Last week’s “30 Rock” lampooned the notion of a critic-driven show watering down its content to appeal to a broader audience. This week, Comedy Central, home to “South Park,” “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” turns to a practitioner of one of the oldest traditions in comedy who just happens to be the host of the most-watched special in the network’s history.
Ventriloquists aren’t considered edgy, and “The Jeff Dunham Show” (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central) doesn’t go that route. Dunham has an every-guy appeal and a slight resemblance to Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer that transcends the urban/rural, red/blue divide. He’d be equally at home in a comedy club or a county fair.
Like puppet masters going back to Edgar Bergen and beyond, Dunham “hosts” a series of regular characters. There’s Walter, an Archie Bunker type; Peanut, a pink, clueless hedonist; Bubba J, a beer-guzzling simpleton with a resemblance to Howdy Doody; and Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a skeleton wearing a turban who behaves like al-Qaida’s version of Triumph the Insult comic dog.
Dunham’s material doesn’t break any new ground and aims squarely at the middle-brow of the funny bone — if there is such a place. In this series, the puppets also do location shots, seemingly unconnected to Dunham’s hand. He and Walter go to couple’s counseling; Achmed appears at several comedy clubs; and Peanut goes on a set-up date with reality and music star Brooke Hogan, who shows she’s no dummy when it comes to plugging her career and her new CD.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Meg Ryan leads an ensemble cast in the unwelcome 2008 remake of “The Women” (6:30 p.m., HBO).
• The Yankees and Angels will meet in game 5 of the ALCS (6:30 p.m., Fox).
• A congressional hearing looks into funding for Mark’s project on “FlashForward” (7 p.m., ABC).
• Jim and Pam return from their honeymoon only to receive shocking news on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).
• “E Investigates: When A Child Vanishes” (8 p.m., E!).
• A religious satire leads to controversy on “Monty Python: Almost the Truth” (8 p.m., IFC, part 5 of 6).
• Jack faces federal scrutiny on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).
• Heidi Klum hosts “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime).
• Women with more free time and money than taste or good sense tend to squabble on the season finale of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (9 p.m., Bravo).
• A parking infraction at the 2008 World Series has not yet been resolved on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (9 p.m., FX).
Heavenly intervention turns a corrupt president (Walter Huston) into a virtuous dictator in the weird 1933 fable “Gabriel Over the White House” (1 a.m., TCM).
Jeff Probst hosts “Survivor: Samoa” (7 p.m., CBS) ... Jeff becomes an athletic supporter on “Community” (7 p.m., NBC) ... The night of the comet on “Vampire Diaries” (7 p.m., CW) ... Leslie enacts a good neighbor policy on “Parks & Recreation” (7:30 p.m., NBC) ... A burn-victim case inspires an inquest on “Grey’s Anatomy” (8 p.m., ABC) ... A meeting with Old Scratch on “Supernatural” (8 p.m., CW) ... Witness protection can’t safeguard a gangster on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS) ... Violet has troubles adjusting on “Private Practice” (9 p.m., ABC).