In what initially comes off as a Habitat for Inhumanity — fueled by reality-competition juices that upstage the do-gooder impulse of neighborhood home renovation — NBC's derivative American Dream Builders takes its visual cues from Extreme Makeover Home Edition (airing in that show's old time period, Sundays at 8/7c), complete with an elaborate weekly reveal, although the only bus here is the one the contestants repeatedly throw each other under. Dream Builders' emotional dynamic is more attuned to Celebrity Apprentice in its nightmare blueprint of clashing egos getting in the way of a job well done.
Host Nate Berkus is the enabler, tasking two teams comprised of established designers and builders —disciplines which are not always simpatico, as we soon learn — to renovate similarly overcrowded Tudor homes with a week's tight deadline. Unlike Extreme Makeover, we don't get to know the clients very well beyond the fact that they've run out of space and need help reorganizing inside and outside the house (landscaping also counts in the final score, with a "neighborhood council" deciding the winner). When one of the site (read: project) managers dubs himself "The General," you can pretty well predict the clashes to come. But even a genre that once gave us Omarosa may not prepare you for the preening arrogance of Elaine Griffin, a self-impressed designer who seems to have enjoyed her own Oprah exposure a bit too much. "I have the best taste," she declares early on, adding, "Never let my nice face fool you." It doesn't.
A SUNDAY REBIRTH: ABC hasn't enjoyed this sort of Sunday night buzz since the glory days of Desperate Housewives — or maybe the first season of Once Upon a Time and Revenge (the bloom having faded fast on those franchises). In its first two episodes, the emotionally charged Resurrection (9/8c) has struck a nerve, generating robust ratings with its provocative premise of a small town rocked when long-dead children, parents and (this week) paramours suddenly return to their loved (or not-so-loved) ones' lives, rocking their worlds and triggering wildly divergent reactions of acceptance and denial. Meditations on loss and mortality provide the series with a deeply personal focus, especially in the core story of Henry and Lucille (Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher, both excellent), who lost their little boy Jacob 32 years ago and haven't been able to regain their domestic equilibrium after the boy re-enters their home, seemingly unchanged — but as we're slowly learning, not quite the same, either. "What are you?" wonders Jacob's uncle, the town sheriff, and he's not alone in expressing fear and confused dismay over this apparent miracle.
There's also a criminal subplot involving another of the resurrected townies to keep it all from feeling too Hallmark, but I'm betting what's keeping people coming back is the fantastic and often poignant "what-if" framework. I initially thought it would be programming suicide to schedule a show like this against AMC's The Walking Dead, but Resurrection's approach to the undead genre couldn't be more different and is likely appealing to a very different audience. As I noted in my initial review, variety should also be the spice of life after death, and so far it seems to be working. (At least I think we can count on Jacob not turning into a junior psycho, sparing us the sort of trauma we're still reeling from after last week's devastating Walking Dead episode.)
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: On NBC's too good to miss (and deliciously creepy to boot) Hannibal (Friday, 10/9c), forensic whiz Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) continues to defy orders, surreptitiously consulting with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) on the "mural killer" case, as Will keeps pleading for someone to believe his theory of Hannibal's culpability in all the macabre mayhem that surrounds them. ... To prepare for next Wednesday's series finale, USA Network's Psych is offering a "Psych All-Night" marathon of six episodes chosen by the cast, starting Friday at midnight/11c and dubbed "Night of a Million Hundred Goodbyes." ... Genius-turned-action hero Leonardo da Vinci (Tom Riley) defends Florence from the Pazzi conspiracy as a second season of Starz's gonzo Da Vinci's Demons gets underway (Saturday 9/8c). ... John Leguizamo continues his autobiography-through-monologue in his fifth solo HBO special, an adaptation of his stage hit John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown (Saturday, 10/9c). ... Lifetime's charming Drop Dead Diva kicks off its sixth and final season with a two-hour Sunday opener (9/8c) in which Jane (Brooke Elliott) reveals all to Grayson (Jackson Hurst). It's about time. ... The election-rigging investigation gets even messier on CBS's The Good Wife (Sunday, 9/8c) as Alicia (Julianna Margulies) ropes her partner Cary (Matt Czuchry) into acting as her lawyer at a deposition. ... Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) is kidnapped by the killer stalking former CBI agents on CBS's The Mentalist (Sunday, 10/9c). ... It's Adam's (Adam Driver) opening night on the third-season finale of HBO's Girls (Sunday, 10/9c), probably not the best time for Hannah (Lena Dunham) to get potentially career- and life-changing news. What are the odds she'll keep it to herself?