BY TOM GLIATTO
This procedural drama about FBI profilers tracking down devious masterminds has been having a good second season, ranking in the Top 10. It's oddly, comfortably enjoyable, given the subject. Maybe that's because these monsters are impelled to perpetrate awful crimes by recognizable, even garden-variety frustrations. A terrorist planting bombs has mother issues. A sicko who locks girls in an underground vault and urges them to kill each other feels like a loser in his small town. Perhaps we identify—with the small-town resentment, I mean, not the vault. The show has a solid cast (Paget Brewster is joining), with one stand-out player among the agents. If you guessed Mandy Patinkin, he of the acid scowl that could wilt weeds, you fail to penetrate the labyrinth of my mind. No, it's Thomas Gibson, who plays Agent Hotchner with a somber, troubled intelligence that seems absolutely true and real.
ABC (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)
With his barrel chest puffed out in a red vest that makes him look like a carnival barker or maybe an elf from hell, host William Shatner stands before a studio audience and announces, "If giving away money is wrong, then, America, I don't want to be right!" This is why Shatner remains employable: He's so smarmily over the top, he's entertaining.
Here he presides over the latest game show concept from the Deal or No Deal
producers. A contestant answers trivia questions, then chooses one of a chorus of dancing girls to find out how much he's won (each girl unrolls a little banner to reveal the amount, but beware: some of them subtract from a player's winnings). The girls also gyrate their hips a lot. This game show eye-candy stuff is getting stale. Why couldn't we have old-time seamstresses who look up wearily from their stitching and unfurl bolts of fabric? The game, at least in the segment provided for review, seems to dawdle: The contestant is given too much time to answer. The chief interest is watching Shatner doing his own weird little samba steps.
CBS (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)
Although its ratings this season have suffered many fine flicks of the scalpel from ABC's Grey's Anatomy
, this pioneering forensics drama is by no means ready for that grim old morgue in its sixth year. It wasn't the greatest idea to counterprogram by casting Kevin Federline
as a gang leader in a pig's mask: The episode was like a preschoolers' Clockwork Orange
. (A Nov. 23 appearance by The Who's Roger Daltry makes more sense.) But CSI
remains unequaled in exploiting a sense of place—Las Vegas—to sustain atmosphere. Plus, any show starring the grittily nuanced Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger would be worth watching. How I envy your carroty hair, Marg, and your glamorous air of seen-it-allness. Would I watch her over Grey's Sandra Oh
? Hmmm—that's why there's TiVo. Meanwhile, something's up with William Petersen as Gil Grissom. Migraines. Holing up in his office. Trouble's on the way.
"I've learned so much doing the show," says A.J. Cook, 28, who plays the unit's press liaison. "We get these scripts and you think, wow, there's no way this could have happened. But most of our scripts are based on actual cases." Another thing has her saying wow: CM's
ratings success versus Lost. "Everybody's been in a great mood on the set. I just want to see smiles on everyone's faces."
American Music Awards
(ABC, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. ET) Mariah Carey
's comeback continues: She's in the lead with three nominations. Carrie Underwood
and Beyoncé will be singin'.
Two and a Half Men
(CBS, Nov. 20, 9 p.m. ET) The single guys go on a double date, leaving little Jake (Angus T. Jones) home alone for the first time.
He's a Bully, Charlie Brown
(ABC, Nov. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET) A brand new "Peanuts" cartoon, this one about trouble at summer camp.
Madonna: The Confessions Tour—Live from London
(NBC, Nov. 22, 8 p.m. ET) Actually, taped at Wembley Stadium last summer. So what? It's Madge in action.
Walking the Bible
(PBS, check local listings) Rebroadcast of Bruce Feiler's popular three-part travelogue-history series retracing Bible legends, all the way up Mount Ararat in search of Noah's Ark.
The lean, blazingly intense actor, 50, has been a great addition to FOX's Prison Break, which has its fall finale Nov. 27. He's agent Alexander Mahone, a guy on the trail with his own secrets.
ON KNOWING WHAT TWISTS LIE AHEAD We [only] get the scripts as they come, and I'm very happy to say I'm completely okay with that, because I love what they write. I told the writers, "I don't want to twirl the mustache. It's not interesting to me." And they've [respected] that.
ON THOSE PILLS MAHONE POPS When you think about when he takes them, it's usually a circumstance where something is overwhelming and something is getting to him. The writers could kill me for saying this, but to me it's always been when he needs a little help. He obviously has something eating him up inside.
ON STAYING FIT It's not like I wake up and think, "Oh God, I have to go to the gym." It's just pretty much a given. I do cardio, light weights and a good stretch, and I always try to get to the pool for at least a 15-minute swim.
ON HIS INTENSITY We all have superintensity in dark places. But you shouldn't drag it from the set. When I'm home, it's floor time with my little one [Vangel, 4] or I shoot hoops with [14-year-old] Sam Austin. Listen, if you take interesting roles and you've got cheekbones, everybody thinks you kill people.
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
In 1990 fabulously square Aaron Spelling found unexpected pop relevance producing this teen oriented melodrama about affluent L.A. high-schoolers. Extras here include commentary from creator Darren Star, who teamed again with Spelling in 1992 on an even hipper show about a more grownup L.A. crowd,
MELROSE PLACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
. But what price hipness? Only weeks before Spelling died this June at 86, daughter and 90210 alum Tori was starring in a one-season VH1 sitcom that giddily skewered her pampered upbringing and family,
. Tori provides commentary on this set, which includes a never-broadcast episode.
The Chicago director filmed some spectacular superstar duets for the Nov. 21 NBC special Tony Bennett: An American Classic
. He recalls the starry company.
TONY AND BARBRA STREISAND Barbra said to him, "So, Tony, how often do you sing? Because I don't sing for months." And he said to her, "I sing every day! I'm always singing! I'm shaving, and I'm humming." As soon as he gets up every morning, he sings. He said to her, "My secret is, I don't push."
TONY AND STEVIE WONDER They sing "For Once in My Life." It's one of the most thrilling musical moments I've heard. Stevie came up onstage, and he told me he'd just lost his mother and how it's so important you have someone who believes in you. He and Tony connect so deeply.
TONY AND ELTON JOHN Oh my gosh, yes, they got along. Elton took the microphone and said to the entire crew, "You do understand—this is Tony Bennett and he is the last of the breed!"
TONY AND CHRISTINA AGUILERA
She looks like Jean Harlow, she's all dressed in this incredible white gown and he's in white tie and tuxedo. He's always interested in the new, in who's new, the artist who is special and who'll have legs—and he really feels that about Christina.
CBS (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)