Now in its sixth summer season, “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m., NBC) creates its own brand of magical make-believe. With the exception of football season, it’s the only time of year NBC can make believe it is a competitive network.
How bad are things at NBC? With every passing day of NFL lockouts, it grows more ominously possible that there might not be a football season or a “Sunday Night Football.” Yikes. And just last week it was announced that “Law & Order: SVU,” one of the network’s few remaining competitive shows, would be going forward without star Chris Meloni. That news came only after it was announced that his co-star Mariska Hargitay would appear in only a limited number of “SVU” episodes. And that happened only after the host of the durable “Celebrity Apprentice” stunk up the network and its sponsors with a pointlessly inane presidential flirtation that featured profane rants and not-so-subtle appeals to racism. “The Office” hobbles on without its star and main character, and “30 Rock” won’t return until midseason. Hey, at least they’ve still got “Minute to Win It.”
In addition to being popular and having seen its audience grow over successive seasons, “Talent” has actually discovered some remarkable talent who have gone on to perform well. OK, I haven’t exactly been following the career of last year’s winner Michael Grimm. But runner-up Jackie Evancho released a holiday album that sold a million copies. Not bad for a 10-year-old! For all the buzz about finding the next big star, “Talent” never forgets that it is primarily a television spectacle and as such, its job is to deliver novelty and sensation. And what better words describe last year’s fourth-place runner-up, Prince Poppycock? I’m not sure what that guy will do as an encore, but he left an indelible impression.
“Talent” returns with last year’s panel of judges intact, Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and Piers Morgan. Nick Cannon returns as host. As it did last summer, “Talent” begins with auditions delivered via YouTube.
• The History Channel continues its Civil War commemoration with the two-hour documentary “Lee & Grant” (8 p.m., History), a joint biography of the two most famous generals of that conflict. Like last night’s “Gettysburg,” this film features graphic re-enactments of battle scenes and impressive computer-generated imagery.
• Fans who haven’t yet tired of “Biggest Loser Couples” or “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition” or “Shedding for the Wedding” can turn to “Love Handles: Couples in Crisis” (9 p.m., Lifetime).
Tonight’s other highlights
• A return to underdog status on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A special edition of “20/20” (7 p.m., ABC) looks at reality television.
• “Great Performances” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) celebrates Carnegie Hall’s 120th birthday.
• Competition continues on “The Voice” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Posh people renovate with a vengeance on “Million Dollar Decorators” (9 p.m., Bravo).