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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Impractical Jokers wallows in embarrassment
Playing the fool
on
Swallow your dignity and enjoy.
Swallow your dignity and enjoy.

Impractical Jokers (Thursday, 9 p.m., truTV) begins with these words: "This program includes scenes of graphic stupidity among four friends who compete to embarrass each other."

Don't say they didn't warn you. The friends put themselves in public situations where they dare each other to say or do preposterous things in front of strangers. For example, they take turns as counter workers at a burger joint, wearing an earpiece so the guy on the spot can get directions from the other three. They order him to speak to the customer at ridiculously high volume, or freeze for a solid minute, or use Old English. What cracks them up the most is the command to rhyme everything. So instead of saying "one order onion rings, seven cheeseburgers, one five-piece cheese sticks," the guy says, "One order funion smings, seven schneezeburgers, one five-piece bleez blicks."

God help me, but I laughed out loud. In fact, I laughed for the entire half-hour, no matter how puerile the gags. It probably helps that the friends are jovial rather than Jackass-obnoxious, even rejecting some dares as too offensive. It also helps that they are the butt of the jokes, not the innocent bystanders - who often end up laughing themselves.

So I guess I'll have to swallow my dignity and recommend Impractical Jokers. I mean, sleckommend Kimlactical Schmokers.

Christmas in Washington
Friday, 7 pm (TNT)

Every year this TNT special tries to bring together warring factions in Washington, D.C., for a peaceful night of entertainment. And every year, the challenge seems more difficult in the midst of partisan rancor. Tonight, top Republicans and Democrats will sit side by side to watch Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and the Band Perry.

The lineup sounds pretty safe, except for Justin Bieber. Given the tensions involved in this event, why would the producers introduce a controversial element like Bieber's haircut, which has long polarized the nation? It's like throwing a match onto a powder keg.

Kendall's Sweet 16
Monday, 8 pm (E!)

The Kardashian family stirred up national revulsion after Kim made a fortune off her televised wedding, then immediately filed for divorce. If I were a Kardashian, I would lie low after such flim-flammery, but the family members have instead doubled down on shamelessness. They premiered Kourtney and Kim Take New York mere days after the divorce announcement, and now comes Kendall's Sweet 16. Yes, folks, we're going to be asked to celebrate every milestone with every member of this tawdry clan, even the teenage birthday parties.

The Kardashians have been offering up Kendall as an underage sex object ever since she was 12. Now they allow E!'s cameras to swarm her Sweet 16 birthday bash for the delectation of the TV audience. In this kind of environment, it seems unlikely that the kid will grow up to be happy and healthy; the Lindsay Lohan route is more likely.

It's not often you can save a life by turning off your television, but this might be one of those times. If Kendall's Sweet 16 flops, and Kendall is forced to leave the TV spotlight, she might have a shot at being a well-adjusted adult. If the program is a hit, she's doomed.

American Masters
Monday, 9 pm (PBS)

James Franco narrates "Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter," an engaging portrait of the married couple who revolutionized 20th century design. Architect Charles and painter Ray are best known for rethinking the concept of "chair" in the 1940s. They molded plywood into a form that would fit the body, look beautiful, and be easy to mass-produce. The iconic Eames chair typified their motto of making "the best for the most for the least."

Ah, but there was so much more to Charles and Ray than chairs. Their legendarily eccentric studio in Venice Beach, Calif., churned out films, photography, toys, even visionary corporate publicity campaigns. For the Eameses, design was a playground, and they brought their joyful spirit to a modernist movement that had grown a bit austere. Charles was the charismatic frontman, Ray the esthetic genius, and their partnership was amazingly fruitful in spite of stifling postwar sexual politics and Charles' infidelity.

Their personal story is interesting, but the designs are what make the documentary a real treat. I never knew plywood could be this thrilling.

Deck the Halls
Tuesday, 8 pm (TNT)

TNT wraps up the current run of "Mystery Movie Night," a showcase of crime dramas based on bestselling books. Deck the Halls, by Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, is a holiday-themed story of glamorous private eye Regan (Scottie Thompson), whose father (David Selby) is kidnapped by a guy in a Santa outfit.

Deck the Halls is so light and breezy that it's hard to care much about the crime. Regan's hair is always supermodel-perfect, and amateur sleuth Alvirah (Kathy Najimy) treats the whole kidnapping thing like a game.

I guess we can't ask for a Christmas mystery to be too serious. But I think we do have a right to ask that the heroine care more about her missing father than her hairdo.

Then again, it is pretty awesome hair.

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