It didn’t take long for the enduring economic hardships to work their way into entertainment. Kelsey Grammer’s character was downsized in the fall 2009 sitcom “Hank.” But viewers quickly gave the show a pink slip.
Working a lingering recession into the Hallmark Channel’s sentimental neighborhood is a tougher sell. Unless you present it as a chance for an extended parental leave. David James Elliott ("JAG") stars in “Dad’s Home” (8 p.m., Saturday, Hallmark). He’s Ben, an advertising executive blindsided by downsizing and forced to spend more time with his 12-going-on-25 daughter, Lindsay (Madison Davenport), and sensitive 8-year-old son, Dylan (Will Shadley). Did I mention that he’s a widower?
In between the perfunctory montage moments of Ben trying to cook for the kids and the time he meets a fetching, unattached teacher who laughs at his jokes, “Dad” has a few decent moments and credible performances. The best involve the efforts of no-nonsense Ben trying to reconnect with an advertising world run by shaggy 20-somethings more interested in social networking than landing accounts and making money. But the travails of 21st century “Mad Men” will only take you so far. “Dad’s” real mission is to convince us that extended unemployment can be seen as a time-out for family togetherness. Now that’s what I call a hard sell.
• If there’s anything more heart-tugging than a greeting card, it’s folks who rescue soon-to-be euthanized dogs from the pound. And that’s who “stars” in the new eight-part series “Last Chance Highway” (7 p.m., Saturday, Animal Planet).
• Virginia Madsen ("Monk,” “Smith") returns to primetime in “Scoundrels” (8 p.m., Sunday, ABC). She’s Cheryl West, the matriarch of a criminal family. We learn often and early that they don’t seem to go for violence or drug-dealing. They’re cheerful, bright and friendly, and even handle police raids with a smile.
If you buy that, you’ll have no trouble accepting Cheryl’s decision, halfway through the pilot, to go straight and keep her three photogenic children from following their charming dad to prison. One lawman scoffs at her promise, telling her that “Leopards don’t change their spots.” But “Scoundrels” never convinces us that Cheryl is much of a leopard. Or much of anything. The usually capable Madsen is reduced to shouting many lines, as if she’s aware that nobody will be watching, or listening.
• “The Gates” (9 p.m., Sunday, ABC) takes a potentially interesting idea and drives a stake through its heart. You have to admire a show about a group of vampires and other supernatural creatures hiding out in a posh, gated community. But this plodding and predictable pilot squanders the show’s promise and premise in short order.
Chicago detective Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) thinks he’s arrived on easy street when he moves his family to The Gates. Great house, nice schools and low crime: what’s not to love? But a routine missing-person case takes on odd dimensions when everyone tries to cover it up.
Little does he know that the John Doe has been dispatched by the fetching bloodsucker (Rhona Mitra) next door. And Monohan’s son Dylan (Luke Mably) runs afoul of a hot-tempered jock who appears to turn into the Incredible Hulk every time he’s mad.
Clearly an attempt to capture some “Twilight” magic, “The Gates” seems doomed to follow “Eastwick” and “Happy Town” to the supernatural scrap heap.
• Manly men discuss the movies and other stuff they like on “Guy’s Choice” (9 p.m., Sunday, Spike). Look for George Clooney, LeBron James, Ben Affleck, Sir Ben Kingsley, Kiefer Sutherland and the cast of “The Hangover. “
• The three-night, five-hour series “How the Earth Changed History” (7 p.m., Sunday, National Geographic) recalls how civilization has been shaped and changed by the presence and absence of water, climate shifts and earthquakes, floods and volcanoes.
Saturday’s other highlights
• U.S. Open Golf (3:30 p.m., NBC).
• A twin (Amanda Bynes) poses as her brother (James Kirk) to attend his prep school in the 2006 romantic comedy “She’s the Man” (7 p.m., ABC).
• Without a crust, Earth may be toast, on “Doctor Who” (8 p.m., BBC America).
• A ghost of legend returns in the 2009 shocker “The Seamstress” (8 p.m., Syfy).
• The late Michael Jackson prepares for his last concert in the 2010 documentary “This is It” (8 p.m., Starz).
• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (CBS), a curious suicide (9 p.m.), a stepfather’s murder divides siblings (9 p.m.).
Sunday’s other highlights
• U.S. Open Golf (2 p.m., NBC).
• On two episodes of “Cold Case” (CBS), death by circus (8 p.m.), gang-related (9 p.m.).
• On two episodes of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (NBC), a power couple slain (8 p.m.), hamstrung by the feds (9 p.m.).
• “Masterpiece Mystery!” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “Miss Marple: The Secret of the Chimneys.”
• Vivica Fox, David Sutcliffe, Bellamy Young and David Denman guest star on “Drop Dead Diva” (8 p.m., Lifetime).
• Mississippi’s Vampire King hatches a scheme on “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Toni loses her patience on the season finale of “Treme” (9 p.m., HBO).