What's On This Week

SUNDAY, OCT. 5

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
9 P.M. | ABC
Understandably but unwisely, Lynette (Felicity Huffman, right) takes a peek into her (now teenage) son's romantic life.

MONDAY, OCT. 6

THE BIG BANG THEORY
8 P.M. | CBS
Penny (Kaley Cuoco) goes nuts for online gaming. Also: Sara Gilbert is in the new season's cast.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
8:30 P.M. | CBS
Everyone heads to New Jersey to sample the quiet glories of not living in Manhattan.

THURSDAY, OCT. 9

CSI
9 P.M. | CBS
The season starts as Gil Grissom (William Petersen, right) investigates the shooting of Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan).

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE WEEKEND UPDATE THURSDAY
9:30 P.M. | NBC
The first of three election specials, all with this annoyingly long title.

THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM
10:30 P.M. | COMEDY CENTRAL
The twinkly-yet-foul comic (quite a combo) in her new regular time slot.

FRIDAY, OCT. 10

THE STARTER WIFE
10 P.M. | USA
The miniseries starring Debra Messing (right) as a jilted Hollywood wife becomes a series. Judy Davis won an Emmy as her high-maintenance pal.

NEW SERIES!

NBC, Oct. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET

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COMEDY
Kath & Kim is one of the best sitcoms of the past 10 years—funny, fresh, with a cartoon vitality. My only wish is that I wasn't referring to the original Australian series (which aired here on the Sundance Channel). This disheartening American remake follows the basic recipe, but it's just one more cake left out in the rain.

Molly Shannon and Selma Blair star as a supremely tacky, stunningly unintelligent mother and daughter. Shannon is Kath, a wide-eyed, hip-swinging fortysomething divorcée whose husband-to-be (John Michael Higgins) owns a sandwich shop. Blair is her most lamentable offspring, Kim, a sullen, drawling grump who perks up when relating celebrity gossip. Shannon is a great comedian, but Kath never seems fired up with the unblinkered nuttiness that drove her old Saturday Night Live characters. And Blair makes Kim almost too believably awful: she's a room-emptier. These are talented ladies, and maybe the show will click. Until then, good luck.

NEW SERIES!

ABC, Oct. 9, 10:01 p.m. ET

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DRAMA
In a do-or-die moment on the trail of a potential serial killer, a New York City police detective (Jason O'Mara) is mowed down by a car. He wakes up and receives a second, stranger jolt. The iPod in his car has morphed into an eight-track player. Then, looking up, he's absolutely floored. There stand the Twin Towers. The cop has been thrown back to 1973—or is he in a coma and thinks it's 1973?

He's still a cop, somehow; only now his precinct station is as grim and grimy as any 1970s police movie, and the force includes Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli (with a gnarled mustache) and, the one spot of prim dignity, Gretchen Mol. Weirdest of all, a new assignment seems to put him in pursuit of the same killer from 2008. Based on a British series, Life starts with a smashing pilot. Wrapping procedural suspense in a fantastical premise, it conjures its own way-out atmosphere.

NEW SERIES!

CBS, Oct. 9, 10 p.m. ET

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DRAMA
Rufus Sewell is Jacob Hood, a Nobel-caliber biophysicist investigating crimes that hinge on questionable uses of science—black-market human cloning, for example, in the entertaining premiere. It's a less freakazoid Fringe. Sewell, a gloweringly handsome man who must have been conceived on a dark and stormy night, has fun with the role, reining in his firepower for the occasional emotional explosion.

NEW SERIES!

Bravo, Oct. 7, 9 p.m. ET

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REALITY
Bravo is launching a third edition of its Real Housewives franchise, with a cast predominantly of African-American power ladies. In the premiere they lavish themselves with luxury goods—the episode climaxes with a party featuring a cake decorated to look like a Louis Vuitton bag—and gossip about the battles between Sheree and her nemesis, a live wire named NeNe. Amusing, as always, but isn't Bravo on the verge of suburban sprawl? Next up: The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

• The 30-year-old actress couldn't be happier mucking around in murky conspiracies as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on Fox's new hit sci-fi thriller. Here are three reasons she loves her job.

HER NEW BOSS IS J.J. ABRAMS
"He creates great roles, particularly really strong, complex women. I loved Alias. It was addictive."

SHE AND COSTAR JOSHUA JACKSON ARE ALL GROWN UP
"When Dawson's Creek aired, I was in drama school. It would have been uncool if I'd watched it at that point, so I had no teenage crush on him. I think he was totally relieved."

HER ONLY DUTY IS TO THE SHOW
"The other week I spoke to a lady in the FBI. They have a massive sense of duty. They choose to save the world every day and still go home to their family. I chose to be an actor because it's the least responsible thing. I like to focus really intensely for short periods."

>• Mandel, 52, gets a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame just as Deal or No Deal, the biggest hit in his career, goes into syndication.

YOU'VE DONE DRAMA, COMEDY AND FAMILY SHOWS. WHY DEAL?
All the interview skills [from] my talk show, all the improvisation skills from stand-up, all the dramatic skills from St. Elsewhere—it all culminates in this one job. It's the best thing I've ever done.

AND NOW YOU'VE GOTTEN A STAR.
It's like karma. Here's a guy who's the ultimate germaphobe, and the biggest accolade I've ever received is something that is going to be stepped on, spit on, stained and made filthy!

HOW WILL YOU DEAL WITH THAT?
I went over to it after everybody was gone and put some Saran Wrap on it. Is that wrong?