Scene staff writer Ron Wynn:
The next chapter in one of contemporary television's biggest disasters begins tonight when Jay Leno returns as host of The Tonight Show
(WSMV-Channel 4, 10:35 p.m.). By now the litany of stunningly dumb moves made by NBC is history, from Leno's five-nights-of-primetime-torment show to assuming Conan O'Brien would just automatically accept having The Tonight Show
shifted to 11:05 p.m. It didn't help that Leno's show was drawing the kinds of ratings reserved for static, or that O'Brien's audience dipped more than 40 percent during his short-lived run as Tonight Show
If you can't look away, Leno's first show features Brad Paisley and Jamie Foxx, plus the cast of the show Jersey Shore
and various gold medal winners from the just concluded Winter Olympics. But even with Sarah Palin tomorrow night, Leno faces a tough task. David Letterman is now firmly atop the late-night ratings, closely trailed by ABC's Nightline
Leno's also still recovering from backlash due to unfavorable coverage and negative reaction to his recent Oprah appearance. Polls taken as his interview was in progress showed more than 90 percent of those responding sided with O'Brien.
Monday night makeover
At 7:30 p.m., the tepid comedy Rules of Engagement
(WTVF-Channel 5) is easily the weakest of an otherwise solid lineup. Even so, it's taking the slot between How I Met Your Mother
and Two and a Half Men
for the next several weeks. Country star Carrie Underwood guest stars tonight on How I Met Your Mother
NBC counters at 8 p.m. with a two-hour Law & Order
(WSMV-Channel 4), following a new episode of Chuck
. Meanwhile, ABC devotes the entire evening to the wrap-up of The Bachelor
(WKRN-Channel 2) starting at 7 p.m. Wake me when it's over.
Things are going to heat up quickly when the underrated Southland
(TNT) returns Tuesday night for six episodes that were originally supposed to air on NBC. (They were abandoned after the network revoked its renewal of the show.) Without revealing too much information -- I like spoilers the way Ticketmaster likes scalpers -- I'll just say that based on the first two shows, the life of rookie cop Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) is about to get a lot hotter. Whether it's hot enough to get Southland
a full second-year renewal strictly depends on its ratings over the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, NBC, which let Southland
drift to cable, unveils Parenthood
-- the eagerly awaited network retread of a 20-year-old Ron Howard movie. Hey, it could have been Cocoon.
• After seven years of male rapes, self-circumcisions, scheming avengers and stray beheadings, the often bizarre, always intriguing Nip/Tuck
off Wednesday night at 9 as longtime friends and sometimes adversaries Sean (Dylan Walsh) and Christian (Julian McMahon) reflect on their past, present and future. Fans will be discussing this one for years to come.
• Burn Notice
(USA) has an explosive (in every sense of the term) season finale Thursday evening at 9. Along with the various cars and helicopters being destroyed, some key plot twists occur -- the biggest involving the fate of Michael Westin (Jeffrey
Donovan), and more details about just who's responsible for his current status. With Monk
now a memory and ratings for both Psych
and White Collar
rather erratic, Burn Notice
has emerged as USA's most popular
• Big Love
(HBO) also heads for the spring sunset, though it's also been renewed for a fifth season. Sunday's episode revolves around the upcoming election, with Bill (Bill Paxton) bidding for a spot in the state senate against some vicious opposition.
The absence of Oscar-nominated songs may be the biggest change in Sunday night's annual Academy Awards telecast at 7 p.m. (WKRN-Channel 2). Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are serving as co-hosts. For those who like personality interviews with nominees, the final Barbara Walters Oscar special at 6 p.m. features Sandra Bullock and Mo'Nique, the likely winners for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
It's also the first year since 1943 that 10 films are nominated for Best Picture. The prospect of a historic evening also looms in the Best Director category, with both Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker
) and Lee Daniels (Precious
) nominated. Neither women nor black filmmakers have ever won in this category, and Bigelow is the prohibitive favorite. The fact she's vying for the award against her ex-husband James Cameron (Avatar
) only adds to the drama.