Men of a Certain Age

TNT, Dec. 7, 10 p.m. ET |

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COMEDY

Ray Romano, in his first TV series since Everybody Loves Raymond, cocreated and costars in a very fine, rather forlorn comedy about three friends in middle age. The other two are Scott Bakula, as a single, washed-up actor now coasting on charm, and Andre Braugher as a car salesman, married with a family, forever in the shadow of his belittling father, who owns the dealership. Romano has his own party-supply store—only there's no celebration: He and his wife are splitting, and he hasn't got his gambling addiction under control. In terms of its acting and writing, its skill and honesty at capturing the pain (and humor) of grappling with failure, this hour-long show couldn't be better. But where can Certain Age go? A long run probably would lead only into a grim, worried retirement—I don't see this becoming The Golden Guys.

Alice

Syfy, Dec. 6, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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FANTASY

Like 2007's Tin Man, Syfy's elaborately awful interpretation of The Wizard of Oz, Alice shoehorns the Lewis Carroll classic into what feels like a contemporary cyberdream—The Matrix's Neo going down the rabbit hole. Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is a martial-arts instructor whose boyfriend is abducted to an alternate universe. She follows him by chasing after a humanized White Rabbit, who looks and sounds like the elderly Gore Vidal. At the heart of this world is a casino—ah, metaphorical house of cards!—ruled over by the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates, speaking in a clipped, petulant voice). She wants to drain the emotions of brainwashed prisoners whose feet are somehow glued to the floor of her gambling hall. Oh. From time to time Alice comes close to being as far-out as it's meant to be: I'd never have expected the Walrus to pull a gun on the Carpenter. Otherwise, instead of curiouser and curiouser, it just gets dumber and dumber.

Teen Mom

MTV, Dec. 8, 10 p.m. ET/PT

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REALITY

The natural sequel to 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom follows four teenagers from that series' first season. Catelynn has let her child be adopted by a couple, while the other three are raising their infants with varying degrees of support from their significant others and families.

Their struggles are documented in a straightforward, simple style that makes for touching, often sad viewing. Farrah and her mother bicker over whether she should date. Amber, feeling trapped at home, is having anxiety attacks. Maci and her fiancé decide who should change diapers by playing rock-paper-scissors. It's like the inverse of all the fun on The City—which is the point.

>1 WILLIAM SHATNER'S RAW NERVE

SUN. 12/6 10 P.M. BIO

The space dude's talk show is back. Guest: Rush Limbaugh.

2 CARRIE UNDERWOOD

MON. 12/7 8 P.M. FOX

Her All-Star Holiday Special features tidings from Dolly Parton and David Cook.

3 TOP CHEF

WED. 12/9 10 P.M. BRAVO

The Vegas season, hosted by willowy Padma Lakshmi, ends in Napa for the finale.

4 BARBARA WALTERS PRESENTS

WED. 12/9 10:01 P.M. ABC

Her most fascinating people of '09, including Lady Gaga.

5 SANDRA LEE CELEBRATES

SAT. 12/12 8 P.M. HGTV

Helping the parents of newborn triplets preserve family holiday memories.

>Does anyone on Modern Family have a job?

They've barely worked on-air, but most of the show's adults are indeed employed, says cocreator and executive producer Steven Levitan. "Over time, their jobs will come out." He's "95 percent sure" that patriarch Jay (Ed O'Neill, below) is a "Closet King" with a lucrative custom-design business, but that plan could change: "We want to leave ourselves lots of places to go down the line."

>• The Sports Night actor, 38, plays lawyer Will Gardner on CBS's hit freshman drama.

DO YOU ENJOY BEING BACK ON TV?

These are very complex characters, but it's fun. You're dealing with such drama, any time you can infuse some humor in it, it is really refreshing. And having never played a lawyer before, the research has been fun for me.

WHAT LAW SHOWS DID YOU WATCH AS A KID?

For me it all started with Judge Wapner on The People's Court. When you ask me about law and taking this job, that's my frame of reference. He was a lot of people's introduction to the power of law, and law as entertainment. It was a constant stream of my teenage life, just watching Wapner, and [how] what he says, goes.

AND HOW ABOUT NOW?

I've watched Law & Order. It's like a crack-cocaine addiction. You just can't not watch it when it's on.

>• Better Off Ted, ABC's disarmingly ridiculous sitcom about scientific research-and-development at a global conglomerate, starts its second season Dec. 8. Portia de Rossi, as an executive whose heels rise higher than her ethical awareness, commands just about any scene she's in—she's quite funny at playing a character who has no sense of humor. The show isn't great, but it has a head-clearing fizziness.

>• The singer, 48, trimmed his locks to play a 1960s dad in the Hallmark Channel holiday movie, airing Dec. 12.

WHAT PROMPTED THE SHORT CUT?

I had some old pictures of my dad from 1964 that I showed the stylist. But it didn't look authentic, so I grabbed the buzzers and ran them up the back of my head. I wanted my neck to be red ... that's where the term comes from.

HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?

I still ain't used to it! But now I realize I was just hiding underneath all that hair. I looked like Cousin Itt!

DOES THE CYRUS FAMILY HAVE A MUST-SEE CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVERY YEAR?

I guarantee you we'll watch Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer at least once. It's got a little warm and fuzzy in it.

HOW ABOUT A FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?

I love Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas." It's playing in a [Verizon] commercial right now, and I can't wait for it to come on. I'll crank it up.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOLIDAY PLANS THIS YEAR?

I leave for Iraq on Dec. 13, and I'll try to spread a little Christmas cheer to our troops. Then I'll go meet up with the family in England around Christmas Eve. Miley is touring over there. I'd rather be in Tennessee, but I don't think it's a matter of where you're at—it's who you're with.

>• Movie star James Franco has begun his highly publicized, totally bizarro stint on ABC's General Hospital. He's a violence-obsessed artist—named Franco! Even on a soap opera, he's magnetic, playing his scenes at an eccentrically slow rhythm. Franco doesn't deliver his lines, he breathes them out—as if they were a yoga exercise. The only thing better would be Johnny Depp as Susan Lucci's boy toy on All My Children.

>1 THE BELTER

I don't even like the pop music on FOX's hit series, which will be off until April after Dec. 9. The sound is too souped-up and shiny. But you can tell these performers—especially Lea Michele (right)—are Broadway babies with a love for singing, and loud. It's like Adam Lambert High.

2 THE CONNIVER

Jane Lynch is wonderfully grotesque as crazily ambitious cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Someone, please send her an Emmy as a holiday gift.

3 THE OUTSIDER

For all its camp, Glee has real empathy for the dilemmas of adolescence—for gay student Kurt, for pregnant cheerleader Quinn. Sometimes the title's ironic.

>1 WILLIAM SHATNER'S RAW NERVE

SUN. 12/6 10 P.M. BIO

The space dude's talk show is back. Guest: Rush Limbaugh.

2 CARRIE UNDERWOOD

MON. 12/7 8 P.M. FOX

Her All-Star Holiday Special features tidings from Dolly Parton and David Cook.

3 TOP CHEF

WED. 12/9 10 P.M. BRAVO

The Vegas season, hosted by willowy Padma Lakshmi, ends in Napa for the finale.

4 BARBARA WALTERS PRESENTS

WED. 12/9 10:01 P.M. ABC

Her most fascinating people of '09, including Lady Gaga.

5 SANDRA LEE CELEBRATES

SAT. 12/12 8 P.M. HGTV

Helping the parents of newborn triplets preserve family holiday memories.

>Does anyone on Modern Family have a job?

They've barely worked on-air, but most of the show's adults are indeed employed, says cocreator and executive producer Steven Levitan. "Over time, their jobs will come out." He's "95 percent sure" that patriarch Jay (Ed O'Neill, below) is a "Closet King" with a lucrative custom-design business, but that plan could change: "We want to leave ourselves lots of places to go down the line."

>• The Sports Night actor, 38, plays lawyer Will Gardner on CBS's hit freshman drama.

DO YOU ENJOY BEING BACK ON TV?

These are very complex characters, but it's fun. You're dealing with such drama, any time you can infuse some humor in it, it is really refreshing. And having never played a lawyer before, the research has been fun for me.

WHAT LAW SHOWS DID YOU WATCH AS A KID?

For me it all started with Judge Wapner on The People's Court. When you ask me about law and taking this job, that's my frame of reference. He was a lot of people's introduction to the power of law, and law as entertainment. It was a constant stream of my teenage life, just watching Wapner, and [how] what he says, goes.

AND HOW ABOUT NOW?

I've watched Law & Order. It's like a crack-cocaine addiction. You just can't not watch it when it's on.

>• Better Off Ted, ABC's disarmingly ridiculous sitcom about scientific research-and-development at a global conglomerate, starts its second season Dec. 8. Portia de Rossi, as an executive whose heels rise higher than her ethical awareness, commands just about any scene she's in—she's quite funny at playing a character who has no sense of humor. The show isn't great, but it has a head-clearing fizziness.

>• The singer, 48, trimmed his locks to play a 1960s dad in the Hallmark Channel holiday movie, airing Dec. 12.

WHAT PROMPTED THE SHORT CUT?

I had some old pictures of my dad from 1964 that I showed the stylist. But it didn't look authentic, so I grabbed the buzzers and ran them up the back of my head. I wanted my neck to be red ... that's where the term comes from.

HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?

I still ain't used to it! But now I realize I was just hiding underneath all that hair. I looked like Cousin Itt!

DOES THE CYRUS FAMILY HAVE A MUST-SEE CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVERY YEAR?

I guarantee you we'll watch Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer at least once. It's got a little warm and fuzzy in it.

HOW ABOUT A FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?

I love Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas." It's playing in a [Verizon] commercial right now, and I can't wait for it to come on. I'll crank it up.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOLIDAY PLANS THIS YEAR?

I leave for Iraq on Dec. 13, and I'll try to spread a little Christmas cheer to our troops. Then I'll go meet up with the family in England around Christmas Eve. Miley is touring over there. I'd rather be in Tennessee, but I don't think it's a matter of where you're at—it's who you're with.

>• Movie star James Franco has begun his highly publicized, totally bizarro stint on ABC's General Hospital. He's a violence-obsessed artist—named Franco! Even on a soap opera, he's magnetic, playing his scenes at an eccentrically slow rhythm. Franco doesn't deliver his lines, he breathes them out—as if they were a yoga exercise. The only thing better would be Johnny Depp as Susan Lucci's boy toy on All My Children.

>1 THE BELTER

I don't even like the pop music on FOX's hit series, which will be off until April after Dec. 9. The sound is too souped-up and shiny. But you can tell these performers—especially Lea Michele (right)—are Broadway babies with a love for singing, and loud. It's like Adam Lambert High.

2 THE CONNIVER

Jane Lynch is wonderfully grotesque as crazily ambitious cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Someone, please send her an Emmy as a holiday gift.

3 THE OUTSIDER

For all its camp, Glee has real empathy for the dilemmas of adolescence—for gay student Kurt, for pregnant cheerleader Quinn. Sometimes the title's ironic.