drenching them in hairspray and makeup. In Georgia, some of the girls have to be dragged down the runway, trailing tears in their wake.
Shown without narration, “Toddlers” is not about judgment. The film’s makers are certain its audience will provide more than enough of that. It’s difficult not to watch this 20-car pileup of twisted gender identity and not find your jaw dropping. In an episode about Georgia pageants, a father on his way back to military service does worry about dressing up his 2-year-old like an adult. Make that a rather cheap-looking adult. But he appears to be the only one with misgivings.
A flamboyant father in the Austin segment brags about being the pushiest pageant parent around. A mother from Georgia hides her bills from her husband when the price of one tiny gown approaches the $1,000 mark.
And why are so many women in the supporting cast of this melodrama so obese? A Tilt-a-Whirl of female body imagery run amok, “Toddlers” dares its viewers to watch and not leave the room just a little bit nauseated.
• The sketch-comedy series “The Whitest Kids U Know” (9 p.m., IFC) enters its third season with a skit about the similarities between Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin that is about as funny as it sounds. A better skit involves a sendup of MTV and a scathing parody of “The Hills.”
• Nine couples with little or no culinary experience battle it out over 14 weeks for the chance to own a new eatery on the second-season premiere of “Last Restaurant Standing” (7 p.m., BBC America), hosted by Raymond Blanc.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The 36th season premiere of “Nova” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at the annual migration of monarch butterflies.
• Auditions continue on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Jane suspects a psychic of murder on “The Mentalist” (8 p.m., CBS).
• A computer whiz devises a new killing device on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Adventures in the walnut trade on “Dirty Jobs” (8 p.m., Discovery).
• Elena’s partner disappears on “Without a Trace” (9 p.m., CBS).
• An astronaut’s body is discovered in Battery Park on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Scheduled on “Primetime” (9 p.m., ABC): What would you do?
• The squad confronts a crooked contractor on “Leverage” (9 p.m., TNT).
• “Wreckreation Nation” (9 p.m., Discovery) features a school bus unlike any other.
Tobey Maguire stars in the 1999 Civil War drama “Ride With the Devil” (9 p.m., AMC), directed by Ang Lee and featuring Jewel in a supporting role.