Sometimes formulaic romances are more interesting than they first appear. Julia Stiles returns to literary adaptation in the 2013 romantic comedy “The Makeover” (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC). She gained fame as a young actress in “10 Things I Hate About You,” a 1990s update of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” ‘‘The Makeover” takes a gender-bending look at George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” the basis for the musical “My Fair Lady” and the 1983 Dan Aykroyd-Eddie Murphy comedy “Trading Places.”
Stiles is Hannah Higgins, a prim — make that priggish — education consultant who is trounced in a campaign for a congressional seat by a dim bulb weatherman who impressed the voters as the nicer candidate. Devastated by an electorate intent on choosing a dolt over herself, Higgins makes a sly bet with her colleague, Colleen Pickering (Camryn Manheim), insisting that she can turn a random idiot into a candidate for Congress.
Opportunity knocks when the weatherman dies in a tragicomic accident, and Hannah subsequently encounters beer delivery guy Elliot Doolittle (David Walton). Doolittle’s harsh South Boston accent hinders his professional advancement and dating prospects. He agrees to become Hannah’s student, but has no idea of her political shenanigans.
“The Makeover” is not a great or even remarkable movie. But it sticks to Shaw’s powerful premise and shows how language and speech reveal so much about gender, class, status and power. It’s a “Pygmalion” for our times, a period when a generation of women, raised to break the glass ceiling, can often contend with a dating pool of males who have put less emphasis on schooling, accomplishment and ambition.
Sunday’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart discusses Lance Armstrong’s public statements.
• The NFL’s best meet in the 2013 Pro Bowl (6 p.m., NBC).
• Emma and Mary Margaret seek a point of re-entry on “Once Upon a Time” (7 p.m., ABC).
• Newcomers nervously make their way into the kitchen on “Downton Abbey” on “Masterpiece Classic” (8 p.m., PBS).
• Hannah joins a new circle of friends on “Girls” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Mixed messages from Levi on “Enlightened” (8:30 p.m., HBO).
— Copyright 2012 United Feature Syndicate, distributed by Universal Uclick.