Necessity may be the mother of invention, but imitation is the mother of most television. “Invention USA” (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., History) is not the first series to evaluate wacky gadgets and their eccentric inventors, but it’s the first one hosted by Garrett Lisi and Reichart Von Wolfsheild. And how can you not invest a certain amount of authority and mad scientist credibility in a guy named Reichart Von Wolfsheild? If it weren’t his real name, I would have sworn it was something out of a Mel Brooks movie.
Mr. Lisi and Herr Von Wolfsheild invite would-be entrepreneurs to their offices (no, make that their secret lair!) in Los Angeles, where they will put each prototype to the test (in a laboratory, no doubt!) to see which product is worthy of being brought to market.
Breakthrough inventions are all very nice, but this is television — reality television — and that genre is all about casting. So look for inventors just this side of barking mad. One would-be Edison proposes “The Fireball,” a nonlethal weapon that uses modified paintballs to prevent wild animal attacks. Everybody needs one of those! It is said to have been inspired by a run-in with Bigfoot. Now that inventor sure knows how to get on the History Channel! Other must-haves include cellphones built into winter gloves and something to chase away pigeons.
Co-host Garrett Lisi has written on particle physics, and Reichart Von Wolfsheild has more than just a memorable name to his credit. He has produced more than 120 consumer products, from multiplayer video games to software used by Disney’s animation division.
• CBS shuffles its schedule to air four holiday favorites: “Frosty the Snowman” (7 p.m.), featuring the voice of Jimmy Durante; the John Goodman-voiced “Frosty Returns” (7:30 p.m.); “Yes, Virginia” (8 p.m.), with the voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Alfred Molina; and a repeat of the 2011 cartoon “The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story” (8:30 p.m.).
Tonight’s other highlights
• A computer virus defies solution on “Chuck” (7 p.m., NBC).
• A glance back at past renovations on “Kitchen Nightmares” (7 p.m., Fox).
• On any given evening, there’s at least a 50/50 chance of catching the 2003 travel/home improvement/romance/spurned-woman-gets-her-groove-back fantasy “Under the Tuscan Sun” (7 p.m., Oxygen).
• A less-than-enchanted arson case on “Grimm” (8 p.m., NBC).
• A serial killer inspires teamwork on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).
• A newly repaired wash plant hits pay dirt on “Gold Rush” (8 p.m., Discovery).
• Jimmy ascends as Freddie’s star fades in the ultra- violent British import “The Take” (8 p.m., Encore).
• A lone driver (Mel Gibson) battles barbarian highway hordes in the 1981 thriller “The Road Warrior” (8 p.m., BBC America). When first released in the U.S., Gibson’s accented voice was dubbed.
• The new mayor’s biggest supporter is found dead on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS).
• As the race tightens, Kane leans on the machine on “Boss” (9 p.m., Starz).