This is one of the more jam-packed weeks of a seriously overstuffed TV summer, so let's break it down by night.
COMEBACK: The mercurial and always opinionated Keith Olbermann, most recently ousted from his MSNBC perch, brings his act back to cable with the same title (Countdown) but a new network (Current TV). His eclectic roster of contributors will include documentarian Ken Burns, comedian Richard Lewis and filmmaker Michael Moore. Let the ranting begin.
GUILTY PLEASURE: [As seen in TV Guide Magazine] RuPaul's Drag U, Logo at 9/8c. Think [Drag] Queen for a Day, set to a disco version of "I Feel Pretty," to fully appreciate TV's fiercest, funniest makeover show, a drag-licious exercise in outrageously feminized empowerment. Featuring some of the sassiest veterans of RuPaul's Drag Race as professors of fabulousness, RuPaul's Drag U each week coaches three "biological women" with self-esteem issues to "unleash their inner diva" in a raucous, hilariously ribald and often unexpectedly touching crash course in self-acceptance and confidence building. With the help of guest-judge icons (including Charo, Lynda Carter and Molly Ringwald), the foxy faculty schools these insecure ladies in the art of drag transformation, dance performance and attitude adjustment. In the mainstage climax, sporting new looks and identities like "Summer Night" and "Cha Cha Mizrahi," they proudly strut their stuff in front of loved ones as they vie for a grand prize. The best news about Drag U: Everyone's a winner.
ALSO RETURNING: New seasons of Hoarders and Intervention on A&E (9/8c and 10/9c). And you thought you had problems.
SIGNING OFF: Showtime says goodbye, temporarily, to Nurse Jackie (10/9c), in a season ender that subjects Jackie to a urine test, while Coop gets the chapel ready for his birthday wedding. Meanwhile, United States of Tara (10:30/9:30c) airs its final episode ever, with Tara and Max heading to Boston for some expert help.
THE REAL SVU: HBO's weekly Monday-night documentary series turns the spotlight on New York's trailblazing Sex Crimes Unit (9/8c) with a behind-the-scenes look at how these lawyers from the New York State Attorney's office evaluate and prosecute cases of sexual assault, including resolving a 16-year-old rape cold case.
On NBC's The Voice (9/8c), we'll find out who America and the coaches will save from Cee Lo and Adam's teams, and the competition continues — with the final four singers revealed Wednesday (8/7c) in a special live results show. In other reality news, ABC revives the classic summer Wipeout (8/7c), paired with the gimmicky 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show (9/8c), with elaborate physical stunt eliminations in which contestants will literally get ejected. I wish I could say it's worth staying tuned for the new Combat Hospital (10/9c), a Grey's Anatomy-goes-to-Afghanistan drama, but this carpet bombing of clichés is only for those who've been pining to see a latter-day M*A*S*H without all that pesky attitude.
GURRL DOWN! That's the fetching title for Kathy Griffin's latest Bravo stand-up special (9/8c), filmed at Boston's Wilbur Theater. Her shooting gallery includes such juicy targets as Sarah Palin, Charlie Sheen, Kirstie Alley and Michelle Bachman.
MEN UP: Your best choice for scripted entertainment is TNT's Men of a Certain Age, entering the back half of its too-short summer season with an episode focusing on Joe's complicated relationship with his ailing bookie Manfro.
THE DRAMA: USA Network kicks off season 5 of the durable Burn Notice (9/8c), reuniting burned agent Michael Weston with his old agency. It's being paired this summer with the new Suits (10/9c), a slick high-concept legal procedural that fits the USA brand like well-tailored Armani. This buddy show pairs a hotshot but reckless Harvard courtroom closer (Gabriel Macht) with an unlikely protégé, a quick-study whiz kid (Patrick J. Adams) who lacks a law degree but overcompensates with uncanny recall, great instincts and something his mentor lacks: empathy. The saltier-than-usual language is a sign USA is trying for a bit more edge here, but thankfully it's never as sophomorically quirky as TNT's Franklin & Bash. If your tastes run to the conventional, ABC is bringing back the trite Rookie Blue (10/9c) for a second season.
THE COMEDY: The never-say-die animated Futurama (10/9c) is back on Comedy Central with back-to-back episodes, including a humdinger about an encounter with a being that has no clue about gender and subjects our hapless crew to experiments that change their sexual characteristics. Way more down to earth, FX brings back the melancholy slice-of-laugh dark comedy of Louie (10:30/9:30c), starring the exceptional Louis C.K. for a second season. It's preceded by the premiere of one of the more potentially polarizing shows of the summer: Wilfred (10/9c), a caustic cult item starring Elijah Wood as a suicidal loser rescued from his funk by the title character: his pretty neighbor's scruffy dog, seen by him and by us as a slob in a shabby dog suit (Jason Gann.) This mutt is not a good boy, more of a scatological pot-smoking misanthrope, goading Wood into reclaiming his inner man-imal. Some will find this brilliant, with the bark of genius. I'm afraid I found it toxically unpleasant, more weird than funny. But maybe it will grow on me. Like mange.
THE REALITY: Returning to his Eco-Challenge roots, reality guru Mark Burnett stages Expedition Impossible (9/8c), an adventure race set in the deserts, mountains and rivers of exotic Morocco, where 13 teams battle the elements, native wildlife and each other. Visually speaking, quite possibly the show of the week.
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!