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Archive for Friday, July 24, 2009

Two finales and an evergreen

July 24, 2009

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Much of tonight’s programming has a thrift-shop feel about it. Recycled offerings abound, as do never-aired and hard-to-sell offerings from the remainder bin and a pre-empted news special guaranteed to remain fresh because it doesn’t have an expiration date.

Viewers can watch the series finale of a show that never really got started or the repeat finale of a sitcom that often seemed like it would never go away.

A winner emerges on cooking competition “The Chopping Block” (7 p.m., NBC), with two couples putting the finishing touches on their eateries in the hope of going out on top. Look for Piers Morgan (“America’s Got Talent,” “The Apprentice”), who appears to be touching bases on every NBC reality show.

If anyone had predicted back in 2001 that the seriously old-school sitcom “According to Jim” (8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., ABC) would last more than one season, I would have thought they were crazy. ABC finally pulled the plug on the series in June, and tonight viewers who missed it the first time can catch the series finale as the gruff everyman chokes on a puff pastry, goes to the Pearly Gates, and pleads his case before God (Lee Majors) and the Devil (Erik Estrada). Dan Aykroyd also cameos. Not a bad way to wrap up “Jim.”

Pre-empted by the President’s press conference on Wednesday, “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC) presents “Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil.” Host Charles Gibson travels America’s oil fields and refineries to understand the fluctuations in the price of a barrel of oil.

Gibson also talks to some Wall Street insiders who argue that the rise in oil prices last summer was directly affected by commodity speculators who manipulated the market and caused a great deal of pain for consumers.

Last summer’s oil shock, when crude reached $147 a barrel, also inspired cries of “Drill, Baby, Drill,” a demand to increase U.S. oil production. But like many emotionally satisfying slogans, it doesn’t exactly add up. With the U.S. consuming more than a quarter of the world’s oil supply and holding a small fraction of the world’s oil reserves, no supply-side argument works in either the short or the long term.

“We’re heading for a train wreck,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu tells Gibson, without serious efforts to decrease dependence on foreign oil through conservation and development of alternative sources. Gibson also sits down with Gen. Wesley Clark, who discusses the role oil played in the decision to invade Iraq.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Unquiet graves turn a town upside down on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).

• Sugar Ray Leonard spars on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (7 p.m., Fox).

• TCM offers a triple-feature of Reagan-era teen favorites “The Karate Kid” (7 p.m.), “WarGames” (9:15 p.m.) and “Stand by Me” (11:15 p.m.).

• Scheduled on “NOW” (7:30 p.m., PBS): a new plan to regulate Wall Street.

• Jack treats an autistic child who is the only witness to a brutal murder on “Mental” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A Doberman’s skittish behavior requires a visit from “The Dog Whisperer” (8 p.m., National Geographic).

• Section five reopens — but not without drama — on “Eureka” (8 p.m., SyFy).

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