Start fresh! That’s what ABC is begging its viewers to do tonight with Samantha Who? (9:30 p.m.). Its rookie run had been going swimmingly until the writers strike. Starring Christina Applegate and Melissa McCarthy (Sookie from the Gilmore Girls), the show returns in the midst of a heated battle for Monday nights.
Since this is one of the few evenings without an installment of American Idol, ratings victories have pinballed between NBC, which dominated primetime in January and early February; ABC, which has routinely secured the largest number of viewers since the return of Dancing With the Stars (8 p.m.); and CBS, which netted the largest share of the vaunted 18-49 demographic last week, with the return of its popular sitcoms Two and a Half Men (9 p.m.), How I Met Your Mother (8:30 p.m.), and The Big Bang Theory (8 p.m.). How long CBS holds on to that crown, however, will largely depend on whether Samantha Who? can return to its pre-Strike momentum.
All of this analysis is of course rendered moot tonight, as CBS broadcasts the NCAA Tournament championship game (9 p.m.). Talk about a slam dunk.
Does Gordon Ramsay confer with his producers before they cast Hell’s Kitchen (Fox, 9 p.m.)? The show kicked off its fourth season last week without a quality chef in the bunch, let alone a presumptive frontrunner—of course, this is what makes the show so sinfully addictive, a refreshingly lowbrow counterpoint to Wednesday night’s Top Chef (BRAVO, 10 p.m.). The season opener was chock full of stunts, the most pointless of which was Mr. Ramsay dressing up in disguise to eavesdrop on the contestants as they were being driven in a bus to the Hell’s Kitchen compound. Um, the bus was outfitted with cameras. Couldn’t he have just watched the tape? But then he couldn’t have pulled off his mask and revealed himself to them as his introduction. And the whole Scooby Doo element would have been lost.
American Idol (Fox, 7:30 p.m.) takes a break of from making vault-loads of cash for the network to give a little back with their annual charity show. Last year’s raised $76 million. With appearances by Bono, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Maroon 5, Billy Crystal, Peyton Manning, Brad Pitt, Snoop Dogg … sorry, fell asleep there for a second! Anyway, there are others too. So the point is there’s little chance this year’s show won’t do better.
Rounding out the feel-good line-up of the week is Primetime’s (ABC, 10 p.m.) report on “The Last Lecture” given by Randy Pausch, the 47-year-old Carnegie Mellon University professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The lecture—about achieving your childhood dreams—became a viral sensation and has since inspired millions to rethink their lives. Diane Sawyer investigates and discovers—Americans are fine just the way they are!
Bonus: America’s Top Model (CW, 8 p.m.) delivers a glorified blooper reel this week with previously unaired footage of some of the models’ more embarrassing moments. Hard to imagine, right?
Hip-hip hooray! It’s hard to feel anything but unbridled joy at the return of NBC’s full pre-strike Thursday night line-up. Alas, there will be no ticker-tape parade to welcome new episodes of My Name Is Earl (8 p.m.), 30 Rock (8: 30 p.m.), The Office (9 p.m.), Scrubs (10 p.m.), but that’s only because they wouldn’t award me a permit. Somebody stop me!
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Berkley’s dancing abilities will finally mesh with her hosting duties on Step It Up and Dance, as the contestants are asked to perform an erotically-charged tango.
Believe it or not, there is still a Miss USA pageant (NBC, 9 p.m.). Once you have understood that, it’s not shocking to learn that Donny and Marie Osmond are its hosts.
Been enjoying John Adams (HBO, 8 p.m.)? Can’t wait to see how it ends? Join the club.