Critic's Guide to Wednesday's TV: CMAs vs. X Factor and a Ripper Anniversary
Noticeably lacking in the ranks of The X Factor's contestants: budding country music stars. (Maybe they didn't want to risk another Scotty McCreery-style steamroller upstaging upstarts like "Astro.") And now, as the Top 11 square off, Fox's overblown singing contest (8/7c) faces its toughest competition to date: another musical extravaganza, ABC's three-hour broadcast of The 45th Annual CMA Awards (8/7c) from Nashville, with Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley co-hosting for the fourth year in a row. (They'll perform their hit "Remind Me" during the show.)
Among the CMA's musical highlights: a tribute to country legend Glen Campbell by Paisley, Vince Gill and Keith Urban; plus a performance by Lionel Richie from his upcoming country album "Tuskegee," featuring Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker. All five nominees for CMA New Artist of the Year are also on the roster: Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Thompson Square, Chris Young and The Band Perry. And as usual, the cream of the country crop will take the Bridgestone Arena stage, including Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift. By comparison, it's kind of hard to get excited about the next performance from Lakoda Rayne, which is less an "X" than a "Why."
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On this date back in 1888, Jack the Ripper claimed his last victim, or so the canon says. By a canny stroke of programming fate, BBC America's creepy Whitechapel mystery series (10/9c) reaches the end of its three-episode Ripper Copycat arc on the same night, as the Nov. 9 deadline looms to prevent the final murder and locate the elusive madman. The inspector in charge, the insecure Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), fears he's not up to the challenge, until a consulting Ripper-ologist brings some focus to his study of the historical record: "The killer has decided who the Ripper is. You've got to see things through his eyes." The race is on, and it builds to a satisfying finish. Better news: a second three-episode mystery based on another legendary murder spree begins next week.
With ABC's winning comedies (including the top-rated Modern Family and the underrated The Middle) benched for the night due to the CMA Awards, anyone looking for laughs is advised to check out NBC's little show that could, Up All Night (8/7c). It features a very enjoyable guest appearance by My Name Is Earl's Jason Lee as a laid-back "regular Joe" single dad who catches Ava's (Maya Rudolph) wandering eye while she's babysitting little Amy as Reagan and Chris try, mostly unsuccessfully, to enjoy a first night out away from the baby. Lee is the answer to Chris' obvious question: "If Ava's watching Amy, who's watching Ava?"
Meanwhile, Comedy Central's South Park (10/9c) takes on Thanksgiving, as the boys watch a History Channel special about the holiday and begin to believe that aliens were behind the original celebration. Somehow we doubt this will affect Cartman's appetite.
Things are getting heated on CBS' Survivor: South Pacific (8/7c), now that the nerd-tastic player Cochran has made his move, sending one of his former tribemates to Temptation Island, leaving those left behind to vent their wrath. A double eviction in tonight's episode promises to shake things up even more. ... In other reality news, Bravo's Top Chef (10/9c) continues its selection process to fill out the Top 16, including a tense cook-off among those left "on the bubble" to earn the final coats. When one of the chef-testants is injured in this last round, the desperation shows as the chef just keeps on cooking, declaring, "I would cook one-handed. ... I would cook with my feet if I have to." The competition is on. ... And on The CW's America's Next Top Model All-Stars (9/8c), the remaining models head to Greece, because there's not enough drama happening there these days.
Crime time: We rarely see Law & Order: SVU's Capt. Cragen (Dann Florek) out of the precinct, but in this week's episode (10/9c, NBC), he goes undercover as a lonely-heart to nail a killer involved in a Russian Mafia mail-order-bride scheme. ... More undercover work, as USA Network's goofy Psych (10/9c) plays ball when a murder occurs on Santa Barbara's minor league baseball team, and Shawn goes to bat as a new hitting instructor while poor patsy Gus dons the uniform of the team mascot, the Seabird. ... On a CSI head-scratcher (10/9c, CBS), a car-crash crime scene turns up an extra brain that doesn't belong to any of the vehicular victims.
So what else is on? ... Joining the fray of deadliest-jobs docu-reality programming, the Weather Channel premieres Coast Guard Alaska (9/8c), following a crew stationed in Kodiak, as they battle the elements to perform dangerous rescues. ... The Science Channel profiles Prophets of Science Fiction (10/9c) in a new series, hosted by filmmaker Ridley Scott, that examines the work of visionary sci-fi/fantasy auteurs. Through famous movie clips and new animation, we see how their prescient stories helped inspire many of today's technical innovations. First up: Mary Shelley, who wrote the legendary (though often bowdlerized) Frankenstein.
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