“All Together Now: A Celebration of Service” (7 p.m., NBC) honors former President George H.W. Bush and his promotion of service and volunteerism. “All Together” features performances by musical acts from many popular fields, including Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Cee Lo Green, Reba McEntire, Sam Moore, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood.
Most notably, “Together” also unites all four living former presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Bush the elder.
The gathering of so many former presidents is a rather special event. And, at the risk of sounding morbid, the chances of seeing them together and not at a funeral is even more rare. This is probably the first time in our history that there are four living former presidents. When Richard Nixon was first inaugurated in 1969, he had three living predecessors. But scant days into his second term they were all gone. There would be no former presidents around until Nixon himself became one in 1974.
“All Together Now: A Celebration of Service” offers a particular snapshot of American history. The kind of history they don’t show on the History Channel anymore.
• Jackie’s lies catch up with her as “Nurse Jackie” (9 p.m., Showtime) enters its third season. Things get extreme when her husband visits the hospital only to realize that nobody there knows she’s married.
“The United States of Tara” (9:30 p.m., Showtime) also enters its third season, with Tara contemplating a return to college to get the degree she never had time for, what with so many personalities to oversee.
Both Showtime series feature remarkable actresses and fine performances that would be even more impressive if their situations were not so extreme and contrived. But that seems to be the Showtime way. It’s a network where series have come to revolve around a “nice” serial killer (“Dexter”), a smug suburban mom who’s also a drug dealer (“Weeds”) and a sex-addicted novelist (“Californication”).
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer performances that find the transcendent in everyday life, not the kind of dramas or comedies that depend on extreme, farfetched, over-the-top scenarios for their power. “The Munsters” had a pretty far-out premise, too. But nobody ever accused it of being pretentious.
Tonight’s other highlights
• “Dancing with the Stars” (7 p.m., ABC) returns for a second week with a two-hour helping.
• A disaster triggers negotiations on “The Event” (8 p.m., NBC).
• A new chief (Jennifer Beals) cracks down on corruption on the pilot episode of “The Chicago Code” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Tony visits the Ozarks on “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (8 p.m., Travel).
• A veteran killer returns with a bang on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).
• After a standoff results in gunfire, Harry takes her old friend’s side on “Harry’s Law” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Murder trials can be murder on “Castle” (9 p.m., ABC).