A summer night of network repeats, reality shows and new cable series all but guarantees small audiences. It’s little surprise that networks’ most popular series is the claustrophobic “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS). It drew nearly 8 million viewers last week. Over on cable you’d think the ever-popular “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA) would be tops. And you’d be right. But the cable series that attracts the most viewers among those aged 18 to 49 is History’s “Swamp People.” Go figure.
The success of documentary series puts pressure on expensively made scripted fare to perform. While a repeat of a well-established show like CBS’s “The Mentalist” can still rank among the night’s most watched, NBC’s fledgling anthology comedy “Love Bites” attracted fewer than three-quarters of a million viewers aged 18 to 49 last week. To put it in perspective, that’s barely larger than the audience for “Louie” on FX and half the 18 to 49 audience for “Swamp People.”
• Turner Classic Movies continues its month-long Thursday night glance at the Hollywood treatment of Arab themes, settings and characters. While some movies depicted Arabs as decadent and evil, others wrapped dismissive cultural condescension in silly gags. Tonight’s festival features films from some of comedy’s biggest names and most durable franchises, including Bing Crosby in “Road to Morocco” (9 p.m.), “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy” (10:45 p.m.) and the 1957 Jerry Lewis comedy “The Sad Sack” (1:30 a.m.). It concludes with “Bowery to Baghdad” (2:30 a.m.), starring the Bowery Boys.
• There was a time, well before “The Sopranos,” “Larry Sanders” or even “Dream On,” when HBO programming seemed to consist of comedy specials, boxing and endless repeats of the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy “Overboard” (7:30 p.m., ABC Family). It was the “Pretty Woman” of its time: a movie that was always on television because, presumably, it always found an audience. P.S. If you want to see “Pretty Woman,” you’ll have to wait until Saturday, when it’s on (again) on Bravo at 7 p.m.!
Tonight’s other highlights
• Two must go home after tonight’s “So You Think You Can Dance” (7 p.m., Fox).
• “Titans” (8 p.m., CNBC) profiles the founder of Southwest Airlines.
• A hidden computer holds evidence that can clear Barry’s brother on “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA).
• Questions of maturity on “Love Bites” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Fires and explosions on “Rookie Blue” (9 p.m., ABC).
• “True Life: I’m a Sugar Baby” (9 p.m., MTV) interviews young people who become paid friends and companions.
• Harvey defends a client linked to Jessica’s past on “Suits” (9 p.m., USA).
• Doggy day care on “Wilfred” (9 p.m., FX).
• Louie faces a rough night in Atlantic City on “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX).