Almost every horror movie evokes the same audience response: “Get the heck out of the house!” But characters never learn. The new woman-in-peril drama “The 19th Wife” (8 p.m., Lifetime) will have viewers screaming “Get the heck out of the cult!” at their televisions. But to little avail.
Set in the polygamous compound of a renegade Mormon sect, “Wife” opens with the murder of a church elder at the hands of one of his many brides, and Becklyn (Patricia Wettig, “Brothers & Sisters”) is set up to take the fall.
Only the arrival of her estranged and excommunicated son Jordan (Matt Czuchry) upsets the creepy prophet’s plan to put Becklyn away.
Jordan’s aided by Queenie (Chyler Leigh), another wife in the sect, who is inspired by secretly reading a forbidden book, “The 19th Wife,” by one of Mormon founder Brigham Young’s many wives, a harrowing tale of exploitation, abandonment and loss of faith. This 19th-century tale becomes a movie within the movie with scenes appearing sporadically to illuminate and comment upon the murder investigation.
As a whodunit, “Wife” works rather nicely, and the identity of the real killer comes as a bit of a surprise. But “Wife” is really an exposé of the strange world of polygamy, a cult old and new where women of deep faith are victims and willing enablers of their oppressors — often both at the same time.
• Fans of the MTV series “True Life” should enjoy “World Of Jenks” (9 p.m., MTV), exploring the hidden lives of young people. Every week, 24-year-old filmmaker Jenks offers viewers a chance to understand what it’s like to be homeless, to work as a pro cheerleader, a young man with autism, and a best-selling recording artist.
• “Tourettes Uncovered” (8 p.m., Discovery Health) documents four children with the syndrome and their parents to compare how different families cope.
Tonight’s season premieres
• An earthquake strikes on “90210” (7 p.m., CW).
• Blair summers in Paris blissfully ignorant of Chuck’s fate on “Gossip Girl” (8 p.m., CW).
Tonight’s other highlights
• The top 10 perform on “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m., NBC).
• A downtown disaster summons House and his staff on a hugely disappointing season finale of “House” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A journalist is slain as he is ready to expose a corrupt politician on the summer season finale of “Lie to Me” (8 p.m., Fox). The drama returns to the schedule Nov. 10.
• The death of two paramedics may be a portent of a bigger attack on “The Closer” (8 p.m., TNT).
• A bomb kills Horatio’s ex on “CSI: Miami” (9 p.m., CBS).