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Thursday, December 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Overcast
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The past comes back to haunt Eureka -- literally
<i>Eureka</i> cleverly refreshes its storyline.
Eureka cleverly refreshes its storyline.

It's season four for Eureka (Friday, 8 p.m.), the SyFy series about a secret community of geniuses assembled for top-secret government research. Even good shows start to sag in the fourth year, but Eureka has come up with a clever way of refreshing its storyline. A group of town residents travel back to 1947 (hey, I said they were geniuses), and when they return, things they've done in the past have slightly changed the present. In this week's episode, the returnees try to make sense of the changes - a rich source of humor.

Henry (Joe Morton) is surprised to meet the woman he's married to, and Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) finds himself again involved with the long-lost Tess (Jaime Ray Newman). Meanwhile, a guy named Dr. Grant (James Callis) from 1947 has traveled to 2010, and he's a little let down. "I thought there'd be more flying cars, robotic servants and superhighways stretching into the sky," he says.

Really? Given that the episode ends with Sheriff Carter halting a deadly stream of "anti-matter positrons" with a high-tech gizmo, I can't agree with Dr. Grant that 2010 lacks for excitement.

Do Something Awards
Monday, 8 pm (VH1)

The Do Something Awards honors stars who have made gaudy public gestures on behalf of the needy. Maybe it's uncharitable of me to use the word "gaudy," but I can't help seeing heavily hyped philanthropy as a part of the stars' marketing operation. These awards, for example, give people like Christina Aguilera and the Jonas Brothers one more chance to parade their fabulousness before a TV audience.

If the show can spur celebrities to make bigger charitable donations, more power to it. I just think it should be renamed the Do Something to Extend Your Brand Awards.

Rescue Me
Tuesday, 9 pm (FX)

It's amazing how much ground Rescue Me can cover in a single episode. This week, the NYC firehouse drama begins in farcical mode, as the guys pretend to be doctors to bust their buddy Lou out of the hospital following his heart attack. The scene is very funny, thanks to mordant dialogue and world-class comic acting. But then the episode takes a turn toward poignancy as the guys encounter a cancer-stricken comrade.

Not many series could pull off this extreme tonal shift, but Rescue Me is just getting started. It deftly combines humor and tragedy throughout the hour, dipping into marital strife, race, religion, sex and death. Our hero, Tommy (Denis Leary), is obsessed with the afterlife following a vision of hell during a near-death experience. Meanwhile, Lou's own near-death experience offered him a vision of heaven, which he says smelled like a bakery.

I have a vision of heaven too: Rescue Me played on infinite repeat.

Chasing Mummies
Wednesday, 9 pm (History)

This isn't one of those slickly packaged documentaries set among picturesque pyramids. It digs into the pharaohs' dusty, musty tombs with Dr. Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist with a thick accent and a grandiose sense of himself. You can practically feel the scorching heat as interns get lost in tunnels, bulldozers sink into the sand and everybody endures Hawass' frequent tantrums. "He gets angry," says one associate, "but he has a heart of gold."

I find Hawass fun to watch, but that's because I'm thousands of miles away from him on my living room couch. In person, I suspect it's not so fun. "YOU UNDERSTAND NOTHING!" he screams at his crew. "MY TIME IS VALUABLE!"

And God forbid anyone would make a peep when the master is working. "We are making a discovery, and PEOPLE ARE TALKING OUTSIDE, WITH DANCES!"

So where, exactly, is the "heart of gold"? The mummies themselves are more friendly than this creep.

Work of Art
Wednesday, 10 pm (Bravo)

Bravo is a leader in creating fun reality competitions, but its latest concept has been a real embarrassment. The idea is to find the next great visual artist - something that's impossible to do in the context of a reality show's challenges, eliminations and time limits. Imagine the series' vacuous host giving her spiel during the Renaissance: "The goal is to impress our panel of judges with your painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. You have 30 minutes - go!"

The contestants include a suspiciously high number who could double as supermodels - and yes, they do pose naked for each other. Meanwhile, the judges offer timeless insights: "It's been said that good art is not what it looks like, but how it makes us feel."

Work of Art makes me feel sad.

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