I overlooked Eureka last year, so please excuse me while I jump on the bandwagon for season two (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Sci Fi). It's a perfect mix of sci-fi gimmickry, character-based comedy and good old-fashioned drama.
Eureka is set in a company town - and what a company. Global Dynamics is an organization created by the government to conduct top-secret research. That means everybody in Eureka is a genius, with the exception of the regular-guy sheriff (Colin Ferguson) who must control the chaos unleashed by Global Dynamics' fantastical experiments.
In this week's episode, an employee is victimized by a handheld doohickey that creates a force field around him. He's unable to turn it off or put it down, and the ever-expanding force field threatens to end life as we know it. I won't tell you how the plot turns out, but the climactic punchline sums up Eureka's mix of humor and poignancy: "Thank you for killing me."
Side Order of Life
Sunday, 7pm (Lifetime)
Jenny (Marisa Coughlan) is a thin blond career girl who clanks around on high heels, not realizing that life is passing her by. It doesn't take long to figure out that she's on the wrong path, because her friend Vivy (Diana Maria Riva) screams it in the series' first five minutes: "Life is the main course, the appetizer and the dessert!"
No argument there, but Side Order of Life feels more like the parsley garnish you leave on your plate. It mixes heavy-handed pathos (Vivy has brain cancer) with whimsy to queasy effect. The whimsy comes courtesy of Jenny's overactive imagination. In one scene, she fantasizes that everyone she encounters during the day is wearing a bridesmaid dress, even the men.
Meanwhile, I fantasized about watching any show but this one (also while wearing a bridesmaid dress).
Victoria Beckham: Coming to America
Monday, 7pm (NBC)
A celebrity can't move a muscle nowadays without turning it into a reality show. Case in point: fourth-tier personality Victoria Beckham moves from London to Los Angeles with soccer-star husband David Beckham. Most people would simply call the movers and the real estate agents; Beckham called NBC. So now we have to follow the whole saga, even though most of us are already busy thinking about Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.
I'm just praying for a sequel: Victoria Beckham: Going Back to London with Her Tail Between Her Legs.
Simon Schama's Power of Art
Monday, 9pm (WHA)
This week's episode descends into paranoia, hysteria and brutality - edgy stuff for an art documentary, particularly one about a 200-year-old painting. The subject is "The Death of Marat," painted by Jacques-Louis David to glorify the French Revolution's reign of terror. Marat was a key figure in the revolution's shift from championing liberty to guillotining legions of perceived enemies. "So little time, so many traitors to denounce," says host Simon Schama.
When Marat himself was murdered by a woman who disapproved of the revolution's tactics, David volunteered to paint a memorial. "The Death of Marat" shows a selfless patriot stabbed in his bath. The image is both breathtaking and - given the mass killings it implicitly champions - scary. "If ever there was a work of art that says that beauty can be lethal," Schama notes, "it's Jacques-Louis David's 'Death of Marat.'"
The Bill Engvall Show
Tuesday, 8 pm (TBS)
The sitcom is a dying art form, so it's high time somebody rethought the genre. But I guess that will have to happen at some later date, because here we have The Bill Engvall Show. Engvall, who serves as writer, producer and star, is content to recycle sitcom tropes that would have even Dick Van Dyke stifling a yawn.
He plays a counselor who works with dysfunctional families - but hold onto your hats, because his family is dysfunctional too! He's got a clueless mom, a wacky co-worker, a sullen teenage son, a hot teenage daughter, a precocious younger tyke and a long-suffering wife. You'll suffer yourself as the pilot runs through all the expected punchlines, from big butts to strip clubs to runaway pet snakes. When Bill discovers that his son's male teacher reads Jane Austen, he rears back in disgust: "That's so gay!"
Better to be gay reading Pride and Prejudice than brain-dead watching The Bill Engvall Show.
The Singing Bee
Tuesday, 8:30 pm (NBC)
Don't Forget the Lyrics
Wednesday, 8:30 pm (Fox)
NBC and Fox are battling it out to see who can produce the most inane game show in which people try to remember song lyrics. NBC rushed The Singing Bee into production in an attempt to beat Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics.
I wish both shows would take a hike. As the Supremes sang in "You Keep Me Hangin' On": "Get out, get outta my life, and let me...." Wait a minute, how did that go again?