Back for a new season, The Real Housewives of Orange County (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Bravo) explores the glamorous lives of women in Orange County, Calif. Lauri has a rich new boyfriend, Kimberley enjoys her breast implants, Vicki gets $250 eyelash extensions, and Jo asks her boyfriend how her butt looks before a Playboy party.
One can only assume that the word 'real' in the title is ironic. These women are fascinating to watch because they don't live within 100 miles of reality. They replace worn body parts with plastic surgery and give their kids vainglorious Dynasty names like Slayte and Kennedi. They dwell in gated communities where no one has to think about the world crumbling outside the walls. And they never question their natural-born right to live better than the rest of us. 'I deserve the best,' says Jo, apparently satisfied with the way her butt looks. 'I'm worth it.'
In the season opener, a real-world problem threatens to vault the gate: Lauri's screwup son has been arrested. But Lauri, God bless her, doesn't let that spoil an outing on her new boyfriend's boat. 'It's been wonderful now that I've met George,' she says. 'He wants to make my life easier.'
Can life really get even easier for these women? George, you've got your work cut out for you.
Sunday, 8 pm (NBC)
The new season, set in L.A., finds another group of masochists vying to be chosen as the Apprentice for mogul Donald Trump. Trump is as nasty as ever, and he's even dreamed up a new way to humiliate contestants. This time, the team that loses a challenge is forced to sleep outdoors in tents.
I don't know what's worse, watching Trump be cruel or watching him be cute. In this week's episode, his underlings pretend to be amused when he takes off his shoes and walks barefoot on Santa Monica's beach. The occasion is a swimsuit fashion show, in which the two teams of contestants design a product line to sell to buyers. One team takes a big risk by allowing a contestant named Carey to design a teeny-weeny bikini bottom for men.
Everyone's grossed out when Carey himself models this swimsuit on the catwalk. But to me, the image of Trump's pale, ugly feet on the sand is even less appetizing.
Golden Globe Awards
Monday, 7 pm (NBC)
The Golden Globes used to be a laughingstock ' a minor awards show stuck on cable and judged by a handful of disreputable foreign journalists. But it was a fun laughingstock, often featuring delightfully wacky behavior by slumming celebrities.
In recent years, however, the media have pretended that the ceremony deserves respect, and as a result it's begun acting more respectable. In other words, more boring. The last few installments have been infected with Oscar-level decorum, free from gaffes, drunken acceptance speeches and, finally, entertainment value.
This year might be different. The Golden Globes have (unwittingly?) given the fearless guerrilla comedian Sacha Baron Cohen two nominations for his work in Borat. His antics may well return the ceremony to its former unpredictability.
How unpredictable could it get? Let's just say that the police department, fire department and National Guard should stay on red alert.
Monday, 8 pm (BBC America)
In this wonderful British movie, Lizzie Hunt (Julie Walters) has spent 10 years in prison for killing her husband during an alcoholic blackout. As the movie begins she's let out of prison ' and that's when her troubles really begin. Lizzie is hounded by her peers and the press. Even members of her AA group flee in horror. 'Seems like I'm even giving alcoholics a bad name,' she says ruefully.
Walters' character has nothing going for her, and yet she weasels her way into our affections. It's quite a feat to make us feel sympathy for a hopeless alcoholic who committed a heinous crime.
Or did she?
Tuesday & Wednesday, 7 pm (Fox)
I was deeply affected by Taylor Hicks' victory in last season's American Idol. The fact that America bought Hicks as a credible rhythm & blues singer ' despite his clear lack of rhythm, pitch, grace, taste, soul and shame ' means they'll buy anybody.
In other words, this is the year I could win the competition myself. Can anybody lend me the sheet music for Aretha Franklin's 'Chain of Fools'?
Tuesday, 9 pm (WHA)
By now, we've heard many stories about the thousands of children raped by Catholic priests. 'Hand of God' is yet another one, but it pulls us in with its intimate portrait of a family betrayed.
The Cultreras lived in a close-knit Italian neighborhood in Salem, Mass., where the authority of Catholic priests was unquestioned. Filmmaker Joe Cultrera trains the camera on his brother Paul, who was serially molested by a priest at age 14. Paul's life was wrecked, but the pedophile priest enjoyed protection from the Catholic hierarchy, which moved him from parish to parish and allowed other children to be abused.
When the scandal broke, and the courts got involved, the righteous men of the archdiocese played hardball. As Paul's lawyer told him, 'You're not dealing with a bunch of pious little saints. They've got the insurance claims figured out. They've got their legal exposure figured out.'
The moral of the story: If the Hand of God comes anywhere near you, slap it away and run to the police.