REALITY

ABC (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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I'm in love. Suave, self-deprecating, smashing in tails: Who knew J. Peterman was such a hot number? That the former Seinfeld day player—a.k.a. actor John O'Hurley—dances a mean quickstep is just one of the many unexpected pleasures of this strangely time-warped show. Heavy blue eye shadow? Check. Grease dance routine? Check. Oddball assortment of no-list celebs looking like they boogied on over from the Fantasy Island nightclub? Oh yeah. All that, plus a game Evander Holyfield cha-cha-cha-ing to "Respect." Just try not to grin.

Of course, none of this makes much sense. From the random "stars" (including O'Hurley, Holyfield, model Rachel Hunter and former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre) to the even more random song selection—one night featured Enrique Iglesias's "Hero" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"—the entire show feels like a fever dream after a long pub crawl. And yet the show's off-kilter European sensibility—it first emerged as a hit in Britain—just adds to the fun. The setup is simple: Each celeb is paired with a professional dancer; the duos then hoof it in an effort to win over viewers, who get to vote for their favorites, American Idol-style. A panel of three judges helps determine who gets the hook.

Enter Bruno Tonioli, Dancing's barking Chihuahua of a judge (think Simon Cowell but smaller and with an Italian accent). After observing Holyfield stomp his way through the quickstep he declared, "It was a bit like watching Terminator keeping up with Tinkerbell." To Hunter he gushed, "You have the potential of being a looove goddess of the dance floor!"

It's all so much fun, in fact, that I propose Dancing viewing parties: Break out the wine and crackers and let ABC provide the delicious, calorie-free cheese.

SCI-FI

USA (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

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So now we know: 4,400 people who vanished over the past century and suddenly reappeared in a glowing ball of light weren't abducted by aliens, but by people from the future who endowed them with psychic abilities to help alter the course of history. At least that was the mind-boggling revelation on this smartly crafted show's season finale last year. This season, the ex-abductees exercise their powers, and the result is a sort of mini Twilight Zone every week. In the June 19 episode, guest star Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) plays a salesman who discovers his saliva can induce instant weight loss—only his customers wind up starving to death. Among the regulars, keep your eye on Jacqueline McKenzie, as a federal agent out to protect the 4,400, and Billy Campbell, as a self-styled guru who shrewdly exploits the other 4,399.

REALITY

NBC (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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In something of a high-society variation on The Apprentice, Kathy Hilton, the rich, beautifully styled mama of Paris, oversees two teams of young bumpkins competing for $200,000 and a Manhattan apartment. Along the way, she showers them with invaluable pointers on etiquette. The lady Hilton is gracious in a tightly coiled way, like a glittering mechanical nightingale that sings of p's and q's. But come on: Not in a million debutantes' balls would she be on network TV, serving her protégés escargots at the 21 Club, if her daughter (possibly with more skill and cunning than she's given credit for) hadn't splashed some mud on the family name. Paris turns up in episode 2, by the way.

Celebrity Charades (AMC, June 20, 9 p.m. ET) Chad Lowe and Hilary Swank are among the brains behind a new game show where stars like Julianna Margulies and Stanley Tucci play for charity.

A Tribute to George Lucas (USA, June 20, 9 p.m. ET) Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and others fete the Star Wars visionary.

The Real World: Austin (MTV, June 21, 10 p.m. ET) The reality show launches its 16th season with seven colorful new roomies in a palatial Lone Star pad.

Rescue Me (FX, June 21, 10 p.m. ET) Troubled New York City firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) tries to get his life back on track in the second season premiere.

Nadine in Date Land (Oxygen, June 25, 8 p.m. ET) Janeane Garofalo stars in this TV movie as the owner of a struggling dating service who must rekindle an old flame in exchange for a financial bailout from her meddling mother.

Keri Russell

For Keri Russell, 29, dormitory days are a thing of the past. After taking a year off to hang out with friends, the former Felicity star is back at work. She appeared on Broadway last year in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig and now she plays a pioneer in TNT's six-part miniseries Into the West.

ON STARRING IN A PERIOD PIECE I've always wanted to do a western. I grew up watching them on Saturday afternoons with my dad. I'm attracted to that whole lifestyle. I'd ridden horses before, but [it was while filming this that] I learned to really ride.

ON LIFE AFTER FELICITY It must be on reruns again because people in the subway are coming up to me all of a sudden. It's funny. I still have a lot of friends from the show. Scott Speedman [who played beau Ben Covington] is practically my best friend. But when we talk we don't talk about Felicity. We talk about our lives.

ON HER GUILTIEST PLEASURE My girlfriends and I love The Bachelor. Love it, love it, love it! We have this one girlfriend in mind to be the next Bachelorette and think we all should be on it. I'm a sucker for romance.

Deadliest Catch

1 Think Animal Planet meets The World Series of Poker: In this Discovery Channel series, cameras follow Alaskan crab fishing crews through high seas, sleepless nights and the slaphappy rush of hauling in Volkswagen-size pots of valuable crustaceans. (Exceptionally lucky crewmen can earn tens of thousands for a few days' work.) A big plus: Unlike most reality TV, nobody here has plucked eyebrows, implants, Hollywood dreams or a life that will be magically transformed in 52 minutes by liposuction and Da Vinci veneers.

2 Catch veers wildly between real drama and pure pop cheese. In episode 6, one of 250 boats in the fleet goes down, with five crewmen lost. Still, Discovery's attempts to make crab fishing relevant to the MTV generation lead to frequent, unintentional entertainment: What's not to love about the sight of thousands of wriggling Opilio crabs being hauled aboard to the musical bombast of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive"? Also, hats off to whoever came up with Catch's version of the "big reveal": the show-ending Budweiser crab count. (You go, Captain Sig!)

3 A man bites the head off a herring.

  • Contributors:
  • Michelle Tauber: Mike Lipton,
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Laura J. Downey,
  • Cutler Durkee.