If you like Syfy's Face Off (as I do), then you're already predisposed to enjoy the channel's new reality competition series Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Tuesday, 10/9c), which often feels like a shot-by-shot copy, complete with fetching female host (Farscape's Gigi Edgley), insane time pressures in producing elaborately fanciful Henson-esque creatures, and a three-member judging panel including the likable Brian Henson (Jim's son and chairman of the Henson Company with its fabled Creature Shop). What Creature Shop may lack in originality it makes up for in creative energy, with the contestants further challenged in mentoring sessions by being made to focus on having the full-body costumes be fully functional for the skilled Henson puppeteers within. The climactic "Screen Test" reveals are fun to watch, and the critiques (as in Face Off) are smartly constructive.
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Speaking of clones, CBS's long-running hit NCIS is back in spin-off mode, with the first of a two-part episode (8/7c) set in New Orleans, teaming Gibbs with former colleague Dwayne Cassius Pride — we kid you not — played by the estimable Scott Bakula, and it doesn't take a quantum leap of logic to accept this as nearly perfect casting for extending the franchise. As they investigate the murder of a congressman/former NCIS agent and his link to a notorious serial killer, we're introduced to other members of Pride's pride, played by Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan and The Shield's formidable CCH Pounder as the Jefferson County Parish coroner. Already sounding more promising than last year's aborted Red effort, NCIS: NOLA (or some such alphabet soup) could theoretically be on the schedule come fall. Would that mean a move for NCIS: Los Angeles? (Because even by CBS's standards, a three-hour NCIS block seems like a stretch.)
UNHAPPY ENDINGS? Fox's Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine wraps its first season (9:30/8:30c) on a potential cliffhanger note, as a drunken Jake (Andy Samberg) announces to the denizens of a dingy bar that he's just been fired by the NYPD. The episode then rewinds a week to show how the upstart detective risks his career by going rogue to pursue leads that tie a politically connected public figure with the local drug trade. "You never let me do anything cool!" Jake pouts as Captain Holt (the brilliant Andre Braugher) places him on suspension but refuses to let him turn in his badge and gun with a dramatic flourish. Before long, partner Amy (Melissa Fumero) and even Holt are joining Jake in his crusade, giving the typically dour Holt a chance to display new colors and talents. It's a nifty way to finish up the run of one of the season's most promising comedies.
And in a pivotal episode of Fox's New Girl (9/8c), Jess and Nick learn something we could have told them: "Never talk about anything serious when you're hung over." As they blearily assemble a kid's toy (badly) on the morning of a 1-year-old's birthday party, the loft-mate soulmates contemplate their future, leaving them wondering if they have anything in common outside the bedroom. Meanwhile, the other guys work their dubious charms to try to impress hot new neighbors moving into the building, which prompts this crack from the irrepressible Schmidt to Coach: "You wouldn't know a sex blink if it blinked you in the sex."
THE TUESDAY GUIDE: Historian Simon Schama travels through Russia, Europe and the Middle East to narrate PBS's five-part The Story of the Jews (8/7c, check tvguide.com listings), a deeply personal survey of Jewish culture and resilience. Two hours air this week, covering the Jewish experience in ancient and medieval times, with the remaining three hours scheduled for next Tuesday. ... PBS's Frontline investigates the rise of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis in TB Silent Killer (10/9c, check tvguide.com listings). ... With the NCAA college basketball tournaments in full swing, HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (10/9c) takes a hard look at the NCAA's academic reform policies and profiles Native American sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel, star players for the University of Louisville. ... BBC America kicks off a new night of BBC Earth nature programming with the second season of Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan (10/9c), in which the former Lost star travels to Kenya in search of the giant spitting cobra and almost gets trampled by a six-ton elephant in the process. Times like these a hatch could really come in handy.
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