Talk about a cold case! “NOVA” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “Ice Age Death Trap,” a tale of mass tragedy and forensic sleuthing spanning millennia. As on any “CSI” episode, we begin with a curious discovery. A construction worker in Colorado unearths something odd: a tooth so large it has to be held in two hands.
Experts from Denver descend on the site and discover a large cache of Ice Age fossils dating back more than 100,000 years. And the evidence points to a veritable zoo of prehistoric creatures: mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, camels, bison and ground sloths as big as modern-day elephants.
As on any “Bones,” the jolt of discovery gives way to mystery and theorizing. How and why did so many creatures die in such a tight space and frequently die together? It would be unfair to reveal the solution to this murder mystery. Or at least the theoretical stab in that direction. But it’s sufficient to say that our woolly friends had a sinking feeling before falling into the big sleep.
• While it’s hard to find a mastodon anywhere outside of a museum, some ancient creatures still walk, or slither, among us. And some have become just too close for comfort.
‘‘Beast Tracker” (8 p.m., Discovery) follows marine biologist Andrew West as he tries to capture prehistoric creatures like alligators, sharks and reptiles that have made life difficult and dangerous for the people living near them. Some of these interactions have occurred because people have moved into wild, undeveloped areas. Others occur when creatures like Burmese pythons are inadvertently transported from their native environment and become loose in populated neighborhoods. Some of these killers have been around for hundreds of millions of years, making the extinct woolly mammoths discussed on “NOVA” new kids on the block by comparison.
• I’m always a tad confused about the rapture surrounding Super Bowl commercials and roundups like “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials” (7 p.m., CBS).
On roughly 364 days a year, most people see commercials as interruptions, distractions and annoyances, widely employing their DVRs to avoid them. But one day a year, they become “interesting” and “special” and worthy of conversation. That makes TV advertisements a little like an unpleasant relative who visits once a year. You put out some snacks and soft drinks and exhibit your best behavior, yet that unwelcome feeling prevails, understood and unstated.
Hosted by former quarterback Boomer Esiason and Jillian Michaels, “Greatest” will allow viewers to vote live on their top 10 sponsors and brands.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The quest for the yellow ticket continues on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A killer arranges his victims according to the compass on “Dark Minds” (9 p.m., ID).
• Dumpster-diving artists take inspiration from an old Schwinn bicycle on “Dirty Money” (9:30 p.m., Planet Green).