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Archive for Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Snip, snip here, snip, snip there …

February 3, 2010

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It’s been some time since Bravo lost “Project Runway,” but the series remains the network’s most influential show. Now in its third season, “Shear Genius” (10 p.m., Bravo) transfers the “Runway” template to the hair salon. Despite, or perhaps because of, its paint-by-number imitation, “Genius” continues to entertain.

This season introduces Camila Alves as host. We’re told that she’s an accomplished model and handbag designer. As with “Runway’s” Heidi Klum, it’s clear that English is not her native tongue, but both speak the language of fashion and fabulousness.

Jonathan Antin arrives to play the Michael Kors role, the experienced judge who dispenses encouragement and harsh criticism in equal doses. He seems to have mellowed since starring in Bravo’s celebrity-stylist series “Blow Out.” Or perhaps his brand of brash egotism has been surpassed in cable television’s never-ending quest to discover swaggering prima donnas.

The 12 contestants hail from around the globe, from Australia to the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley, home to Brig, a 33-year-old teenager overeager to outshine her more cosmopolitan competition. She roller-skates around the communal living quarters wearing a gold bikini, annoying everyone.

For all of the egos on display here, there’s very little petty squabbling. The accent remains on execution under the gun, a ticking clock and a chance to display some remarkable work. The magic of “Runway,” and to some extent “Shear,” is the ability to interest viewers (like me) who know nothing and care less about fashion or coiffure. At the end of the day, it’s about talent on display. And there’s more than enough to go around on this season of “Shear Genius.”

• In a crowded cable field, networks scramble for a fractured audience by imitating their rivals’ successes, or in the case of Lifetime and “Runway,” mentioned above, by poaching them. But there are only two large satellite-TV providers, and DirectTV has strived to differentiate itself by imitating premium cable and offering shows that cannot be seen anywhere else.

It has become home to the first-run episodes of the superb “Friday Night Lights,” and tonight it introduces “Underbelly” (9 p.m., Ch. 101, DirectTV), a violent epic melodrama about Australia’s drug trade from the 1970s to the dawn of the new century. A hit down under, “Underbelly” won six Australian Film Awards.

• Betty’s blog stands out on the recently canceled “Ugly Betty” (9 p.m., ABC). Based on an international hit, this “Betty” buried its heart beneath convoluted plots and brittle characters that inspired disbelief and disinterest.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Jim Nantz and Lara Spencer host “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials 2010” (7 p.m., CBS).

• Veronica fights with the new guy (James Van Der Beek) on “Mercy” (7 p.m. NBC).

• A reformed thief hides in a mountain monastery on “Human Target” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Auditions conclude on “American Idol” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Ed Begley plans a staycation on the season finale of “Living with Ed” (8 p.m., Planet Green).

• “Too Young to Kill” (8 p.m., E!) looks at 15 notorious teen murderers.

• Babysitting nightmares on “Being Erica” (9 p.m., Soapnet).

• “Bathtastic!” (9:30 p.m., DIY) showcases new materials and techniques.

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