What2Watch: The Shield Punches Out

Prior to 2002, basic cable was known for nonstop reruns and toothless original programming. Then came The Shield, which gave FX viewers the sort of violence and profanity that you used to have to pay big money for. After seven years, the adventures of villainous Vic Mackey and the rest of his LAPD colleagues end Tuesday with a special 90 minute episode (10 PM). It promises to be a true catharsis in keeping with a series that was never anything less than breakneck in its pace. Particular kudos must go to series creator Shawn Ryan, who has a great future in the medium; and to fearsome star Michael Chiklis, who has completely erased memories of his tenure on the fluffiest cop series of all time, The Commish. There will be blood on Tuesday night.

Also this week:

Monday: Dancing With the Stars (ABC, 8 PM): The final performance episode of this season, which seemed to lose a little of its sizzle after Cloris Leachman left and people stopped undergoing surgery. Brooke Burke remains the favorite, but you can't discount the chances of Warren Sapp, given the track record of football players on DWtS. And Lance Bass is there to represent for aging boy banders.

Wednesday: Sons of Anarchy (FX, 10 PM): With The Shield ending, Nip/Tuck nearing its end, and both Dirt and The Riches dead, FX could use a hot new drama. This series ends its first season with our bikers doing some soul searching. Which I suppose means that they will still set things on fire, but will brood about it first.

Thursday: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC, 9 AM): The gang from Today will host the annual big balloon festival through the streets of Manhattan. Miley Cyrus, David Archuleta, Kristin Chenoweth, and country legend Darius Rucker are among the special guests. The Cheetah Girls were supposed to be there too, but they got canned after someone in the group took her clothes off. Does that mean I can stay in bed?

Friday: Monk (USA, 9 PM): Monk agrees to overcome his qualms about situations that aren't hospital-clean when he agrees to help some homeless men whose friend died under suspicious circumstances. Also, Stottlemeyer believes that a visit to a monastery fountain has relieved his pain.

Saturday: Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show (TBS, 9 PM): Ellen DeGeneres hosts an old-fashioned variety show. Is this really much different than what she does five days a week, minus the talk segments? Magicians, impersonators, and dancers will be on hand. America's Got Talent, with Ellen replacing the Hoff. Hmmmmm.

Sunday: Desperate Housewives (ABC, 9 PM): Last year a tornado, this year a big fire. Good thing for Wisteria Lane that you can't sell your house these days, because otherwise who would stay? We'll learn who is responsible for the fire (who gets blamed, at any rate), and Bree's big demonstration won't occur without complications.