A&E's Intervention is never easy to watch, but a special episode on addiction among Iraq War veterans is especially heartbreaking (Monday, 8 p.m.). We meet Marines who stood tall in a war zone and then crumbled as soon as they returned to the U.S., succumbing to alcohol and drug abuse. They discuss the hell of urban warfare, where you can't relax for a minute. Back home, they found they still couldn't relax. Even a loud noise at a Walmart would send them diving to the floor.
Leia felt traumatized after returning from her first tour of duty, but at the time alcohol seemed more sensible than therapy. "I just thought, 'There's no sense of me dealing with this stuff now, because I'm just going to have to go back,'" she says.
Paul had been a straight-A student, but after Iraq he suffered panic attacks in college classes. He couldn't stop the nightmares about being shot and burned. "So I drank myself into oblivion," he says.
The good news is that these veterans are getting help. The bad news is that Iraq posed no threat to the U.S., making you wonder why these lives had to be ruined. Leia grasped for meaning during her deployment, looking at pictures of her family and thinking, "I'm over here for them." In fact, she was over there for President Bush. I hope he sends her a nice note after seeing this program.
Friday, 8 pm (USA)
Monk's assistant Natalie becomes convinced that the critic who panned her daughter's performance was responsible for a murder at the same time as the show.
After all my years of rave reviews for Monk, I'm crushed that the detective series has made a critic the villain, portraying us as potential killers. I'm so mad I could smash somebody's skull...oops, I mean, write a well-considered essay voicing my objection.
Nova Science Now
Tuesday, 9 pm (PBS)
Everybody associates earthquakes with California, but some of North America's most violent tremors occurred in the middle of the U.S. This week's episode looks back at the string of quakes that hit New Madrid, Mo., in 1811 and 1812. They were so powerful that they shifted the course of the Mississippi River and rang church bells as far away as Boston. Tragically, many Bostonians heard the bells and attended church in the middle of the week, when they didn't even have to.
Wednesday, 8 pm (ABC)
ABC's Wipeout has been a rare broadcast-TV hit. So it's inevitable that the network would rush out more reality shows in which people make us laugh with their horrible crashes. The Three Stooges became popular during the last Depression with their brutal pokes and slaps; when we're in pain, apparently, we like to snicker at those in even more pain.
Crash Course transfers the Wipeout concept to automobiles. Couples navigate booby-trapped courses, drag-race backwards and bust through garage doors. You'll laugh so hard that you'll forget to look at your depressing 401(k) statement.
If Crash Course proves to be the hit that Wipeout is, there'll be no stopping ABC. An element of painful humiliation will be added to every show. I fully expect to see anchor Charles Gibson fall through a trapdoor into a vat of alligators after reading the evening news.
How'd You Get So Rich?
Wednesday, 9 pm (TV Land)
Producer Mark Burnett made his reputation by putting disgusting things on screen in Survivor, most famously contestants eating bugs. His new series showcases even more disgusting images: rich people's over-the-top mansions. Host Joan Rivers is dispatched to ooh and ahh over conspicuous consumption, as if that's what America wants to see as it struggles through the recession. In her croaking voice, with surgically altered mouth barely able to move, Rivers gushes over $3 million yachts, $12,000 pants, a $40,000 chandelier and a $50,000 ceiling mural depicting a corpulent rich dude as a glamorous god.
"He's rich as sh*t!" Joan screams admiringly.
Hey, everybody, how about we storm these mansions, burn them down and distribute the $40,000 chandeliers among ourselves as we chant "Power to the People!" Alternately, we could simply change the channel.
Make My Day
Wednesday, 9:30 pm (TV Land)
This candid camera series follows one person per episode, recording every move throughout the day. The producers create contrived situations in which the person can act either well or badly.
Make My Day isn't too exciting, but I'm going to be a nice guy and give it a good review, just in case I myself am being followed by hidden cameras.