Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert return from a strike-induced hiatus—without their writers, of course, but with plenty of fodder. (Clinton is one bad poll away from an aneurism.) Colbert is the clear loser in this arrangement, as his show relies heavily on scripted bits, while Stewart’s shtick has become a bit more, shall we say, off-the-cuff. It’ll be curious to see how the two long-time writers and comedians explain their scab status to their fans. Talk about Indecision 2008!
Meanwhile, the networks launch two sad-but-true competition series: Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann (ABC, 8 p.m.), in which the two judges from Dancing With the Stars assemble competing performance groups from auditioning dancers, and American Galdiators (NBC, 8. p.m.), the remake starring Hulk Hogan that pits ordinary Joes against professional athletes in feats of strength, some of which feature life-sized Q-Tips. Steroids optional.
Fox has a more traditional sports event: the BCS Championship Bowl (8:15 p.m.) between no. 1 ranked Ohio State and no. 2 ranked LSU. While LSU is the first two-loss team ever to play in the championship game, it has the clear advantage with the game taking place on home turf in the Superdome in New Orleans—that is if the fans are sober enough to keep from throwing beads and watch the game.
Bonus: Medium—Patricia Arquette!—is back (NBC, 10 p.m.).
Tuesday finally has something to brag about: it’s home tonight to one of the oldest, if not least popular (by American Idol standards) competition reality series, the New Hampshire primaries. Luckily, fate has provided Americans with one of the most intriguing races in our time of need of good television. Honestly, how many things can make cable news watchable? A natural disaster—sometimes—the beginning (but not the middle or end, if there is one) of the US bombing and/or invading some country, and election night. For everything else, there’s The Daily Show. Oh, wait …
So, the Golden Globes are kaput. The Academy Awards are teetering. What’s left? The People’s Choice Awards (CBS, 9 p.m.). No idea what host Queen Latifah is going to do for jokes. Luckily, she has charisma to spare—she survived Taxi!
Cashmere Mafia (ABC, 10 p.m.), the producer Darren Starr’s (Sex and the City) new series that chronicles the lives of sexy, urbane (and now powerful) New York women, premiered on Sunday night, but is now settling it to its real home, Wednesday nights, steering clear of Candance Bushnell’s Lipstick Jungle, a show with basically the same premise, debuting on NBC on Thursday, Feb. 7th, at 10 p.m. Avoiding each other is something neither Starr, nor Bushnell will be able to do at the Sex and the City movie premiere party—awkward!
PBS has a bang-up night of television with a new installment of its Pioneers of Television series (8 p.m.)—this one’s about late-night television—and the debut of a new documentary series, The Jewish Americans (9 p.m.), about the history of American diaspora starting with the first Jew’s arrival in1654. (“What am I, ye olde chopped liver?” the first Jew asked of no one in particular.) Expect insights from such lovers of the dreidel as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, playwright Tony Kushner, actor Mandy Patinkin and comedian Carl Reiner. Oy vey!
Bonus: a new Gossip Girl (CW, 9 p.m.). The popular show is moving to Monday nights at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 28. But by then it’ll be in repeats, so enjoy it while it lasts.
NBC’s got its groove back. It has a new My Name Is Earl (8 p.m.), a new 30 Rock (8:30 p.m.), a new Celebrity Apprentice (9 p.m.)—its debut scored the best ratings for the franchise since the 2005 season finale—and a new ER (10 p.m.). The only problem: ABC’s bringing heat as well, with new episodes of Ugly Betty (8 p.m.), Grey’s Anatomy (9 p.m.), and Big Shots (10 p.m.). This is it, however, for Grey’s, until after the strike. But don’t panic, people, Lost will be back to fill the void before the month is over.
20/20 dedicates its show to exploring the science of happiness—for the most depressed TV demographic, the Friday-night, 10 p.m. 20/20 watcher. Sorry, fans, no prescriptions.