Steve Zahn, Christian Slater, Jaime Ray Newman
Even in a season distinguished by insta-duds like Lucky 7 and Betrayal, ABC hits a new low with Mind Games (Tuesday, 10/9c), an inexplicably and ridiculously convoluted drama which achieves the rare trick of making Christian Slater look like a master of understated acting. He plays an ex-con who teams with his frenetic, bipolar brother (Steve Zahn in an eye-poppingly cartoonish performance), an expert in all human behaviors but his own, to start a firm that specializes in elaborate psychological manipulations to achieve their clients' aims.
When one of the brothers' associates blurts, midway through a Mission Improbable, "Is anyone else confused?" at least we know we're not alone in our unsatisfied mystification. I've championed series creator Kyle Killen's dangerously offbeat series in past seasons — Fox's short-lived Lone Star and NBC's mesmerizing but impenetrable Awake — but Mind Games is too busy and annoying for its own good, trying so hard to be stimulating that it might just leave you numb.
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THE HOLY MESS: If it's drama you're seeking, look no further than PBS's Frontline (10/9c, check tvguide.com listings), with another documentary as essential as it is topical, exploring the Secrets of the Vatican — namely, the sex-abuse hypocrisy and financial scandals that marked Pope Benedict's tenure and whose clean-up have created a challenge for Pope Francis as he seeks to reform the insular Vatican culture.
DISHARMONY: As Fox's Glee moves to a new night (8/7c), it may feel more like Smash when Santana lands a gig as Rachel's understudy in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl. Because that could happen. Someone cue Kurt to dig out his DVD of All About Eve (you know he has one). ... Things aren't much happier in the New Girl loft (9/8c, Fox) when Jess's uninhibited sister Abby (Linda Cardellini) decides to overstay her welcome and get busy with one of the roomies. ... Courteney Cox directs this week's Cougar Town (10/9c, TBS) in which Jules' response to being invited to son Travis and Laurie's place for a grown-up brunch is to try to prove that she and Grayson make a better couple.
AND KEEP IN MIND: Back for their "winter seasons" on TNT, Rizzoli & Isles (9/8c) deals with the return of a kidnapping clown who's been dormant for 20 years — or maybe he's just back from the circus; while on Perception (10/9c), Dr. Pierce comes to the aid of an autistic teen suspected of murder, although if anyone perceives that he's having his own hallucinations, that might not go so well. ... A new subculture heard from, as AMC premieres Game of Arms (10/9c), aka "Guns, or Biceps, of Anarchy," a docu-reality series following the fortunes of five arm wresting clubs around the U.S. ... While I'm more into the make-up artists creating wizards this week on Syfy's Face Off (9/8c), Spike TV celebrates the art of the tattoo in the competition series Ink Master, starting a fourth season (10/9c) of challenges performed on Human Canvases. ... National Geographic Channel's Diggers (10/9c) opens its second season by going to Aspen to unearth a lost time capsule from 1983 with the geekiest of artifacts: the mouse from Steve Jobs' first mass-marketed Lisa computer. You can almost hear Sheldon Cooper squealing in delight.
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