The Big C The Big C

The Big C
10:30/9:30c Showtime
Cancer is no laughing matter. Then why is this new cable dramedy about a suburban Minneapolis housewife (the astoundingly talented Laura Linney) who's dying from melanoma so morbidly funny? Start with a stellar script that is insightful, moving and leavened with pointed and pertinent humor, and add in a top-flight cast that pumps life into what could be an extremely difficult subject. In the opening episode, the feisty and likable Cathy (Linney) tries to figure a way to tell her family — a teen son (Gabriel Basso), an estranged husband (Oliver Platt) and her homeless brother (John Benjamin Hickey) — the bad news. — Ray Stackhouse

Lie to Me

9/8c Fox
David Marciano's character on The Shield was no saint, but he never did anything bad enough to warrant what happens to him here, as he plays a death-row inmate. Marciano and five fellow Shield alums dot the guest cast for the episode, in which Cal learns that he made a fatal mistake 17 years ago that has present-day repercussions. The other Shield alums are David Rees Snell, Catherine Dent, Benito Martinez, Kenneth Johnson and Cathy Cahlin Ryan, who's married to Shield creator (and Lie to Me executive producer) Shawn Ryan. — Paul Droesch

10:05/9:05c Showtime
Season 6 opens where the previous one left off, with Shane having conked the witchy Pilar on the coconut with a croquet mallet and left her facedown in the swimming pool. Sounds like a game of Clue: Shane, with the mallet, on the pool deck. This leads the Botwins, including Baby Stevie, to take it on the lam. Nancy extends an invitation for Andy to join them, which leaves him on the horns of a dilemma: He can light out with the family, or the risk of being smote while trying to rescue his fiancée (Alanis Morissette), who's being held hostage by antiabortionist Gayle (Matt Peters). — Ray Stackhouse

Monday Night Football
8/7c ESPN
A mere football field or two away from their former home, the Giants and Jets collide for their annual preseason tussle in the New Meadowlands Stadium, which gets its first American football run-through following last week's U.S.-Brazil soccer match. The scoring should exceed last week's 2-0 final, but maybe not until well into the game, given the ragged, penalty-filled ways of the first games of August. Documenting the action are the ESPN Monday-night crew (no changes) as well as plenty of HBO cameras for Hard Knocks, the hit training-camp series that is following the Jets of Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and holdout Darrelle Revis. — Roger Leister

Bachelor Pad
8/7c ABC
A warning for reality-show contestants: Trapping a fellow contestant in the bathroom is not a good idea. It gives the others a very good reason, all other things being equal, to vote you off the show. Of course, all other things are never equal, but Michelle's loo-ny encounter with Tenley did send her back into the annals of Bachelor history anyway. Now, 17 guys and gals sharpen their knives for Round 2. ABC describes tonight's challenge as "stomach-churning," and don't be surprised if their stomachs are exposed as they churn. — Paul Droesch

Rizzoli & Isles
10/9c TNT
The crime show's inaugural season has kept Boston gal-pal crime-busters Jane and Maura quite busy. So far they've pursued a Boston Strangler-like slayer, tackled the head-spinning case of a possible exorcism gone wrong and investigated the shooting of a female college student. Our dynamic duo will find no rest tonight when a woman is brutally murdered while exiting a lesbian bar, with the shadowy Jane going undercover to solve the apparent hate crime. Meanwhile, Maura tries to forge a love connection between Jane and a yoga instructor. Brenda Strong and Antonio Sabato Jr. guest-star. — Dean Maurer

Real Housewives of New Jersey
10/9c Bravo
Wife life with a Garden State flair rolls on, as does the gang's stay in Italy. It's a European vacation and a holiday road with Teresa and Joe serving as tour guides, complete with myriad relatives, a meeting with a mayor and the Giudices dishing out and dishing up a family feast. We then cut to the Controversy Magnet herself, Danielle Staub, who meets with a private investigator in a bid to delve into her family roots. But there are Staub wounds when Danielle runs into familial roadblocks. — Dean Maurer