Critic's Guide to Monday TV: A Mother of an Episode, Bourdain's Layover and More!
What is it with CBS sitcom stars and Saturday Night Live? First Melissa McCarthy wowed us with her fearless physical comedy earlier this fall, and this weekend Jason Segel delivered another of the season's most winning guest-host performances (with a strong assist from the Muppets). His gangly charms are on display in tonight's How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8/7c), as Marshall and Lily seriously consider moving to the Long Island home Lily inherited, especially now that their city apartment seems to be shrinking around them. But the real focus of the episode is on Barney and Ted, whose bromance escalates to the next level as they contemplate becoming "bro-parents" to get over their recent relationship woes. (Added bonus: You get to hear Neil Patrick Harris say, "Being gay would kick ass!" before Barney reverts to form.) Babies are on everyone's mind — Robin again accuses Lily of "pregnancy brain" for wanting to move to the 'burbs — and will be even more so after this episode.
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It's freestyle time on ABC's Dancing With the Stars (8/7c), as the final round commences with the last three couples showing what they've got. J.R. Martinez, who broke out of the pack to became a bona fide star on the show with his incredible story and his winning attitude, has to be considered the front-runner (and it's about time his fabulous partner Karina Smirnoff got a win), but Ricki Lake is very much a contender, and having the most popular pro (Derek Hough) can't hurt. Could Rob Kardashian be a spoiler? No one could have expected the least known member of that overexposed family to make it this far. But regardless of who wins, there's a sense this season has been underwhelming as a whole, a combination of spottier-than-usual casting and being overshadowed by bigger events on Monday night including the reboot of Two and a Half Men. I'm thinking Tom Bergeron may be on to something in his recent remarks to TV Guide Magazine, when he suggested Dancing might be better off going the American Idol route and only air once a year instead of twice a season. It would be less likely to burn out that way, and casting might be able to avoid subjecting us to virtual unknowns like Elisabetta Canalis.
After Dancing, which is only an hour tonight (which reminds me: maybe two-hour episodes aren't always the best idea either), ABC launches a new feel-good game show, You Deserve It (9:01/8:01c), in which the contestants play to win money for someone else who needs and, yes, deserves it.
Stay tuned afterward for a strong episode of Castle (10/9c, ABC), in which a sniper who's targeting seemingly random people in broad daylight triggers alarming and debilitating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Beckett. It's a great showcase for Stana Katic, who makes it clear the top cop clearly hasn't recovered emotionally from her shooting. "I don't have time to get all weepy over a couple of scars," she snaps to her sympathetic shrink (Michael Dorn), but eventually she has to lean on Castle (Nathan Fillion) and especially Esposito (Jon Huertas), whose Special Forces background gives him special insight into her condition as well as the shooter's methods and psychology.
While Beckett is busy torturing herself, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) is being bloodily tortured again by others — including a most familiar and elusive villain — on CBS' Hawaii Five-0 (10/9c), after he accompanies CIA colleague Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik) to North Korea to rescue her fiancé. When things go violently awry, the Five-0 team goes into action, with Joe White (Terry O'Quinn) enlisting an old Vietnam War buddy played by Jimmy Buffett to get them into enemy territory with his ramshackle helicopter that dates back to the fall of Saigon. Is there a margarita joke when Danny meets Jimmy? What do you think?
Bob Costas helped put NBC's low-rated Rock Center With Brian Williams newsmagazine on the map last week with his sensationally disturbing phone interview with Jerry Sandusky about the Penn State scandal. So it's no surprise the sportcaster is scheduled to return to the show tonight (10/9c) to discuss the latest developments. Also on the agenda: Harry Smith interviews Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (formerly of the Obama White House), and Brian Williams welcomes living legend Betty White to the studio.
Armchair voyagers are in for a savory treat, as Travel Channel expands Anthony Bourdain's portfolio with a pungently entertaining new series, The Layover (9/8c), which finds the outspoken "gastro-tourist" and star of the Emmy-winning No Reservations giving us a crash course in a city's culture and cuisine during a fast-paced stop on the way to someplace else. The premiere lands Bourdain in exotic Singapore for 30 hours, and it's no surprise he revels in the bounty of street foods that define the various neighborhoods of this ever-expanding city. "The worst thing that can happen to you is a mediocre meal," he declares, and Bourdain has all the local contacts to ensure that never happens. "I had an eye already today," he tells one of his companions as he sits for yet another meal, "stomach distended like a gaseous piñata," a reminder that we may not always share his culinary enthusiasms, but boy is he great company. Voracious and impatient — "I hate people who don't walk on escalators," he grumbles — he certainly makes the most of his limited time in Singapore. I'd follow him anywhere.
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