Burn Notice (Thursday, 9 p.m.) is another funny/exciting crime show from the USA Network, creator of Monk and Psych . Our hero is Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan), a spy who's gotten a "burn notice." He's been cut off by the government in mid-assignment, denied resources, protection and even communication with his handlers. He doesn't know why he's been let go, but he aims to find out.
Michael is great company. He speaks to us directly via droll narration, explaining the life of a spy. He teaches us how to steal a car, create a listening device and knock heads together. "When you fight, you have to be careful not to break the little bones in your hand on someone's face," he explains while slamming a thug into a sink. "That's why I like bathrooms - lots of hard surfaces."
The filmmaking is as jaunty as Michael himself, having fun with freeze frames, montages and music. I hope other critics like Burn Notice - and if they don't, I now know exactly how to hack into their bank accounts and freeze their assets.
Confessions of a Matchmaker
Saturday, 9 pm (A&E)
A&E's series follows real-life matchmaker Patti Novak. Patti prides herself on taking a tough-love approach with her lovelorn clients, telling them exactly why they can't find a partner. But as far as I can tell, it's all toughness and very little love. "You have to make a choice between doughnuts and sex!" she screams at an overweight man.
Patti hectors her clients about the need for self-esteem. But she seems like part of the problem, not the solution, when she calls them names like "hag," "caveman" and "mannequin."
Watching Patti in action is such a turnoff that after a half-hour I made my choice: doughnuts.
Concert for Diana
Sunday, 7 pm (NBC)
NBC honors the late Diana, Princess of Wales, with a concert at London's Wembley Stadium, marking what would have been her 46th birthday. Her sons, princes William and Harry, have chosen singers who reflect Diana's tastes, including Elton John and Tom Jones.
When Jones comes on, please throw your undergarments at the TV screen. Diana would have wanted it that way.
Simon Schama's Power of Art
Monday, 9 pm (WHA)
In this week's titillating episode, the camera glides sensuously over the sculptures of Bernini. According to host Simon Schama, "No one before had managed to make marble so carnal. Bernini's figures arch themselves in spasms of sensation, all but made flesh."
Schama is practically squirming as he describes Bernini's "Ecstasy of St. Theresa":
"She's in ecstasy all right. Her head is thrown back, her mouth open. Her heavy-lidded eyes are half-closed. An angelic hand is delicately uncovering her breast."
Who knew that marble was the Internet porn of its day?
Shaq's Big Challenge
Tuesday, 8 pm (ABC)
I approached this series with trepidation. Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal aims to single-handedly solve America's childhood-obesity problem, starting with six overweight kids who'll undergo a Shaq-style boot camp. I expected an overdose of self-congratulation, not to mention an unacceptable level of basketball metaphors.
Man, was I wrong. Shaq's Big Challenge qualifies as a true public service. O'Neal seems sincere in his desire to help these unhappy kids, as well as educating the public about childhood obesity. He proves a funny and amiable presence, with a touchingly gentle approach. "A lot of people are probably thinking you can't do this," he tells an overweight boy on the eve of a training session. "But I believe in you."
I never thought I'd say this, but Shaq's Big Challenge is a slam-dunk.
Thursday, 9 pm (Bravo)
People watch Paula Abdul babble, gush and slur her words as a judge on American Idol , and they wonder: Who is this woman? Enter Bravo's new series, which chronicles Abdul's daily routine. In the premiere, our heroine stumbles through two chaotic days with no sleep, lurching from the Grammys in L.A. to QVC in Philadelphia, where she hawks her line of jewelry in a 1 a.m. time slot.
Can Paula handle the pressure? In a word, no.
She indulges in blubbery self-pity: "I'm tired of people not treating me like the gift that I am!"
She yells at her assistants: "Every time you pack me, you pack the wrong jeans!"
She throws a hissy fit after surveying her line of jewelry: "I never approved that indentation!"
That's right, folks: Behind the weird faade you see on American Idol is an even weirder woman.