Idina Menzel, Lea Michele
WHEN YOU'RE A GLEEK: (Apologies to the "Jet Song," as we prepare our audition for West Side Story — or in Kurt and Blaine's case, West Hollywood Side Story?) The best way to enjoy Glee these days is to accept and even when possible to embrace its imperfections. Kind of like the way the characters get past their own perceived shortcomings and insecurities to embrace their inner star. (Just watch Mercedes blossom this week into full-blown diva mode, for better and inevitably for worse. It's pretty thrilling.) You can tell, from last week's and especially this week's impressive "Asian F" episode (Fox, 8/7c), that Glee is trying awfully hard to improve from the mess of last season. The music is better integrated into story, the story is better integrated into character, and sometimes the characters even make sense.
This is one of those rare Glee episodes where the focus is shared among many of the players, including a very touching major subplot for the usually mute Mike Chang (dancer extraordinaire Harry Shum), who finds his voice while struggling with high parental expectations that refuse to acknowledge his dream. We also get Brittany taking center stage in her (typically improbable) "Run the World" campaign for class president with a "girl power" anthem, Mercedes emerging into the "Spotlight" at last, and on the domestic front, Will and Emma finally confronting her neuroses head-on, providing Matthew Morrison a welcome solo turn that's awfully warm for a Coldplay. It's not a perfect episode — Glee is never perfect, and it would be a lot less interesting if it were — but a few melodramatic twists aside, this is classic Glee: performed from the heart and the soul.
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HERE COMES THE JESS: Hot on the heels of last week's full-season pick-up, Fox's New Girl (9:01/8:01c) gives us another example of why this charming comedy is an instant winner. This time, it's Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who's out there supporting one of the guys, instead of the other way around. Her task is to escort the heartsick Nick (Jake Johnson, pathetically funny) to a wedding, in hopes of easing the sting should he run into his beloved ex. To pull this off, she must "suppress the Jess," which is easier said than done, not to mention impossible. Bouquets to this show.
AND THAT'S THE TRUTH: Even if you don't remember Edith Ann or the other Laugh-In characters that put her on the map, Lily Tomlin is a bona fide legend — and now she's part of the NCIS family. McGee's family, to be precise. Tonight (CBS, 8/7c), in the stunt casting of the week, she plays the former probie's grandmother, who's implicated in the murder of a Navy lieutenant. It's just a shame that Henry Gibson isn't still around to recite a poem for the occasion.
IN HIGH GEAR: FX's Sons of Anarchy (10/9c) is having a strong fourth season full of potent conflict within and without the motorcycle club, and tonight's eventful episode delivers plenty of red meat on all fronts. I'm especially drawn to the core conflict represented by the late John Teller's revealing letters, which Clay and Jemma are desperate to retrieve and destroy. But this week also offers a deliciously sleazy cameo by David Hasselhoff as a porn producer-director who delivers an outrageous line that's bound to become part of the "Hoff's" canon. And poor Juice (Theo Rossi) has reason to panic when the relentless Sheriff Roosevelt tightens the pressure on him to betray his brothers, lest his own racial secret gets out.
So what else is on? ... Discovery launches a new channel, Velocity (replacing HD Theater starting at 7/6c), targeting upscale men with programming that focuses on sports, leisure, travel, adventure and, on opening night, the automotive world, with original episodes of Motorweek, American Icon, What's My Car Worth?, Chasing Classic Cars and Inside West Coast Customs (sense a trend there?) ... While Chaz Bono breaks transgender ground on Dancing With the Stars, ESPN Films looks back to a pioneering transgender athlete in Reneé (ESPN, 8/7c), a documentary profile of Reneé Richards, who fought in the '70s to be accepted in the tennis world after her gender reassignment. ... The final chapter of Ken Burns' intoxicating Prohibition docu-miniseries (PBS, check local schedules), titled "A Nation of Hypocrites," takes this so-called "Noble Experiment" to its natural conclusion: repeal. ... For fans of mock news, a new season of Onion News Network (10/9c) begins with the end of the world, as ONN bravely stays on the air to report the impending doom of the planet from an asteroid hurtling our way. Hey, as long as it shuts the pundits up.
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