You don’t have to love Latin dance, or dance at all, to be infatuated with “El Espiritu de la Salsa” (8 p.m., HBO), a documentary as contagious and appealing as the music it celebrates.
“Salsa” follows 10 amateur dancers with very different reasons for enrolling in Tomas Guerrero’s Santo Rico Dance Company. An affectionate taskmaster, Guerrero vows that he can teach anybody to dance to the sensuous Caribbean music. And this film’s “cast” puts him to the test.
Several single women from their 20s to late 40s take up salsa in search of romance, or at least a better chance to be noticed on the dance floor. A retired teacher drags her husband to class so he will stop showing her up. A police officer sees dance as a chance to clear his mind before returning to the chaos and challenges of his Times Square beat.
Enhanced by the music of Tito Puente, Eddie Santiago and Hector Lavoe, “Salsa” is also a love letter to New York City. Shows about the city tend to emphasize either the grating materialism and snobbery of “Gossip Girl” or the depravity and grit of “Law & Order: SVU.” “Salsa” emphasizes our common humanity, our shared fears and aspirations, and the need for community. The “Stars” of “Salsa” range from doctors to patients, from rich to poor and from every borough, all linked by a love of music and dance that you will find hard to resist.
• The new series “Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back” (7 p.m., Style) visits a special academy in North Carolina dedicated to changing and saving lives of kids as young as 11 saddled with obesity and the low self-esteem that contributes to weight gain. “Fat” joins the fictional “Huge” and the reality “Biggest Loser” franchise in showcasing obesity’s physical and emotional toll. But its special emphasis on real teens helps this series stand out.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Katy Perry hosts “Teen Choice 2010” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A winner of the seventh season is revealed on the finale of “Last Comic Standing” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Artifacts that may be linked to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre are evaluated on “History Detectives” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
• “Wild Nights with Mireya Mayor” (8 p.m., National Geographic Wild) looks at critters that thrive in urban jungles.
• “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (9 p.m., Travel) samples the cuisine of Dubai.
• William Shatner recalls the D.C. sniper shootings on “Aftermath” (9 p.m., BIO).
A reporter (Warren Beatty) gets lost in a maze of conspiracy in the 1974 thriller “The Parallax View” (1 a.m., TCM), part of a daylong marathon of Beatty movies.