Cheesy, flagrantly unoriginal, drenched in tabloid sensibility and completely over the top, “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” (9 p.m., Syfy) is pretty darned perfect reality television.
For the uninitiated, “Fact” combines elements of “MythBusters” and that dreadful “TMZ” syndicated show. As on every “TMZ,” a panel of “experts” convenes to watch grainy footage. But instead of watching Cameron Diaz being accosted while leaving a restaurant, we’re shown footage featuring potentially supernatural activity. Like I said, “potentially.” In one clip, vacationing boaters come across an “unexplained vortex” that “appears” to be swallowing the lake and its contents and sending it to another dimension. It turns out to be a drain. In every episode, the panel dismiss the easily detected and decide to investigate two or three spooky scenes.
In tonight’s season opener, they look at a photograph from the skies of Los Angeles in early 1942. Warned of a possible attack by Japanese planes, soldiers filled the night sky with klieg lights and then with a barrage of artillery. But a photo seems to show not dive bombers but a glowing saucer-shaped visitor. We’re told that this photo inspired the recent film “Battle: Los Angeles.”
As on “MythBusters,” a group of enthusiasts use their various fields of expertise to either prove or debunk each paranormal clip. Like “TMZ,” “Fact or Faked” would be better as a half-hour show. But nobody’s perfect.
• Jay’s reluctance to attend the symphony with Gloria and Manny has unintended consequences on tonight’s “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC). Ed O’Neill has been just about flawless in this popular series as the grumpy and world-weary grandfather and stepfather Jay. His relationships with his gay son, his not-too-swift son-in-law and peculiarly precocious stepson combine a bracingly honest emotional reservation with obvious affection and warmth. He’s put to the test in this episode when his AWOL status lands him in the midst of Mitchell and Cameron’s boys’ night out with a group of friends, including the hypersensitive Pepper (guest star Nathan Lane).
• On last week’s “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox), Karen Rodriguez performed “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne. But “Idol” won’t be having her back, as she became the second contestant to be eliminated this season. The remaining 11 strive to survive for two hours tonight.
Tonight’s other highlights
• New York hosts Orlando in NBA basketball (7 p.m., ESPN).
• A killer keeps his victims hanging around on “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A model father’s image unravels after a stabbing on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A transplant does not go smoothly on “Off the Map” (9 p.m., ABC).
• Winona’s mistake may have legal repercussions on “Justified” (9 p.m., FX).
• Elka goes on trial on “Hot in Cleveland” (9 p.m., TV Land).