With new summer programming like what's on display tonight, it's enough to make you miss reruns. (Well, hello, CBS! We can always count on you to do things the traditional way — at least until Big Brother returns next month.)
You could do worse than re-watching Leonard's date with Penny on The Big Bang Theory, or Person of Interest's Reese protecting Astro from last season's The X Factor or Cho's first meeting with Samaire Armstrong on The Mentalist. You could do far worse.
You could, for example, watch your brain cells atrophy by tuning into Fox's hardly-fit-for-cable combo of goofy new meat-market dating shows. (The Dating Game's Jim Lange, I miss you.) In Take Me Out (8/7c), which might as well be called Date Or No Date, it's the guy on display, trying to charm a "flirty 30" bevy of bimbos before they turn out the light on their podium, signaling their disinterest. (We, thankfully, have remotes.) "He's a nice piece of meat: rare, juicy and ready to have a bite taken out of him," quips Katie Ann of the first contestant Brandon. She's one of only five dim bulbs still lit after Brandon reveals his zeal for camping and hunting. (Where's a Palin on a panel when you need one?)
Host George Lopez, wearing the sort of fixed grin you tend to find only on serial killers, tries to keep things lively, saying things like, "Let the hot dog see the buns" and "Let the sausage see the peppers." Yes, it gets old.
The twist here is that even the catches tend to have a catch — a dreamy black Italian has a gladiator fetish, for instance — meaning it's not unusual for a contestant to be shut out in what Lopez calls a "blackout." Which is what you might be wishing for by the first commercial break.
But Take Me Out is like a Noël Coward cavalcade compared to The Choice (8:58/7:58c), an embarrassingly slapdash time-waster that has garnered some undeserved ink because of Fox's cheeky decision to rip off the best part of NBC's The Voice. This blind speed-dating parody of The Voice's riveting "blind auditions" round features quasi-celebrities (including the inevitable Jersey Shore flotsam) sitting in big chairs with their backs turned as a lucky lady gets 30 seconds to try to impress them with a spiel that often involves rhyming "booty" with "beauty." If the guys like what they hear — and why wouldn't they, since it involves hearing their own names spoken aloud — they flip their "love handle" to turn the chair around, eventually getting to choose between two finalists each.
The really sad part of all this is that Fox has somehow enlisted their fabulous Emmy-nominated So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deeley to preside over this nonsense, doing her damnedest to convince these women of the damned that this humiliation is somehow worth it. Although when a contestant like Nia makes her mark by announcing, "Some women like to be receivers, but I definitely enjoy giving," you have to figure some people get what they deserve. As do you if The Choice is how you choose to spend your Thursday night.
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Tonight's new scripted option isn't operating on a much higher plane. NBC's Saving Hope (9/8c), the latest Canadian wannabe to find its way cheaply onto a network's schedule, feels like CBS' defunct A Gifted Man with a side of lesser Grey's Anatomy. In other words, another uneasy mix of the spiritual and the medical. Not since Denny's ghost haunted Seattle Grace has there been a more irritating out-of-body gimmick than what fuels this hokey import. A cocky chief surgeon (Stargate's Michael Shanks, his affable charm thoroughly wasted here) goes into a coma after a car accident en route to wed with his fellow surgeon bride (Smallville's Erica Durance), and his spirit wanders the hospital's halls in a new state of preachy enlightenment: "What if we did get to know our patients? ... Would it help us? Would it help them?" Would a script doctor help? You can't accuse the cast, including The Vampire Diaries' Daniel Gillies (Elijah) as Durance's hotshot ex, of being hard to look at. It's what they're given to do that makes you lose hope.
But as they say, it gets better. Thursdays are about to improve starting next week, when two of USA Network's better dramas, Burn Notice and Suits, return. Two weeks after that, FX launches a new comedy lineup including the darkly hilarious Louie (and Charlie Sheen's comeback in Anger Management, which I haven't previewed yet) the same night that MTV's rollicking Awkward begins a second season.
THE GUIDE: Some more Thursday highlights: The Game Show Network salutes the late Richard Dawson with a four-hour marathon (starting at 7/6c) of his more memorable Family Feud episodes, including the one where he met his wife Gretchen when she was a contestant. ... ABC's underwhelming singing competition Duets eliminates its first contestant tonight (8/7c) during a night devoted to inspirational songs. (Like maybe "Hit the Road, Jack?") What a lousy concept this has turned out to be. How can any of these contestants break out when they're continually being upstaged in performance alongside their superstar mentor? And the "secret score" ranking system by the judges is vague and nonsensical. It might matter if we actually cared, but Duets has proved to be the one-too-many singing contest airing at precisely the wrong time. ... Better than you might expect, The CW's docu-reality series Breaking Pointe is a fairly compelling study of the pecking order and personal cost of being in a ballet company. In tonight's episode (8/7c), two close-knit brothers in the Ballet West corps may split up if one decides to leave with his girlfriend, who was fired in last week's premiere and is already auditioning elsewhere. ... Isn't Brenda Strong busy enough playing Bobby's new wife on TNT's Dallas reboot? The Desperate Housewives alum is back in narrator mode for Investigation Discovery's Blood Relatives (10/9c), which makes the Ewings look like softies as it examines grisly true-crime stories of murders within families. ... Taking a bite out of crime in the Southern Louisiana swampland is the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office, where you'll find the heroes of A&E's new Cajun Justice (10/9c).