It's very rare in television for a series to have a major reversal of ratings momentum several years into its run, but that's happened this season with The Bachelor, which flamed brightly in 2002 but had been nearly forgotten for years, a victim of too many fairy tales gone bad and simple exhaustion (how many times can you hype "the most shocking rose ceremony ever"?).
But things began to turn around with the dual rejection in the Season Eleven finale in the fall of 2007, and current Bachelor Jason Mesnick, the single dad dumped by Bachelorette DeAnna Pappas, has brought a built-in fanbase to the current hit season. This week (ABC, Monday 8 PM), Jason's adventure climaxes in New Zealand with his choice: either Molly or Melissa. But before that, we'll see a walk-on from DeAnna and an appearance by Jason's young son, who has a stake in this decision too -- assuming, of course, that this new relationship even makes it to Mothers Day.
Also this week:
Tuesday: Nip/Tuck (FX, 10 PM): After nearly eighteen months, Season Five is finally over. And while weddings are a traditional way to send characters into an offseason, the proposed union of unrepentant horndog and breast cancer patient Christian and his lesbian sidekick Liz is a match that could only be made on Nip/Tuck. Before the wedding, Christian looks into alternative ways to deal with his cancer, and Kimber discovers that it's tough being an aging porn star.
Wednesday: America's Next Top Model (CW, 8 PM): It's Cycle Twelve, for those of you still paying attention. The two-hour season premiere finds a gaggle of prospective models together in Vegas, with the top thirteen moving on to the main portion of the competition in New York. I'm not this show's target audience by any stretch, but I'm liking the looks of Teyona and Fo early on. Allison is intriguing also -- a weirdo who is into blood. Does Tyra have enough pull to get Robert Pattinson to guest?
Thursday: CSI (CBS, 9 PM): Taylor Swift, apparently the last person in the recording industry who can sell full-length CDs, has her most extensive acting role ever as a girl whose parents run a motel that has been the scene of several recent murders. The episode is a showcase for George Eads as primary investigator Nick, as the series leans on one of its remaining familiar faces.
Friday: 20/20 (ABC, 9 PM): A look at the combination comeback and farewell performance by Siegfried and Roy (taped February 28), which benefitted the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. The hour contains a look back on the career of the Vegas-based illusionists, with the men also discussing Roy's recovery from a near-fatal tiger mauling in 2003. Elizabeth Vargas reports.
Sunday: The L Word (Showtime, 9 PM): We have spent the entire final season establishing that everyone in the cast had a good reason for wanting Jenny (Mia Kirshner) dead; the series finale finds the gang behind bars while the investigating officers piece the puzzle together further. The series had a few strong performances (I always liked Laurel Holloman and Katherine Moennig) and vivid plotlines, but to diminishing returns, particularly in the last two seasons.
Sunday: Breaking Bad (AMC, 10 PM): The best new series of 2008 returns, this time with a full complement of episodes. Emmy winner Bryan Cranston stars as high school chemistry teacher, expectant father, chemo patient, and budding drug kingpin Walter White -- and with all that on his plate, it's no wonder he looks utterly exhausted. The premiere finds Walter and his moronic partner Jesse (the hilarious Aaron Paul) trying to figure a way out of their business relationship with Tuco, while Walter's wife Skyler is feuding with her sister Marie.