Even the best shows tend toward cliche after awhile. “Sons of Anarchy” (9 p.m., FX) enters its fourth season with an episode that could be summarized as, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Before the opening credits, we see the gang members assembling for their final day in prison and their defiant ride back to their not-so-aptly named town of Charming. They’re met not with a welcome wagon, but with a show of force from Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar), the new lawman brought to town because of his reputation for honesty and gang-busting.
On the ride home, Clay (Ron Perlman) spots a disturbing sign of gentrification in the billboards for Charming Heights, an expensive new subdivision that he vows “will never happen.” Can we expect Clay and the rest of the biker gang to start attending zoning board meetings?
And those aren’t the only changes since the gang spent time in the stir. A convoluted gun-running arrangement involving Russian mobsters and Irish terrorists seems distinctly disadvantageous. And as we’ve come to learn from “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos,” nothing irks a gangster more than a bad business deal with fellow gangsters.
‘‘Sons” remains a beautifully produced affair filled with solid performances, particularly from Perlman and Katey Sagal, whose biker matriarch role has long since eclipsed memories of “Married With Children.”
Given a strong cast, one would hope there’d be more opportunities for memorable performances. But actual dramatic scenes seem all too rare. Like many operatic crime dramas, “Sons” suffers from a case of runaway musical montage-itis. The episode opens and closes with largely silent scenes set to moody songs, taking up about 15 minutes of a 44-minute drama. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for character development.
• The women’s clinic is attacked on the season finale of “Combat Hospital” (9 p.m., ABC).
Tonight’s other highlights
• U.S. Open tennis (6 p.m., ESPN2).
• Two guys (Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin), a girl (Elle Macpherson) and a bear loom large in the 1997 thriller “The Edge” (6:30 p.m., Fox Movie Channel).
• Michael Grimm performs on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC) as the 10 finalists compete.
• A sad and sudden departure on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Spunky twins scheme to reunite their divorced parents (Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson) in the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap” (7 p.m., ABC Family). Starring Lindsay Lohan, before the fall.
• “Take the Money and Run” (8 p.m., ABC) ends its first season.
• On two episodes of “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS): traffickers (8 p.m.), hostage takers (9 p.m.).
• “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS) presents “Top Secret America,” a survey of the clandestine agencies, both public and private, that have arisen in the aftermath of 9/11.
• Activists face charges of domestic terrorism in the documentary “Better This World” on “POV” (9 p.m., PBS).