News flash: There’s a reality show on Animal Planet that has nothing to do with animals. Or nearly nothing. You’d think the proliferation of hog-catching docu-series would end up on Animal Planet, but so far, it remains more about “Whale Wars” than feral boars.
Time was, Animal Planet could create a reality show starring only animals. “Meerkat Manor” took the people-free soap opera idea to its logical limit. Now, with “Tanked” (8 p.m. and 9 p.m.), Animal Planet goes in the opposite direction. While it’s supposed to be about big and big- hearted blue-collar guys who build exotic aquariums for Las Vegas casinos and wealthy residents, it’s really about New Yorkers stranded in America’s gambling mecca. As such, it’s a fish out of water story.
Brett Raymer and Wayde King are brothers-in-law and partners in Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), one of the country’s leading and most successful builders of aquariums. As in every show since “Monster Garage,” this series involves the practical jokes and hijinks of two goofy guys and their family and employees as they confabulate something wild and artistic before our eyes. They even have an assistant named “Redneck” who lives in a trailer on the premises. A father figure and former New York City policeman dubbed “the General” shows up for about five seconds in the early going and then has the good sense to disappear.
In the first episode, ATM creates a mobster-themed aquarium for a Las Vegas casino and a New York City-scape decoration for some local residents, complete with an aquarium built into an old-fashioned phone booth. There is much talk about how genuine all of the New Yorkers are. Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or perhaps the presence of Las Vegas’ fake version of the New York skyline.
Viewers of “Tanked” may leave the show with an enhanced appreciation of acrylic, but they won’t learn terribly much about tropical fish. This is understandable, because focusing on the fish only reminds us of their dreary and confined existence. How would you feel if somebody plucked you from your tropical paradise and imprisoned you in a plastic phone booth in the middle of a desert? I half expect the gang from “Whale Wars” to bust into town to liberate these captive critters. Now that’s a reality show I’d actually watch!
Tonight’s other highlights
Note: listings may be affected by local coverage of baseball or preseason NFL games.
• A bomb threat interrupts Spike’s death vigil for his father on “Flashpoint” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Audrey has a “Groundhog Day” experience on “Haven” (9 p.m., Syfy).
• Gwen puts family first on “Torchwood” (9 p.m., Starz).
• A champion puts his bushy face forward on “Whisker Wars” (9:30 p.m., IFC).
• Teens train for a texting competition on “Thumbs” (9 p.m., MTV).