Two and a Half Men

CBS, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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COMEDY

Eight seasons in, this sitcom about sex-crazed party animal Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) and his nerdy brother Alan (Jon Cryer) is still a big hit, this season's top-rated comedy. But how? Sheen's adventures off-camera would seem to barely leave time to appear on-camera. The title's "half" man-Angus T. Jones-has morphed into a 17-year-old who looks as if he could clap Sheen and Cryer together like erasers. And too much of the material has the regrettable smirk of an aging playboy dictating jokes from his water bed. What works is the setup, built on family tensions that are milked for sharp, mean farce. There's no lack of payoff in the zingers about Charlie's debauchery, Alan's cheapness and everyone's dislike for their mom. Holland Taylor plays her with a subtle poison that would enthrall the Medicis.

The Middle

ABC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT |

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COMEDY

In its second season, Patricia Heaton's family sitcom seems to have found its natural resting point, like a bubble in a carpenter's level, midway between the scrappily eccentric Raising Hope and the fizzy, shiny Modern Family. The Hecks of Orson, Ind., are rushed along on a daily tide of jobs, errands and chores. The show has a very sure grip on how these minor events, accompanied by small satisfactions, play out in a household of two middle-aged parents, two teenage kids and one inscrutable 9-year-old. And Heaton hits just the right note: exhausted braying and maternal warmth.

The Hasselhoffs

A&E, Dec. 5, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

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REALITY

What a weirdly haunting figure David Hasselhoff has turned into: a friendly giant lugging emotional baggage the size of Grand Central Terminal. Here we see him as single dad to Taylor-Ann and Hayley, both showbiz aspirants. The show is cornball ("It can be a hassle to be a Hoff," he says), but I'm willing to grant him this small, soft lob toward career rehab.

1 BOARDWALK EMPIRE

SUN. 12/5 9 P.M. HBO

What will the election mean for that steel daisy Kelly Macdonald? Season ender.

2 THE WALKING DEAD

SUN. 12/5 10 P.M. AMC

Season finale of the scary zombie show, with Andrew Lincoln as a besieged human.

3 THE CLOSER

MON. 12/6 9 P.M. TNT

Kyra Sedgwick, at long last rewarded with an Emmy, returns as one of TV's most entertaining cops.

4 Modern family

WED. 12/8 9 P.M. ABC

Julie Bowen (right) and Sofia Vergara work together-unhappily-on the school dance.

5 MYTHBUSTERS

WED. 12/8 9 P.M. DISCOVERY

President Obama offers a challenge based on Archimedes of ancient times.

How I love Lisa Vanderpump on Bravo's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Doting on a dog so tiny it's closer to demitasse than teacup, she speaks in a throaty British accent-one we recognize fondly from a hundred fading character actresses-and sizes up the other women with an acerbic sanity reminiscent of Dixie Carter. One housewife has accused her of being "Machiavelic." Well, one can only hope so.

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RETURN ENGAGEMENT

On Dec. 6 the singer, 37, is back as host of NBC's a cappella competition.

DO YOU THINK ONE OF THE GROUPS SHOULD PERFORM A 98 DEGREES SONG?

I keep waiting for someone to play the kiss-ass card, but no one has! I don't vote, so apparently they feel it's not gonna get them anywhere.

WILL YOU SING?

I can't say too much, but it would seem like a logical conclusion.

YOU AND VANESSA MINNILLO JUST GOT ENGAGED.

Have you begun wedding planning? No, we're enjoying this little moment. And I think the majority of the decisions are done by the bride, so I'll be taking a backseat.

YOUR EX, JESSICA SIMPSON, IS ALSO GETTING MARRIED.

We've both moved on and are happily in other situations. Life goes on!

IS A FAMILY NEXT FOR YOU?

I've never made any secret about my desire to have kids. If I have one [child], I'll be blessed.

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR

THE CLOTHES

Malcolm X hats, Body Glove spandex-Prince is a treasure trove of "What were we thinking?" fashion moments, from Will Smith's checkered pants to costar Karyn Parson's "couture." (Bowler hats? Really?)

THE FIRST AUNT VIVIAN

Nothing against Daphne Maxwell Reid, who took over as the Banks matriarch in season 3, but the "true" Vivian remains Janet Hubert-Whitten. Her eye-rolling, sharp-tongued turn added tang to the show's treacle.

ALL THINGS CARLTON

Watching Alfonso Ribeiro reveal his dance background every time Carlton hears Tom Jones is comedy gold. Paging DWTS!

FASCINATING RHYTHM

The ABC journalist, 81, has two specials Dec. 9: an interview with Oprah Winfrey and her annual 10 Most Fascinating People list.

YOU'VE GOT BACK-TO-BACK SPECIALS. THAT'S A LOT OF BARBARA!

I know; it's the whole night! If people don't like me, they're in big trouble.

YOU PROFILED THE JERSEY SHORE CAST. WHAT DID YOU THINK?

They were more intelligent than I expected. They taught me what their words meant: "grenade" and "mush." I have a whole new vocabulary!

DID SARAH PALIN TALK ABOUT HER PRESIDENTIAL PLANS?

She says she will beat Barack Obama if she runs. Unless there's a candidate with [her] values, she will run.

YOU HAD HEART SURGERY IN MAY. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

I'm completely fine. Someone was saying, "What did they put in?" I said, "I think adrenaline."