In Mental (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Fox), a new director arrives at a psychiatric hospital. Jack (Chris Vance) is as buff and handsome as a male model - indeed, he's more like a male model than he is a psychiatrist, with a model's penchant for taking off his clothes. His first act as director is to get naked in the hospital hallway as his colleagues look on in shock.
Jack's goal is to get a delusional patient's attention. Fox's goal, meanwhile, is to get an audience's attention through shameless titillation.
I happen to be a fan of shameless titillation, but Fox doesn't have the courage of its own tawdriness. I'd love a doctor show that was proudly ridiculous, as when Jack breaks into a house to get medical information, or when he invites mental patients to sit in on staff meetings. In the end, however, Mental takes itself seriously. We're meant to admire Jack's "unorthodox" methods and his courage in standing up to the medical establishment.
If we're supposed to take Mental seriously, we can't help but wonder why a psychiatric hospital would hire a male model/clown as its director. Enter an administrator (Annabella Sciorra) with an explanation: "Jack doesn't care about anything but the patient. Not propriety, not professionalism, not ridicule."
I'm glad Jack doesn't care about ridicule, because I think Mental is in for a heaping helping.
Monday, 8 pm (ABC)
Jillian Harris thought she had found her soul mate in Jason Mesnick on this season's The Bachelor. She was crushed when Jason dumped her, especially after their steamy encounter in the hot tub. But hey, this is a smart, sensible woman. She knows that if you lose a soul mate on a reality TV show, you simply have to go on another reality TV show to pick from a dozen more. That's why she has elected to be the star of this season's Bachelorette. All the young girls who tune in will surely develop a realistic view of relationships, thanks to ABC.
As we learned on The Bachelor, Jillian judges her potential lovers by the condiments they put on their hot dogs, so expect ketchup and relish to play an unusually important role.
Hitched or Ditched
Tuesday, 8 pm (CW)
You know those friends of yours who can't live with or without each other? The ones who endlessly dissect their relationship, then bore you with all the details? The CW mistakenly thinks we want to spend more time with such folks, so here's Hitched or Ditched, a reality series about couples who can't decide whether or not to get married. The show surprises them with a wedding scheduled for the next week, and they have to talk - and talk and talk and talk - about the pros and cons of going through with it.
In the premiere, we meet Travis and CeLisa, whose up-and-down relationship has driven friends and family members insane. "I think he's afraid of getting married, and I've never been sure why," CeLisa says. Yes, it's a mystery. Travis' mom describes CeLisa as "the meanest woman you'll ever meet." When sampling wedding cakes, CeLisa tells Travis, "If you shove it in my face I will kill you." Then there's CeLisa's drunken dad, who warns the groom-to-be, "I would take you out on my boat and dump you in the bottom of the lake if you hurt my daughter."
The CW apparently needs to change the title to Hitched or Ditched or Murdered.
Wednesday, 9 pm (PBS)
"Hollywood Chinese" looks back at a century of Hollywood's representation of the Chinese. Needless to say, it's an embarrassing 90 minutes. Though Hollywood has cleaned up its act in recent years, the industry still has to answer for such films as Massacre of the Christians by the Chinese (1900) and The Heathen Chinese and the Sunday School Teachers (1904). For most of American cinematic history, Chinese were simply The Other - villains with many creepy ways to kill white people.
Even Chinese movie heroes like Charlie Chan were humiliating to Chinese Americans. "Envelope like skin of banana," says the white actor who played the popular Chinese detective. "Must be removed to digest contents."
All the interviewees can do is groan. "You won't hear any Chinese talk that way," says director Wayne Wang, "unless they're trying to sound like Charlie Chan."
The Fashion Show
Thursday, 9 pm (Bravo)
Bravo tussled with Lifetime over Project Runway and lost. Lifetime secured the right to broadcast the fashion series' new season this August, leaving Bravo without one of its signature titles. Bravo's solution: new title, same program. The Fashion Show simply clones Project Runway with different hosts, Isaac Mizrahi and Kelly Rowland. Talented designers compete in challenges and get eliminated one by one - hey, who needs Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum?
Indeed, I like Mizrahi and Rowland better. At least I'm not tired of their shtick yet. Rather than Gunn's chilly reserve, Mizrahi brings a welcome touch of neurosis to the process. He frets about the contestants and seems to feel real pain when they produce bad designs. Rowland, for her part, has none of Klum's severity. She's a sly charmer whose smile alone will keep me coming back week after week.
Clearly, there's no longer a reason to keep my schedule clear for August. I think I'll plan a vacation.