MTV is adept at hyping its Video Music Awards (Sunday, 8 p.m.) but much less skilled at making the show live up to the hype. Last year, host Chelsea Handler laid an egg, and only Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine made much of an impression with their performances. Still, hope springs eternal, especially with Lady Gaga in the room. Can she top her meat dress from 2010? Well, she's Lady Gaga, so you know she's gonna try.
This year, MTV unveils an interesting new category called Best Video With a Message. The nominees include Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," a plea for tolerance; Eminem and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie," about domestic violence; and Rise Against's "Make It Stop (September's Children)," a shoutout to despondent LGBT teens. The category's one questionable nomination is Katy Perry's "Firework." I'm not exactly sure what the "message" is here, except that all of us should have sparks shooting out of our chests.
Do we really want to live in such a world? And do we really want to go to the trouble of revising all the fire codes?
Rat Busters NYC
Friday, 9 pm (Animal Planet)
This new series focuses on a couple of New Yawkers who claim to be the city's top exterminators. Jimmy and Michael handle not only rats, but also "every New Yorker's worst nightmare" - bedbugs. After the premiere episode, they'll be your worst nightmare, too. Jimmy and Michael explain that the bedbugs suck your blood while you sleep, and they show horrific close-ups of the little monsters. I was freaking out, just like the Ratbusters' desperate client, until Jimmmy and Michael unveiled their secret weapon: a heat chamber. Baking all the client's possessions to 140 degrees, they explained, would kill off all the bedbugs and restore his sanity.
I have since heated my own possessions to 140 degrees. I even ran this blurb through the chamber, just to be safe.
Saturday, 8 pm (SyFy)
I'm a fan of SyFy's Saturday night creature features, but this one is stingy in terms of monster gratification. It's about a mountain in Nepal that's "forbidden" and the American corporation that, naturally, sends up an expedition anyway. Most of the climbers mysteriously die, so another expedition sets off to find the survivors.
In a haunted-mountain picture, you expect a certain amount of hands slipping off rock ledges, ropes straining, etc. But that's basically all we get for well over an hour as we wait impatiently for the reptile-insectoid monster to show up. During these scenes, the only ones who appear to be having any fun are the soundtrack's orchestra members, who get free rein to pound the timpani and blare the trumpets.
I wonder if the monster got scared off by all the loud music.
Monday, 9 pm (MTV)
MTV tries to put a hip spin on your basic Internet video clip show. These are the same clips you watch on your own computer - pets doing stupid stuff, skateboarders taking spills - but here you get host Rob Drydek sniggering about them.
MTV, do you really think we'll consider Ridiculousness hip just because it features a host with a sideways baseball cap rather than Bob Saget, who basically beat you to this concept 20 years ago with America's Funniest Home Videos? That's not ridiculousness - it's preposterousness.
Big Law: Deputy Butterbean
Tuesday, 9 pm (Investigation Discovery)
When you learn that a super heavyweight boxer is returning to his hometown to fight crime, you think: Criminals beware. The solid mound of flesh named Butterbean is deputized in Jasper, Ala., where he hunts down meth dealers and other miscreants.
Wait a minute - "Butterbean"? That name doesn't exactly strike fear into my heart. To be honest, neither does Butterbean's open, friendly face or his sympathetic way of interviewing suspects.
"I'm a big fan of teddy bears," he admits in one such interview.
God help Jasper. With Butterbean minding the store, I suspect meth dealers will be moving to the area in droves.
Top Chef: Just Desserts
Wednesday, 9 pm (Bravo)
You'd think a reality cooking series focusing on dessert would be, above all, fun. But there's no lightness of spirit among this season's contestants. They're so paranoid that every glance from judges Gail Simmons or Johnny Iuzzini freaks them out. "I couldn't believe how Johnny's eyes stare deep into you!" one of them says, with no irony whatsoever. People, we're talking about banana splits and cupcakes here!
In the challenges, these unappetizing chefs bitch, insult one another and deflect responsibility for their missteps. If Johnny really is staring deep into their souls, he's looking into a void.