The summer TV season is winding down, but there's still plenty going on this week. A few annotated highlights:
The Dancing With the StarsCast Reveal No, even this isn't enough to get me to suggest anyone actually tune into pap like ABC's Bachelor Pad. Between Twitter and the Internet (may I humbly suggest tvguide.com), you'll be covered, should you care to know just who it is we'll be gaping at and mocking (should they stumble) throughout the fall. The names have been flying fast and furious — my favorite in the rumor mill: Chaz Bono (Will Cher be a regular in the audience? Doubtful, but we can hope) — and soon, we'll know for real.
Warehouse 13 (Monday, 9/8c, Syfy) From captain of a starship to regent of a Warehouse, hard to say if that's a promotion for Kate Mulgrew, but it's always good to see her back in the sci-fi world. She checks in to the whimsical fantasy hit for a four-episode arc as "Jane" (an homage to Voyager's Capt. Janeway, perhaps?), one of the embattled Regents who has a "complex past" with one of the Warehouse agents (I'm guessing Artie). The decisions she makes will play a key role in the survival of the Warehouse — which has already been renewed for another season, so don't get too worried.
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Death Valley (Monday, 10:30/9:30c, MTV) Having bounced back from the Skins debacle with scripted summer successes Teen Wolf and (a personal fave) Awkward, MTV launches three new series tonight. The one I'm most eager to see is this horror-comedy — think a hybrid of Shaun of the Dead and Fox's Cops — that, from the teasers, looks to be audaciously graphic and irreverently shocking, as it follows an LAPD "Undead Task Force" as they hunt down zombies, vamps and werewolves in the San Fernando Valley. The other newbies are Ridiculousness (10/9c), hosted by Rod Dyrdek, a viral-video hodgepodge that sounds like a rip-off of Comedy Central's breakout Tosh 2.0; and at 11/10c, Cuff'd, a docu-series that, despite its punctuation, is not a variation on Punk'd. This show rides along in the back seat of police cruisers with young perps on the way to booking as they open up to the camera as if they were on an episode of Taxicab Confessions. Apparently they don't know they have the right to remain silent. Besides, that wouldn't make good TV. I'm sticking with the zombies.
Pretty Little Liars (Tuesday, 8/7c, ABC Family) It's midseason finale time, so expect cliffhangers galore as "A," in retaliation for the Fearful Foursome having blabbed about "A" to MIA therapist Anne, sends each of the girls off on assignments to do her fiendish bidding. Can they save Dr. Anne, regardless of who else gets hurt along the way? I'd be lying if I said this was keeping me up at night, but hey, who am I to judge others' guilty pleasures? (Helpful viewing hint: If you've fallen behind, a daylong marathon begins at 11 am/10c.)
Armadillo (Tuesday, PBS; check listings for time) Reminiscent of the award-winning Restrepo, POV presents a controversial Danish war documentary that follows a platoon of young Danish soldiers over six months in 2009, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of an international NATO force. Idealism soon devolves into a fight for survival against an implacable enemy. (If the realism is too much for you, there's always ABC's Combat Hospital at 10/9c, in which Dr. Rebecca takes over the triage unit when her commanding officer Col. Marks is wounded in an explosion.)
Rescue Me (Wednesday, 10/9c, FX) Only two episodes to go, and this one is not to be missed, as it shifts gears effortlessly from comedy to scorching drama. The funny business takes place at Colleen's wedding, where Tommy fights for the right to walk his rebellious daughter down the aisle. It's a showcase of socially awkward moments, capped by an hysterical drunken soliloquy from Callie Thorne's Sheila. Soon enough, work intrudes, and the phrase "big buildings, big problems" proves to be an understatement.
Hot in Cleveland (Wednesday, 10/9c, TV Land) In other summer finale news, Cleveland offers its own version of The Hangover in the morning-after wake of Elka's bachelorette party, with a missing bride, a giant iguana and a room of frat boys triggering flashbacks. Guest stars include Carl Reiner, Buck Henry, Dick Van Patten and Don Rickles — but not, apparently, Mike Tyson. (The show will return in late November.)
Nick News With Linda Ellerbee (Thursday, 9/8c, Nickelodeon) The great Linda Ellerbee, for 20 years a straight-talking purveyor of public-affairs programming for kids, takes on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001. The goal is to clear up misconceptions among those too young to remember the actual day, while providing remembrances from witnesses who were kids at the time, including a boy who was in the Florida classroom when President Bush learned of the attacks. Essential TV, highly recommended for families to watch together.
Burn Notice (Thursday, 9/8c, USA Network) Guest-star alert, as Buffy-Angel alum Charisma Carpenter appears on Burn Notice as the trophy wife of a bio-weapons specialist, who's this week's target as Michael and Fiona go undercover as a married couple at a South American resort. An hour later, on Suits, Gary Cole shows up as Harvey's mentor, now a district attorney, who needs help when his office comes under investigation. This is one of USA's better back-to-back pairings.
Louie (Thursday, 10:30/9:30c, FX) Following last week's triumphant hour-long episode, in which Louis C.K. entertained the troops in Afghanistan with a stowaway duckling along for the ride, the comedian now contends with a much more intimidating adversary: a sullen, uncommunicative 13-year-old niece (Gideon Adlon, daughter of consulting producer/sometimes co-star Pamela) who has been abruptly left in his care by his unstable sister. Watching Louie try to crack the adolescent's shell isn't pretty, but it's pretty funny.