“Revenge” (9 p.m., ABC) begins with a murder. And that’s fitting, because the new melodrama seems all but dead on arrival. Set in the fabulous Hamptons social scene, “Revenge” depends on the dubious theory that if you dazzle viewers with pretty faces, expensive clothes and talk of money, nothing else has to make much sense.
Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp, “Everwood”) is new to the Hamptons. She’s just rented the big beach house right in front of the sprawling mansion belonging to the super-rich Graysons. Folks wonder why she’s taken the house all by her lonesome. Particularly since she doesn’t look old enough to drive.
Over the course of what seems like 15 minutes, she insinuates herself into the wealthy set, attending posh cocktail parties and charity auctions and getting the lowdown on which middle-aged spouse is committing adultery with whom.
This is pretty standard soap opera stuff, except Emily isn’t a newcomer at all. And she’s not even an Emily. She’s returned to the Hamptons to exact punishment on the snooty types who set up her father (for treason, no less) and who ruined her family. Most of her revenge ploy and the gist of her motivation are explained in a voice-over, and voice- overs generally mean the story isn’t being told well on screen.
The best part of “Revenge” is watching Madeleine Stowe (“Last of the Mohicans”) as the haughty and scheming Victoria Grayson, a woman who doesn’t like stabbing people in the back. She guts you in front of everyone you know.
• The music competition series “The X Factor” (7 p.m., Fox) arrives saddled with big expectations. A hit in the U.K., “X’’ allows anyone older than 12 to enter, as a single contestant or as a group. That makes it different from “American Idol,” but not all that different from “America’s Got Talent,” which is, of course, a knockoff of “Britain’s Got Talent.”
Questions abound. Have we been glutted with too many talent shows? How many people will turn out, night after night, to watch Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul bicker? One thing is certain. “X’’ has been so heavily promoted that anything less than a staggering success will be seen as a failure.
Tonight’s other season premieres
• One last stab at fun on “The Middle” (7 p.m., ABC).
• The unit faces Senate scrutiny on “Criminal Minds” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Alfred Molina and Jean Smart guest-star on “Harry’s Law” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Mitch and Cam make an announcement on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Ted Danson joins the cast of “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A lowly maid accuses a very powerful diplomat on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).
Tonight’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “Dark Matters” (9 p.m., Science): bad trips, reanimators, a killer hand.
• “True Hollywood Story” (9 p.m., E!) profiles Bethenny Frankel.
• Chad Ochocinco guest-stars on “Blue Mountain State” (10 p.m., Spike).