With sweeps behind us, networks trot out their orphans — abandoned series fated to fade from the scene — allowing viewers one last opportunity to catch series that not enough of them watched in the first place.
Many were surprised by the decision to ax “Without a Trace” (7 p.m., today and 9 p.m., Sunday, CBS), airing twice this weekend. “Trace” was an earlier indicator of CBS’s ability to outdraw other networks. Soon after debuting, “Trace” was beating “ER” in the ratings. When it was canceled last May, it was still drawing more viewers than “Law & Order.” But NBC appears to have fewer choices than CBS.
The whimsical “Pushing Daisies” (9 p.m., ABC) airs its finale tonight. Nora Dunn and Wendie Malick star as the synchronized swimming team known as the Aquadolls, who meet a grim end when someone introduces a shark to their tank. A tip of the swimming cap to old Esther Williams movie is the perfect way for this visually dazzling series to bow out.
Over on NBC, “Kings” (7 p.m., today, NBC) returns to finish its run. Having been yanked from Sunday to Saturday nights and then pulled from the dial rather abruptly, “Kings” picks up (at the peace conference with the belligerent neighboring kingdom) where it left off. NBC should really start this saga all over again. A modern fable based loosely on the Bible’s King David, it’s well worth watching.
The unwatched “Harper’s Island” (8 p.m., today CBS) was never pulled from the schedule. And that might not be a good thing. The murder-a-week plot has long since reached the ridiculous, particularly since we’re supposed to believe that the wedding ceremony will go on despite the clockwork-like carnage. On the other hand, that leaves a whole lot more hors d’oeuvres and drinks for the survivors.
l The first thing that interests me, or at least amuses me, about the new reality show “Hammertime” (9 p.m. Sunday, A&E) is its title. It is so not Hammer time and hasn’t been anything approaching Hammer time since Dan Quayle was a household name.
An unoriginal show that strives to be innocuous, “Hammertime” still stands out as dull, earnest and remarkably unfunny. MC Hammer has an interesting story. A batboy for the Oakland A’s during their 1970s heyday, Hammer earned his nickname from Reggie Jackson. He went on to become the world’s most famous rapper and then, quite suddenly, the world’s biggest hip-hop has been. He suffered bankruptcy and even inspired a made-for-TV movie. Somewhere along the line, he served seven years in the Navy. And all the time, he’s been married to the same woman, a rock of support that he describes as his best friend.
As we all know, the things that provide emotional security and tight family bonds don’t always make for good television. In the pilot, the MC introduces his children and adopted nephew, helps his son with his homework, hugs his wife, visits his son’s school and tries to encourage his cousin to go to the gym and stay in shape with the help of a personal trainer named Wee Wee.
• NBA finals, game 5 (8 p.m., ABC).
• Lurid, trashy and frequently dull, the vampire fantasy “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO) returns for a second season.