Undercover agent Lt. Carter Shaw (Dylan McDermott) returns to brood again as “Dark Blue” (8 p.m., TNT) enters its second season.
It has been a slow summer for prolific producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Once considered flop-proof and armed with strong franchises like the big-screen “Pirates of the Caribbean” and TV’s “CSI,” Bruckheimer has seen jaded audiences reject his formulas. Two recent failures, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Prince of Persia,” have become sure signs that even summer audiences demand something a little different. And television audiences never warmed to recent Bruckheimer efforts, including “The Forgotten” and “Miami Medical.”
Bruckheimer’s “Dark Blue” may remain an exception if only because it doesn’t have to reach network-sized audiences and because it delivers a big, familiar name with McDermott. And reinforcement arrives this season in the person of Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”), portraying an improbably gorgeous FBI agent who becomes Shaw’s partner and superior of sorts. Look for professional infighting that leads to personal friction.
“Blue” closely follows the Bruckheimer formulas. Like Christian Slater on “The Forgotten,” McDermott’s Shaw seems both driven and consumed by personal demons. In the first episode, Agent Alex Rice (Helfer) goes undercover in a tattoo parlor, a perfect place to show off her perfect body and dazzling smile. One welcome hint of wit has a local gangster with a pretentious literary side, extolling the virtues of F. Scott Fitzgerald and The New Yorker magazine. When he uses the word “penultimate” incorrectly, it has ramifications far beyond a vocabulary lesson.
Like many Bruckheimer productions, “Dark Blue” is quite literally an inside job. Almost every scene takes place in dimly lit homes, bars and offices. Shaw seems to be doing his level best to conserve electricity in his low-wattage man cave. Only a few shots of the iconic Capitol Records building reminds us that “Blue” takes place in sunny Los Angeles and not Alberta or some other, cheaper location.
• Physicist and musician Brian Cox hosts “Wonders of the Solar System” (8 p.m., Science), a BBC production.
• Craig Ferguson swims with the fishes on “Shark Bites” (9 p.m., Discovery).
• “Criss Angel: Mindfreak” (9 p.m., A&E;) returns for a sixth season of high-concept illusions.
• A casual hike over the border with Colombia turns into a harrowing ordeal on “Locked Up Abroad: Panama” (9 p.m., National Geographic).
Tonight’s other highlights
• The top four contend on “So You Think You Can Dance” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Four talents advance on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Telescopes focus on togetherness on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).
• An influential chef samples the house cheese on “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” (8 p.m., Planet Green).
• One home boasts 87 dogs and counting on “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” (8 p.m., Animal Planet).
• A killer seems to know where he’s going on “CSI: NY” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Victoria coaches high-school actors on “Hot in Cleveland” (9 p.m., TV Land).
• Gold digging can be deadly on “Psych” (9 p.m., USA).