Insults never sounded sweeter than when Don Rickles was hurling hilarious barbs at his targets, whether innocent ringside onlookers or the rich and famous on a celebrity roast dais. At 88, though stooped and using a cane, he still gives as good as he gets, a fact brought home with delightful wit and genuine lump-in-the-throat sentiment in Spike TV's One Night Only: An All-Star Tribute to Don Rickles (Wednesday, 9/8c).
Filmed at the fabled Apollo Theatre, a perfect setting to showcase Rickles' equal-opportunity style of audacious but loving mockery, this rollicking event lives up to its billing with a roster that includes salutes from Jerry Seinfeld (citing the "three T's" in which Rickles excelled: "talent, timing and testicles"), Jon Stewart, Regis Philbin, the sparkling duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, another classic tag team of Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, recalling Rickles' work in Casino, and (earning the night's second-biggest ovation) David Letterman, who informs us, as if we needed reminding, that "Don Rickles makes life more fun." And while he remains seated for his climactic stand-up schtick, leaving none of his compatriots unscathed, Rickles proves he can still slay them from any position.
Clip reels of his classic Tonight Show appearances with Johnny Carson, and zingers delivered on many a Dean Martin celebrity roast, provide glimpses of a singular career and a charmed life that has earned him the ironic but appropriate nickname of "Mr. Warmth." (Of the many video tributes, the absolute highlight is from his closest friend Bob Newhart, whose hapless attempt at a self-made video is a quiet, brilliant hoot.)
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One of the show's participants, news anchor/bon vivant Brian Williams, is oddly at competition with himself, as the comedy special overlaps with his latest journalistic coup: Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden — An NBC News Exclusive With Brian Williams (10/9c, NBC). The interview with the exiled NSA whistle-blower was conducted last week in Moscow under a veil of secrecy, and is the sort of "get" that no doubt has Barbara Walters wondering why she retired so soon.
DANCING WITH THE STARS-TO-BE: Given the show's track record, chances are excellent that a future pro performer on Dancing With the Stars will be discovered during this season's auditions of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, the summer's best reality competition show, launching its 11th season (8/7c) with an emphasis on actual talent. Guest judges in the first round of tryouts include Wayne Brady in New Orleans and Jenna Elfman in Chicago, witnessing electrifying performances in all disciplines (and a dad dance-off that might better have been left on the cutting-room floor). New to this season: showdowns between dance crews sweating it out for viewers' tweets in hopes of performing on the show.
THE WEDNESDAY GUIDE: In a special two-hour edition of PBS's Nova, historians and underwater archaeologists explore D-Day's Sunken Secrets (9/8c, check tvguide.com listings), mapping the relics on the Normandy beaches' sea floor while giving credit to the engineering innovations that made the historic invasion a reality. ... DirecTV's Rogue begins a second season on Audience Network! (8/7c) with Grace (Thandie Newton) giving up the undercover life to focus on family — until the young undercover rookie she's overseeing goes missing, forcing her to go back into action. ... Break out the dictionaries. Coverage of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee begins with preliminary rounds streaming on ESPN3 starting at 8 am/ET (the championship finals are Thursday night on the main ESPN channel, and you know you'll be hanging on every word).