DRAMA

ABC (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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The fact that Gilligan's Island star Bob Denver died as the second season of Lost began has no significance. Right? Or will it someday be revealed that the castaways of Lost existed in some evanescent fragment in the mind of the actor—that the disastrous island crash of Flight 815 splintered off the SS Minnow's three-hour tour? Or maybe it's a scenario being pitched with saliva-spewing urgency by the Ancient Mariner to a studio assistant. Lost is true to its title: You're always tantalizingly disoriented, hunting the path to an answer. Last season some French lady, caked with dirt and living on the island for years, emerged like a longed-for prophet. But she was crazy. She seemed to have been sucking napalm fumes from a bong.

Anything goes on Lost. For that matter, anything comes. In the baffling-fascinating new season, the plot continues to be as densely knotted as a banyan tree. The survivors have recently begun exploring a bunker that may or may not be a doomsday trap. A second set of survivors has turned up, including Michelle Rodriguez with a curled lip that could scare back the tide. And the digits 4-8-15-16-23-42 keep recurring. They started as the lottery ticket that made an unhappy millionaire out of slacker Hurley Reyes (Jorge Garcia).

This is what tugs us along, these teasing threads. But the audience's deepest emotional connection comes from flash backs of lives pre-crash. They're easily the best segments of the show, or just about any TV drama. I've never cared for the zealous manliness of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn, with his cold pigeon eyes). But on the Oct. 5 episode we saw Locke back when he still had enough hair to manage a comb-over. He was pathetically vulnerable as he tried to choose between loving a decent woman and hounding the father who'd taken his kidney. Yes, kidney. A crazy story, but somewhere on Lost the truth will be found. Won't it?

DRAMA

CBS (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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Looking as if his life had permanently soured after biting into an especially bilious pickle, Mandy Patinkin gives a dourly amusing performance as Jason Gideon, a brilliant FBI behavioral analyst working with a team of profilers. One imagines Gideon, who quotes everyone from Churchill to Rose Kennedy, having hours of grim, thin-lipped fun Googling serial killers. It's not clear how seriously Patinkin takes the whole thing—it's the same actorly mystery that makes David Caruso's whispery bitterness such a kick on CSI: Miami. Minds doesn't bring anything new to the genre, and so far it hasn't exploited Thomas Gibson's damp, intelligent presence as a colleague. But the mysteries have nice touches: A black-headed grosbeak was the tipoff in one episode. Mr. Sour Pickle spotted it.

CRIME

ABC (Fridays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

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This hasn't been a great season for new sitcoms—Everybody Hates Chris is virtually the only one in which the execution cleanly fits the concept—but Hot Properties has a loose, engaging silliness. When a show's second episode is about a pet chicken that chokes to death after mistaking a bath-oil bead for a kernel of feed—well, you take heart, that's all. Properties is set up along the lines of Sex and the City, a giddy fashionista party about sexy Manhattan real estate agents, but the tone is closer to that camp hoot Designing Women. In the ensemble, the standout is Nicole Sullivan as sex-hungry middle-aged Chloe. She's the sort of sitcom character who wraps up a scene by chiming in with a put-down, but Sullivan has a weird little shiveriness that gives her lines a soft zing.

COMEDY

PBS (Oct. 23, check local listings)

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Rupert Everett has the lean height and falcon profile of a traditional Sherlock Holmes, but he's also an ex-model with an excellent set of shoulders and good hair: Would you really want him in a hunter's cap and Inverness cape? Instead he wears nicely tailored suits and moves through the sinister tendrils of London fog with the casual decadence of a man who has known the runway. It's as if Holmes's creator hadn't been Arthur Conan Doyle but Tom Ford. But Everett's take is original, and works quite well.

What's weak is the mystery—written by Allan Cubitt—about a fetishistic killer who stuffs stockings down the throats of Belgravia debutantes. Holmes's reasoning skills aren't best applied to irrational kink.

DRAMA

Lifetime (Oct. 24 and 25, 9 p.m. ET)

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In this two-part miniseries, four hours across two nights, Mira Sorvino is a New York City detective trying to bring down an international prostitution ring of such large, heartless scope that a cargo crate filled with young girls can be left in broad daylight on a noisy dock in Manila. No one hears the whimpers for help from inside. The show is big in scale, something like the British drug epic Traffik (which became the movie Traffic). It jumps from Kiev to Prague to New York to the Philippines, with one poor young woman after another roped in, beaten, raped and sexually enslaved.

It's an awful story, and it deserves a better production than this. The story strands don't pull together tightly enough, and Sorvino, who's the moral center, isn't exactly Helen Mirren. Her voice has a fidgety lilt that just doesn't sound right. She needs to get back to comedy.

CRIME

NBC (Fridays, 9 p.m. ET)

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Three Wishes is about sowing seeds of kindness that blossom into a garden of good feeling, but it can feel like a flower show dusted with endless sprayings of industrial fertilizer. Giant petals keep unfolding, heavy with grateful tears. It's exhausting. Amy Grant and her team visit a small community and, like a Blue Fairy facing a town hall of Pinocchios, take requests. The locals are all kind and deserve every red cent spent on improving their lives, but you're always aware of the producers' huffing and puffing. Assisting a family who lost their home to Katrina, the Wishes team take them from Houston (they'd already been evacuated) back to New Orleans's Superdome, then fly them to a prim new home in Brookings, S. Dak. There the family is made to watch footage of their ruined old house before being presented with salvaged mementos that survived the flood. How about just letting them sleep?

It' s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (ABC, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET) The classic cartoon about Linus and his poignant Halloween quest.

Commander in Chief (ABC, Oct. 25, 9 p.m. ET) President Allen (Geena Davis) has a terrorist scare. What color code?

Gilmore Girls (WB, Oct. 25,8 p.m. ET)

Rory (beautifully fragile Alexis Bledel) turns 21 and how's this for stunt casting?—former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gets a cameo.

America's Next Top Model (UPN, Oct. 26,8 p.m. ET) The contestants try on a 1940s pinup look to pose for a car commercial.

Masters of Horror (Showtime, Oct. 28, 10 p.m. ET) A 13-part anthology series of hour-long hair-raisers by top horror directors. First up: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm).

Shaun Cassidy

Nearly three decades after his stint on the pop charts, former teen idol Shaun Cassidy, 47, is now the creator and executive producer of ABC's sci-fi hit Invasion.

HOW DID YOU GO FROM POP TO THE PARANORMAL? My mother [The Partridge Family's Shirley Jones] loves horror. I think the perception of me as a kid was the boy next door. Maybe I lived next door, but I was reading Stephen King.

DO YOU STILL DA DOO RON-RON? Only when I'm drunk. I sing around the house. I love to sing, but I don't like being in the music business.

ARE YOUR IDOL DAYS OVER? I get 40-year-old women coming up to me all the time. It's like they're meeting Santa Claus. It always felt like it was a temporary thing for me...but if you were a poster on their ceiling, they never forget.

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Amy Bonawitz.