Have attitude, will travel. That philosophy has worked for Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain. Now the cable network hopes it can do the same for crime novelist Marcus Sakey and his new series, “Hidden City” (9 p.m.).
In each episode, Sakey visits a new city and hopes to reveal its dark stories and hidden underground vapors in an attempt to discover the true character of each town.
Sakey is a writer, and he reminds us of his profession early and often. He treats each new journey as a research project for a possible novel, with each city being the main protagonist.
His first trip is to his hometown of Chicago. Like Bourdain, Sakey curses a lot, or at least he seems to under the muffling blanket of bleeps. And like the host of “No Reservations,” he makes pointed, if obvious, references to pop culture trends that annoy him. Beating boy bands like a pinata, he compares them to the evil of Hitler and Stalin. It somehow seems forced, not to mention dated.
Sakey spends a great deal of his time in Chicago discussing H.H. Holmes, arguably America’s first and sickest serial killer. Holmes preyed upon visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Hardly ripping the lid off some dark secret in the city’s history, Sakey rehashes the contents of “The Devil in the White City,” the definitive best-selling book on the subject by Erik Larson.
Sakey also revisits the Democratic National Convention riots of 1968. Whatever your opinion of those politically charged outbursts, the demonstrations were hardly an obscure event in Chicago or an untold story. They were broadcast by every major network. Live. In fact, one of the protesters’ slogans was, “The Whole World’s Watching.” So what are they doing on a show about “hidden” Chicago? Well, the demonstrations do provide a neat chance for Sakey to insert himself in the story and even get pepper-sprayed!
I think our novelist host needs to dig deeper for original ideas.
• Fans of holiday specials have so few options. They should pounce on “A Michael Buble Christmas” (7 p.m., NBC). Like any Hallmark movie, these efforts are best appreciated for their casting. Where else can you find both Oscar the Grouch and Kellie Pickler? Tracy Morgan and Justin Bieber? Look for Ed Helms, the Puppini Sisters and Naturally 7 as well.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Sam (Chord Overstreet) returns on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Jess asks some awkward questions on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).
• A dish best served cold on “Raising Hope” (8:30 p.m., Fox).
• Only Carrie can tell if a maid is a victim or a fraud on “Unforgettable” (9 p.m., CBS).
• “Body of Proof” (9 p.m., ABC) examines the chances of a lottery winner being murdered.
• Jax tries to wrap up the deal with the Irish on the season finale of “Sons of Anarchy” (9 p.m., FX).