As far as I'm concerned, television can always use more bile, venom, and all around cynicism. Those qualities haven't always gone over well in sitcoms (Seinfeld was an exception), but freed by its FX home from the need to please a mass audience, the young creators and cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia have carved out a niche with their caustic approach. This is a series that has featured episode titles such as "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby" and "Mac Bangs Dennis's Mom." Danny DeVito is the relative voice of reason and calm. It's that kind of show.
The opening of the fourth season (FX, 10 PM and 10:30 PM) almost makes it seem as if everyone spent the summer asking "Just how far will they let us go?" as Charlie and Dee become obsessed with a strange meat that Frank has stored away, and Mac and Dennis go hunting for human beings. The second episode is mildly less offensive, as Dee and Frank try to expose terrorism in Philadelphia while the three boys decide to try selling gasoline door-to-door. Bars were never this much fun when I worked in them, that's for sure.
America's Got Talent (NBC, 8 PM): If these are the most talented people in America, we all have bigger problems than financial meltdown. The top ten will be narrowed down to five, but aside from Nuttin' But Stringz, Queen Emily, and Eli Mattson, no one else was even halfway competent yesterday.
Smallville (CW, 8 PM): Will viewers miss Lex? A new season begins with Clark missing after the collapse of the Fortress of Solitude. The Justice League searches for him, but the new CEO of Luthor's company puts up roadblocks. Also, Chloe's powers have been discovered by the folks holding her prisoner.
Kitchen Nightmares (Fox, 9 PM): Ramsay tackles the problems at Guiseppe's, an Italian (duh!) establishment outside of Detroit whose big problem, other than a lack of business, seems to be continual arguments among the father and son who run the place. Can Ramsay realistically be the guy to tell everyone to just lighten up?
Modern Marvels (History, 9 PM): Has anyone ever noticed that this show's definition of what constitutes a "modern marvel" is loose enough to encompass things that have been around for eons? The topic tonight is fungi, and while scientists are coming up with new uses for them (such as cleaning up hazardous materials), they aren't modern in and of themselves.
Supernatural (CW, 9 PM): The new season begins with the unsurprising news that Dean is no longer trapped in hell. But while Sam is pleased to see him again, there's undoubtedly a catch behind Dean's new freedom, something even Dean does not yet know.
Burn Notice (USA, 10 PM): The series takes its fall hiatus after tonight, which finds Michael secretly working to protect a young woman after his client is roped into a plot to kidnap her. Also, Carla (Tricia Helfer) is back to provide intrigue.
Flashpoint (CBS, 10 PM): The team responds when a teenage girl is kidnapped and held hostage inside a house, and gradually learn that one of the kidnappers is another youth who has been listed as missing for years.
Glam God With Vivica A. Fox (VH1, 10 PM): The stylists are told to take an item from the past and give it a current spin. This may seem redundant to say about a VH1 competition show, but aside from two or three contestants who know what they're doing, everyone else appears to have been cast for drama only. The drunk guy who was eliminated last week couldn't get hired to select outfits for a gravedigger.
Smash Lab (Discovery, 10 PM): A crash involving a fully loaded logging truck prompts the team to test ways to keep such an incident from ever occurring again. As someone who has shared the road with a good many loggers, I have to say that this may be their most worthwhile task yet. Now all they have to do is build a moose-proof car and I'll have nothing left to worry about.
Tabatha's Salon Takeover (Bravo, 10 PM): Is it my imagination, or is this show suddenly spending a lot of time in the New York area? Jersey mall hair, you're being put on notice! Tabatha comes to the rescue of a salon being run into the ground by the good-for-nothing daughters of its founder.
The Cho Show (VH1, 11 PM): Margaret is worried about her impending 40th birthday, an especially daunting prospect for a woman in show business. After looking into plastic surgery, she resolves to journey into middle age on her own terms, and with her old face. Good for her! Us naturally aging geezers need to stick together.