It's not quite time to say goodbye for good to TNT's signature hit The Closer, which will return in November with new episodes, then finish out its run with a batch of episodes next summer. Tonight's "summer finale" (9/8c) is a potentially pivotal one, as Brenda awaits a judge's decision about whether to drop the charges in the civil suit that has been hanging over her and the department all season. The shooting death of a deputy sheriff provides some distraction. ... The popular, but by comparison often inane, companion piece Rizzoli & Isles (10/9c) ends its summer run with the return of arch-fiend Charles Hoyt (the slithery Michael Massee), who says he has info on a jailhouse murder. Both will be back Nov. 28.
Lots of other summer finales on tap, mostly in the reality realm, including ABC's insipid Bachelor Pad (8/7c), which somehow takes three entire hours to announce its winners, while also officially introducing recent dump-ee Ben Flajnik as the next Bachelor (due in January). ... As HGTV Design Star wraps (9/8c), either Meg or Karl will win their own show, depending on whose concept and pilot comes off best. Either would be a good fit.
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Here's how I described Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to TV, in the CW's Ringer (9/8c), in our Fall Preview issue: "The Buffy icon runs the gamut from scrappy underdog to glamorous ice queen in a twisted sister act that doubles as a juicy mystery. The complications keep mounting, putting the fan of deluxe romantic suspense through the what's-next wringer." Here's the set-up: Gellar plays long-estranged identical twins who reunite, and after the rich one suddenly vanishes, the poor one (an ex-stripper recovering alcoholic with a killer and the FBI on her tail) takes over her life, soon discovering the ritzy fast lane is just as deadly. More on this on Tuesday. An hour earlier, the fourth season of 90210 (8/7c) starts the brats on the road to life after high school. Haven't we been through this before.Your best bet for entertaining teen shenanigans is a new episode of MTV's delightfully raunchy Awkward (11:30/10:30c), built around Jenna's "Super Bittersweet Sixteen" birthday, which as usual brings new humiliation to our heroine's so-called life. We're still reeling from last week's calamity, when Jenna woke up to realize she'd made out (under many influences) with her BFF's boyfriend. Ouch.The night's highlight for history and celebrity buffs is undoubtedly ABC News' two-hour prime-time special Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words (9/8c), featuring newly released recordings the former first lady made shortly after JFK's death, reflecting on life in the White House and the tumultuous world events they faced. ... The highlight of the day for tabloid enthusiasts is Dr. Phil's two-part interview today and Wednesday (syndicated, check local listings) with George and Cindy Anthony, parents of the now-infamous Casey Anthony.What else is on? On a roll after last week's record-setting season opener, FX's Sons of Anarchy (10/9c) is at its best when confronting Jax's desire to leave the motorcycle club — prompting him to make a controversial deal with Clay that could tear SAMCRO apart — and at its worst in an action sequence that's preposterous even by this show's high-octane standards. ... NBC's Parenthood (10/9c) is back a week earlier than most network dramas, giving us time to catch up with Adam's jobless crisis among other subplots — some more satisfying than others (Sarah and Amber's mother-daughter clash on Sarah's 40th birthday being especially tiresome) — but there's a fun shout-out to another Jason Katims drama, and if Jason Ritter wants to stick around a while as the teacher still harboring a crush on Sarah, few will complain.WEDNESDAY
Here are my Fall Preview takes on three new series premiering tonight.Two NBC comedies are getting a special launch at 10/9c, hoping for a boost from the two-hour finale of the relentlessly mediocre America's Got Talent (8/7c). (Next week, the comedies move to the earlier, and potentially deadly, hour of 8/7c.) First, and best, is Up All Night, featuring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as exhausted new parents whose me-first lifestyles and bleep-worthy vocabularies aren't all that well suited for an infant. Maya Rudolph shines as Applegate's boss, whose character has been transformed since the original pilot into a neurotic daytime talk host, allowing the Saturday Night Live veteran to channel her delirious Oprah homage. My Fall Preview take from the earlier pilot (the new version's changes mostly involve the workplace and Rudolph's character): "This refreshingly grown-up twist on the comic anxieties of new parenthood is blessed with a fabulous cast — and what a treat to see Arnett drop the ironic detachment to play it real. Kudos to beefing up scene-stealer Rudolph's role. Baby, she's a hoot!"This is paired with Free Agents (10:30/9:30c) starring Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn as co-workers at a smarmy public-relations firm who engage in private relations, though they know they shouldn't. He's newly divorced, and her bedroom is a shrine to her dead fiancé. My Fall Preview take: "Toxic. The not-quite-romantic hero cries after sex. You may well cry after, or during, this anti-comedy about whiny, snappish neurotics sharing an unbearably smug workplace that's about as inviting as Chernobyl." NBC is re-airing both pilots on Thursday, Up at 8:30/7:30c (where it really ought to be airing in the fall) and Agents at 9:30/8:30c (which almost makes us miss Outsourced).And then there's the CW's H8R (as in, "hater"), a quasi-reality show in which host Mario Lopez aids the quasi-famous or infamous — like Snooki and the Kardashians — in ambushing their most virulent real-life detractors. You know, normal folk. The aim: to win them over, because wouldn't you know, these pop-culture punching bags aren't that bad. My take: "Hate to be a hater, but ... who am I kidding? The last thing TV needs is another insipid platform for overexposed celeb-reality 'stars' to reinforce their narcissism, this time at the expense of punk'd nobodies who were right to shun them in the first place. Pathetic."For those who've been following Damages on DirectTV this summer, the suspenseful wait is over, in a highly satisfying season finale (10.9c) that finds Patty and Ellen once again at odds in their conflicting desires to see justice done, while desperately trying to save the life of several pawns caught up in the murderous intrigues of corrupt defense contractor Howard Erickson (John Goodman) and his ruthless associate Jerry Boorman (Dylan Baker). The twists and reveals come at a furious pace, and one of the best is saved for the very end.What else is on? A big night for reality fans, as CBS' Survivor: South Pacific (8/7c) kicks off a 23rd season, bringing back two veteran players, "Coach" and Ozzy. It's a 90-minute premiere, followed by the 90-minute finale of summer time-waster Big Brother (9:30/8:30c). ... Familiar faces are also in order on an "all-star" season of the CW's America's Next Top Model (8/7c), the first cycle entirely populated by past contestants. ... Bravo's Top Chef: Just Desserts (10/9c) wallows in Willy Wonka nostalgia as cast members of the original movie (the Gene Wilder version) help judge the edible room the chef-testants create. ... USA Network's summer of hits comes to a close with the first-season finale of Necessary Roughness (10/9c), with Terrell Owens guest-starring as TK's greatest rival as the Hawks head into the playoffs. I'm wondering if in the future, this show might not be better off airing during the actual football season.THURSDAY
My Fall Preview take on the CW's The Secret Circle (9/8c): "Abracadabra, the CW has conjured a clone. Hold your applause. The magic is missing in this less-than-spellbinding brew of recycled supernatural teen angst, which so far lacks the self-aware wit and breakneck pacing of the fang-tastic Vampire Diaries. Hurry, witches, clone a Damon!" I understand the desire to create compatible companion pieces, but this generic saga of teenage witches (starring Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson and the TV Terminator's Thomas Dekker) is both too much and too little.In happier news, The Vampire Diaries (8/7c) begins its third season with Elena spending her 18th birthday fretting over Stefan's whereabouts, while Bad Stefan and the evil Klaus busy themselves tracking a werewolf played by David Gallagher, who's about as far as one can get from 7th Heaven territory.Looking for intentional laughs? FX obliges by pairing the seventh-season opener of cult fave It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10/9c) with the first of several special original episodes of animated riot Archer (10:30/9:30c), which is my favorite FX comedy next to Louie. On Sunny, the gang gives an image makeover to the "pretty woman" Frank intends to make his prostitute bride. On Archer, Rip Riley (voice of Patrick Warburton) tries to bring our hapless secret agent back to ISIS. Good times.