America's Got Talent has been the most popular series of the summer for the last couple of years, without ever truly breaking through into the wider pop consciousness. Compared with American Idol, which every so often really does showcase young people who look like future stars, AGT comes across more as the search for America's next great state fair attraction. None of its winners have ever achieved as much fame as, for example, Idol curiosity Nick "Norman Gentle" Mitchell.
But NBC appears to see the fourth season, which begins Tuesday (9 p.m.), as a chance to relaunch the series, in a way. The unmistakable, if somewhat inexplicable, phenomenon of Susan Boyle on the British version of AGT left a lot of people wondering why the U.S. can't have a show like that, apparently not realizing that we already have one. Whereas the audition phase of AGT has always looked a lot like Idol, with jokers getting co-billing along with the excellent, promos for the new season have emphasized heartwarming uplift a la Boyle. And old host Jerry Springer, a name synonymous with freak shows, has been replaced by cute young Nick Cannon, best known to this point for always walking two steps behind wife Mariah Carey. Expect to hear lots and lots of Les Miserables this summer.
Also this week:
Monday: Nurse Jackie (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.): It's looking like Eddie's pharmacy duties may be taken over by a machine -- bad news, since Jackie can't very well sleep with a robot in order to keep up her access to drugs. Also, Jackie's daughter displays signs of anxiety, and an elderly patient (93 year-old Eli Wallach) says the only medical treatment he needs is chicken soup.
Wednesday: The Real World: Cancun (MTV, 10 p.m.): After something like a return to its roots during the Brooklyn season, which featured conversations on topics such as transgenderism and the election, MTV has decided to cut out the party middleman and just place the 22nd season of The Real World in a resort. There's someone in the cast named Ayiiia. She sounds wild.
Thursday: She's Got the Look (TV Land, 9 p.m.): The nude or seminude photo shoot has long been a staple of modeling shows, even here where it is "older" (35-plus) women being showcased. Of course, after last week, when an eliminated contestant stripped off her clothes and ranted incoherently, merely getting down to underwear may look old hat.
Friday: Virtuality (Fox, 8 p.m.): Here's a rarity: an original film making its network debut in late June. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (New Amsterdam) stars in the story of astronauts on a lengthy mission who are endangered when the virtual reality system on their spacecraft flakes out. Bigshots Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) and Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) were involved in this one.
Saturday: Storytellers (VH1, 10 p.m.): ZZ Top has been at it for 40 years now, meaning that Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill have finally aged into their beards. The Texas legends bring their take on the blues to Chicago's Congress Theatre, and also provide some conversation. I wonder if they will tell us if "Pearl Necklace" is about anyone in particular?
Sunday: In Plain Sight (USA, 10 p.m.): Mary searches for a missing boy, the son of a witness who had traded visitation rights for his needed testimony. I'm still liking Mary and Marshall here, but the rest of the series could use a little work.