Psych is my choice for TV's most underrated show. James Roday and Dulé Hill have chemistry to burn as con men who run a psychic detective agency. Every hour delivers laughs, thrills and drama as the partners bumble their way toward solving a crime. The dialogue kills, the characters jump off the screen, and the plots even squeeze a bit of poignancy in between the irony. Where oh where are the Emmy awards?
In this week's Christmas-themed episode (Friday, 9 p.m., USA), Shawn (Roday) and Gus (Hill) learn that a mall Santa and his cute daughter are thieves planning a big score. Gus' sister (Faune Chambers) helps them crack the case and also rekindles her romance with Shawn - a romance they keep secret from Gus. And no one is funnier than Shawn when he tries to get away with something.
With this episode, USA has given us a wonderful early Christmas present. The real Santa has his work cut out for him if he hopes to top it.
Friday, 8 pm (USA)
A delightful Christmas episode begins with a murder. A homeless man is found dead in an abandoned refrigerator, and his fellow bums come to Monk (Tony Shalhoub) for help. The insanely neat detective just about faints as these grimy specimens track germs into his room - a scene Shalhoub plays for maximum comedy.
Meanwhile, Capt. Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) drinks from a monastery's supposedly miraculous fountain, which appears to cure his bad back. He's so awed that he joins the monastery and takes a vow of silence - another comic opportunity as Monk tries to communicate with him in the middle of a solemn church service. Is there a connection between the murder and the fountain? Myself, I was laughing too hard to care.
The fountain may be fishy, but Monk isn't. This episode is a holiday miracle.
Sunday & Monday, 7 pm (BBC America)
The award-winning British thriller examines a Western culture's attitude toward its Muslim population post-9/11. Yeah, I think an American audience might be able to relate to that subject.
A first-generation brother and sister born of poor Pakistani parents have starkly different views of their homeland. The brother (Riz Ahmed) is grateful for all that England has given them, including material comfort, civil rights and upward mobility. His sister (Manjinder Virk), meanwhile, obsesses on the racism in British society, along with government anti-terrorism actions targeting Muslims around the world. While she becomes increasingly alienated, her brother joins the British spy agency MI5. His first assignment is to track down a terrorist cell linked to the London Tube bombings.
I'm always suspicious of a movie that tries to work out an entire social problem using one pair of people. But Britz is well acted and thought-provoking. If it's also a bit overheated, blame the overheated subject.
The Bad Girls Club
Tuesday, 9 pm (Oxygen)
Oxygen has rounded up the worst young women it can find for the new season of The Bad Girls Club. How bad are they? "I hope you fall down the stairs, bitch!" is about the kindest thing anyone says in the season premiere. Their very first night together, the girls get thrown out of two Los Angeles nightclubs. They break windows in their shared house. They throw drinks in each other's faces. And their grammar is simply atrocious. "It was kind of offense-ful," one bad girl says in a vain stab at English.
I know I'm going to hell for this, but I find Bad Girls Club a lot of fun. Offense-ful, but fun.
Party Monsters: Cabo
Tuesday, 9 pm (E!)
E! claims to have a group of "A-list celebrities" (in reality, Carmen Electra and Brody Jenner) on board for this party-planning reality competition. Nine party planners head to a mansion in Cabo, angling to create the best party for the celebrity judges. Those whose parties don't rock face elimination.
I wouldn't be surprised if cocktail wieners were the path to victory.
Wednesday, 7 p.m. (Fox)
This new reality series temporarily strips millionaires of their money and plops them into impoverished neighborhoods. They go undercover to live on minimum wage, working with financially challenged folks. On their final day, they reveal their true identities and hand one of their new friends $100,000.
Given the current economic troubles, the grateful recipients are likely to be former millionaires themselves.
Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Wednesday, 9 pm (CBS)
Well, we've hit rock bottom. CBS, once known as the Tiffany Network for its high-quality programming, devotes an hour of prime time to women walking around in their underwear. I recommend avoiding the broadcast at all costs, even though I, as a TV critic, will be forced to watch the whole thing, maybe even to record it for further study. Damn the unreasonable demands of this job!