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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Overcast
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Pregnancy adds a twist to the detective series Rizzoli & Isles
The baby or the badge?
on
Rizzoli has doubts about herself as a mother.
Rizzoli has doubts about herself as a mother.

The season premiere of Rizzoli & Isles (Tuesday, 8 p.m., TNT) proves why it's one of cable's most popular series. Boston detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) has instant rapport with medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander). As opposite types -- Rizzoli rough and rude, Isles posh and pedantic -- they tease each other mercilessly. But they also have a sisterly bond, which comes in handy now that Rizzoli is pregnant.

With a fierce disposition and a gruff voice reminiscent of late-period Bob Dylan, Rizzoli has doubts about herself as a mother. Right on cue, she's confronted with a homicide in which the female victim's baby was abducted. That might have been a groan-worthy conceit, but the episode gets the tone just right. It maintains a light touch without undercutting Rizzoli's passionate investigation.

The script is an exemplar of terrific TV storytelling, ending almost every scene with a cliffhanger. I guarantee you'll stick around through the commercial breaks to find the answer to the mystery of whodunit. In fact, I recommend sticking with Rizzoli & Isles all summer to find out the answer to an even bigger mystery: boy or girl?

Shark Girl
Sunday, 7 pm (Smithsonian Channel)

Australia's Madison Stewart has the hippest nickname imaginable: Shark Girl. And she's earned it, too. Stewart speaks for the sharks the way the Lorax speaks for the trees. In this show, we learn about her global crusade to protect endangered shark species -- an amazing effort for a mere 20-year-old. On top of that, she fearlessly swims with sharks to prove that their man-eating qualities have been greatly exaggerated.

I wish I were as cool as Madison Stewart. Shark TV Critic -- that has a nice ring, doesn't it?

American River Renegades
Sunday, 7 pm (Animal Planet)

This reality series gives us a close-up view of men in far-flung places struggling for survival on America’s rivers.

We follow PJ and Doug’s 200-mile trek through the Alaska wilderness in search of salmon to feed their village. If the landslides don’t get them, the grizzly bears will.

In the Louisiana delta, Kip and Big Ward risk losing a hand to catch edible snapping turtles.

Ricky and his son hunt wild hogs on South Carolina’s Pee Dee River, armed only with a machete.

I’ve rarely had so much fun watching other men search for food…and rarely been so grateful for the grocery store just down the street.

Masterpiece Mystery!
Sunday, 8 pm (PBS)

I always look forward to PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! series, but every once in a while comes a clunker. The Escape Artist is about British lawyer Will Burton (David Tennant), who defends a man accused of torturing and killing a medical student. It’s hard to get caught up in the case, given the production’s glacial pace and Tennant’s low-temperature performance. My eyelids drooped as Will busies himself with paperwork, then makes a tedious speech in court. “This is a country where you are presumed to be innocent until you are proven guilty,” he drones.

As if reading my mind, the judge asks, “Where is this going?”

American Pharaoh
Monday, 9 pm (PBS)

In 2011 American soccer coach Bob Bradley was hired by the Egyptian national team, which badly wanted to qualify for the World Cup. You may remember that 2011 was not exactly a peaceful year in Egypt, with President Hosni Mubarak forced out of office during a popular uprising. Other tumultuous events followed, including a politically motivated massacre at an Egyptian soccer game and a military takeover of the country. "Getting to the World Cup during this difficult period is a challenge," Bradley says with notable understatement.

Such tight-lipped coach-speak runs throughout American Pharaoh, which chronicles Bradley's extraordinary experiences in Egypt. It's a touching portrait of this type of leader, so familiar to those of us who grew up playing American sports. When the world is falling down all around you, who better to have at the helm than a tough team leader with a Steve Canyon jaw and a heart as big as Texas?

Bradley is a decent, no-nonsense coach who inspires his players by staying positive. He deploys sports cliches even in the most horrendous circumstances, and somehow it's comforting. "It will make us stronger," he insists after extremists set fire to the team's headquarters.

I want you to drop, give me 10, and watch American Pharaoh.

Cry Wolfe
Tuesday, 9 pm (Investigation Discovery)

As a film noir fan, I love private eyes, with their fedoras and tough-guy lingo. Cry Wolfe is a new reality series about modern-day P.I. Brian Wolfe, who plies his trade in Los Angeles. Wolfe lacks a fedora -- in fact, he lacks style of any sort, favoring a nondescript car and polo shirts. But it's still fun to watch him work on cases involving cheating husbands and two-timing girlfriends.

Wolfe is not above peeking through Venetian blinds when he has to, and he skillfully deploys two eagle-eyed women on his payroll. Each half-hour is structured like a mystery, starting with a client in distress. "I can't always make it right," Wolfe says, "but I can expose a wrong."

That's a pretty good piece of tough-guy lingo. If Wolfe only had a fedora, Cry Wolfe would be the perfect guilty pleasure for summer.

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