He's a hunkier Chuck with the mad fighting skills, reckless bravado -- and propensity toward angst -- of Alias's Sydney Bristow. Meet TV's new Six Billion Dollar Man, Gabriel Vaughn, who you'll recognize as Sawyer from Lost. And Josh Holloway is very much the main reason to tune into CBS's Intelligence (Tuesday, 9/8c), a proficient if initially perfunctory action thriller that benefits immeasurably from its star's gruff, bluff machismo. Although a little less brooding (over a long-missing wife who might be a terrorist) would make Gabriel, and Intelligence, a lot more fun.
The first episodes -- it moves to Mondays at 10/9c next week after getting an NCIS lead-in to ensure sampling -- force us to endure reams of clumsy exposition from frosty boss lady Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), droning on about how Gabriel is "the most valuable piece of technology this country has ever created," a reckless Delta Force maverick equipped with a computer chip that makes him a virtual know (and often see) it all. "We've spent billions of dollars creating something that every nation on Earth would go to war to possess," Lillian informs Gabriel's new Secret Service sidekick/babysitter Riley Neal (Meghan Ory), who naturally takes her sweet time warming up to her arrogant client. No wonder, given that he has a way of throwing himself into harm's way, regardless of the government's investment.
I won't insult your intelligence by making grand claims for Intelligence's ambitions beyond displaying Gabriel's killer apps and Holloway's killer abs. You probably already know if this one's for you.
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The eye candy is even more abundant on Parker, Texas Ranger -- better known as ABC's Killer Women (10/9c), starring willowy TV siren Tricia Helfer as Molly Parker, part of a new generation of female gunslingers. She's a knockout as a defiantly sexy lone ranger, whose gene pool is something to behold (her rancher brother is played by fellow Battlestar Galactica alum Michael Trucco). Wish I could say the same for her uneven star vehicle, exec produced by Sofia Vergara. The show veers from brazen to banal, often within a scene. Her first case (all that was available for preview), which begins with the shooting of a bride at the altar, takes a too maudlin turn, as does Molly's backstory as the victim of an abusive marriage. On the job, fighting sexism and turf wars between shoot-outs and car chases, she's on more solid and robustly entertaining ground. Same goes for her hot fling with a DEA agent (Marc Blucas). When they strip, guns come off before clothes. This is Texas, y'all. And you may very well feel like you've been to this rodeo before.
JUSTIFIABLY ACCLAIMED: Cutting through the clutter of an overstuffed night of TV with originality, unpredictability and wry licks of mordant humor that serve as an homage to the late, great Elmore Leonard -- who created the character of laconic but lethal Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens -- FX's Justified (10/9c) goes way beyond its Kentucky roots in a fifth-season opener that wracks up quite a bloody body count before it's over.
"Think of it like a family trip," Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) tells Raylan (the subtly sublime Timothy Olyphant) as he sends the reluctant marshal back down to his old Florida stomping grounds to rattle the cage of the infamous Crowes, the sort of deadly backwoods clan that is a Justified specialty. We already know dim bulb Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), who has found a way to cash in on his enmity with the law. "The Crowes are a terrible family," grouses Raylan -- who has his own family connection in the Sunshine State. That's where Winona (Natalie Zea) has gone with their offspring. Will Raylan be able to mix personal with professional duty? That's a spoiler, but he surely has his hands full with new foils among the murder of Crowes he encounters down south, including the savage Darryl Jr. (Michael Rapaport, an odd but so far effective casting) and the alluring Wendy (Alicia Witt), who appears to be the sharpest legal mind of the bunch.
Meanwhile, in an even darker subplot, Raylan's nemesis Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) heads north to Detroit with his fractious partner in crime Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) for a macabre sojourn in the dying city with local and Canadian mobsters and drug dealers, including a startling cameo by two guest stars better known for their comic chops.
All roads eventually lead back to Kentucky, where the blend of mirth and mayhem promises to be as irresistible as ever.
"SO MUCH STUPID!" In the woozy-on-wine world of Cougar Town, which is kicking off an improbable fifth season on TBS, these words from cynical Ellie (Christa Miller) are almost a compliment. The silliness at least has a focus in the giddy premiere (10/9c), as Jules (Courteney Cox) and her blotto tribe are understandably squirmy in the presence of newly minted lovebirds Travis (Dan Byrd) and Laurie (Busy Phillips), whose PDAs earn the description -- coined by Ellie, of course -- "Awww-blech!" Which is a perfect expression of this show's mastery of undercutting sentiment with snark, as in the episode's best subplot, which involves Bobby (Brian Van Holt) rolling in dough after Penny Cam goes global, prompting Grayson (Josh Hopkins) to try to get the barfly to pay his staggering bar tab.
THE TUESDAY GUIDE: And these highlights are just the tip of Tuesday's TV iceberg. Other options: Arrow's Susanna Thompson returns to CBS's NCIS (8/7c) as Gibbs' ex, Hollis Mann, who helps the team look for a deadly stolen drone. ... Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) makes a discovery about the nature of his "death" on ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.(8/7c). ... We've now met the sinister Control (Camryn Manheim), who's heading up the government's search for The Machine on CBS's Person of Interest (10:01/9:01c). But as last month's cliffhanger concludes, can the team fend off multiple enemies without the help of still-MIA Reese (Jim Caviezel)? ... ABC Family's hit Pretty Little Liars(8/7c) resumes the intrigue with the Liars club reeling from the knowledge that Alison is alive, followed by the return of spinoff Ravenswood (9/8c). ... A double bill of intriguing documentaries on PBS, starting with the always compelling history series American Experience turning back the clock to the dawn of forensic science in 1918 New York City in The Poisoner's Handbook (check tvguide.com listings). A more contemporary crime story unfolds in Frontline's investigative report To Catch a Trader (check tvguide.com listings), which goes inside the government crackdown on hedge fund SAC Capital that led to the largest insider trading case in U.S. history. Now that's what I call intelligence.