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Archive for Monday, March 2, 2009

‘Rules of Engagement’ breaks no new ground

March 2, 2009

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Tales of male insecurity abound on the third-season premiere of “Rules of Engagement” (8:30 p.m., CBS). “Rules” has come and gone and moved so often that viewers couldn’t be blamed for having never seen it.

Patrick Warburton plays the same aloof and generally insensitive blockhead he played on “Seinfeld.” Only now we’re supposed to believe he’s long married to a much hipper Megyn Price (“Grounded for Life”). Together, they serve as tutors in the ways of marriage and relationships for a much younger couple (Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich), who are more cute than amusing or even interesting.

David Spade rounds out the cast as the fifth wheel, an overcompensating bachelor without an internal censor, not unlike his old character on “Just Shoot Me” or Neil Patrick Harris’ character on “How I Met Your Mother.”

In tonight’s generally undistinguished episode, we discover that one character is a closet musical-theater fan. Here’s a hint: On “Just Shoot Me,” Spade’s character attended cat shows.

• It’s raining loud and manly men on “Ax Men” (9 p.m., History), back for a second season deep in the Oregon woods. Five teams of loggers will compete to cut, or rather “fall,” the most timber over the course of 12 episodes.

Look for plenty of guys raising their voices to be heard over the whine of chain saws and the roar of diesel engines and helicopter blades. And not everything they scream will pass muster with the censors.

If all that wasn’t ear-splitting enough, this big pancake breakfast of a show is drenched in the high-fructose corn syrup of a thundering score, a hyper-adrenalized soundtrack that sounds suspiciously like a musical hand-me-down from “The Amazing Race.”

• How do you work a female president into the ultra-macho world of “24” (7 p.m., Fox)? By putting President Taylor (Cherry Jones) in the thick of the action. As the commercials for this upcoming two-hour special have already revealed, the White House becomes the epicenter for a terrorist attack in response to intervention in a corrupt African nation.

• The new reality series “Harlem Heights” (9 p.m., BET) follows eight attractive and successful young African-Americans as they work, play and network furiously in Manhattan’s legendary neighborhood.

The series opens on the morning of Election Day 2008 as the principals worry about the still uncertain outcome and discuss the society-changing prospect of a black president.

While “Heights” shares the narrative absurdity (intimate chats that just happen to be captured on camera) of shows ranging from “The Hills” to the “Real Housewives” franchise, in this episode, at least, the characters make a radical departure from the genre. They discuss books, politics, history and culture. In other words, they talk about subjects other than themselves and have interests apart from gossip and shopping.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Chuck battles the green-eyed monster on “Chuck” (7 p.m., NBC).

• A winner emerges on “The Bachelor” (7 p.m., ABC) finale. “The Bachelor: After the Final Rose” (9 p.m.) follows.

• Matt and Peter close in on the truth on “Heroes” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Blythe Danner guest stars as a missing woman’s mother on “Medium” (9 p.m., NBC).

• Grace gets a new partner on the season premiere of “Saving Grace” (9 p.m., TNT).

• Robert De Niro and Van Morrison appear on the debut episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (11:35 p.m., NBC).

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