FOX (Wed., Jan. 19, 9 p.m. ET)
DRAMA

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The night after its premiere, this series settles into the Thursday slot following The O.C. Nothing could be more appropriate, since both shows are about an attractive young stranger arriving in a seaside community and shaking things up. Oh, there are a couple of differences: On Point Pleasant the newcomer is a girl, and she happens to be the spawn of Satan.

Sorry to sound so blasé about the character's parentage, but the supernatural is so overexposed on TV nowadays—as are teenage hard bodies at the beach. Co-creator Marti Noxon, a former writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cobbles together the familiar elements with a fair amount of skill but a discouraging lack of inspiration.

Lifeguard Jesse Parker (Sam Page) doesn't know that Christina Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois) is the devil's daughter when he spots her floating off the New Jersey coast and rescues her in a raging storm. Neither do Dr. Ben Kramer (Richard Burgi), wife Meg (Susan Walters) or daughter Judy (Aubrey Dollar), the trusting souls who invite Christina to make herself at home while she searches for her long-lost mother. And Christina herself is unaware that her human mom had a child by the Prince of Darkness. The audience is clued in because it hears some exposition from a mystery man (Grant Show) who'll be moving to Point Pleasant to steer Christina toward dark doings and away from the softer side of her dual nature.

Harnois is effortlessly sexy, but her character seems much too well-bred to be even half-demonic. The show would be more believable if Jesse's temptress girlfriend, Paula (Cameron Richardson), could call the devil Daddy.

PBS (Mon.-Tues., Jan. 17-18, 9 p.m. ET)
DOCUMENTARY

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When you're dealing with Ken Burns, director of monumental documentaries such as Jazz and The Civil War, time is always a factor. Does his new profile of Jack Johnson, boxing's first African-American heavyweight champion, really need to be four hours long?

It wouldn't if Burns were interested only in Johnson's ring career, which peaked in 1910 when he successfully defended his title against "great white hope" Jim Jeffries. But this fine film also takes on the big job of explaining the poisoned racial climate that made white America so frightened at the thought of a black champ—particularly a proud, flashy one who drew no color line in his active sex life. More than a biography, Unforgivable Blackness is a substantial work of social history.

But don't think you're in for a lecture. The film clips of Johnson's fights are good enough to provide a sharp picture of his punching power and Muhammad Ali-like panache.

Sci Fi Channel (Fridays, 10 p.m. ET)
SCI-FI

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Following up on the 2003 mini-series, this show is a well-crafted, surprisingly intelligent update of ABC's late-'70s Star Wars clone.

As the series launches with two Jan. 14 episodes (starting at 9 p.m.), the last human survivors are wandering through space in a motley fleet, trying to stay one jump ahead of the robot attackers called Cylons. The human military leader, Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos), has a wary relationship with civilian president Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who enlists Adama's son Apollo (Jamie Bamber) as a close adviser. The political maneuvering and philosophical debates have relevance for our own time, but there's more than enough action to keep the show from getting preachy. There's also a sexual thrill every time Number 6 (Tricia Heifer), a robot in gorgeously human form, invades the mind of weak-willed scientist Gaius Baltar (James Callis). Unfortunately, the Jan. 21 episode suffers from the guest-star casting of Richard Hatch (Apollo in the ABC original), who seems rather rusty as a supposedly charismatic rebel.

Golden Globe Awards (NBC, Jan. 16, 8 p.m. ET) Jamie Foxx has a shot in three acting categories, while Robin Williams gets the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement.

I love the '90s: Part Deux (VH1, Jan. 17, 9 p.m. ET) Mo Rocca's smarty-pants comments highlight another five-night nostalgia trip through a decade we haven't had time to forget.

American Idol (FOX, Jan. 18, 8 p.m. ET) Watch for Simon Cowell to go negative early and often as the talent contest begins its fourth season with a two-hour audition episode.

The Apprentice (NBC, Jan. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET) Mr. Trump divides the field into Book Smarts and Street Smarts in the 90-minute season opener.

Monk (USA, Jan. 21, 10 p.m. ET) The sleuth (Tony Shalhoub) meets the woman who'll become his new assistant (Traylor Howard from Two Guys and a Girl).

Sexy Gabrielle, frazzled Lynette, uptight Bree or klutzy Susan: The ladies of Wisteria Lane are all desperate in their own way. Which one do you most root for? Four writers give us four different perspectives.

GABRIELLE (EVA LONGORIA) In a guilty pleasure show, Gabrielle is the guiltiest pleasure of all. What's more reckless than having an affair with an underage gardener? Longoria plays Gabrielle with such breezy perfection that you can't take your eyes off her. The only thing steelier than her emotions is her yoga-sculpted body. And don't mistake some cracks in her armor for signs of weakness. The same episode in which she confessed to her lover's mom, she also burned her husband's passport, dooming him to languish in prison. Let's face it: There's really only one truly desperate housewife.

LYNETTE (FELICITY HUFFMAN) A plumber with a secret mission, a busybody bludgeoned by a blender, a husband dallying with a dominatrix—so much camp, mystery, sex. And all great fun. But can we please have one real, recognizable suburban woman? Here she is: an overburdened mother of; four, several of them hyperactive. A onetime career woman whose dynamism is useless up against kids who hate brussels sprouts. Stressed out, worn out, fraying, confused, a would-be soccer mom kicked by the indignities of life. She gets up and tries again.

BREE (MARICA CROSS) Yes, I covet her meticulously organized Tupperware collection. And yes, her flawless homemaking skills are enough to make us ordinary housewives feel incompetent by comparison. But that's also what makes Bree so much fun to watch: She tackles hurdles big (her husband's infidelity) and small (a torn-up front yard) with unwavering resolve—making her the only Housewife who doesn't wallow in self-pity. All that, plus a to-die-for osso buco recipe. Spend an hour with Bree and you'll be itching to unleash the domestic diva within.

SUSAN (TERI HATCHER) She's real...and she's spectacular. Susan is just one of the girls: a caring mom, a compassionate friend, a woman done wrong by men in her past. I even forgive her those beauty queen looks because she's such a fun klutz. With Lucille Ball flair she torches houses and locks herself out of the house buck naked. But even after a Dynasty-like catfight leaves her looking like fashion road-kill, she struts the runway with head held high for charity's sake. This girl's got heart. Let's hope that hunky plumber doesn't throw a wrench in it.

  • Contributors:
  • Terry Kelleher,
  • Tom Cunneff,
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Michelle Tauber,
  • Natasha Stoynoff.