The fall TV season is still a few weeks away from beginning in earnest, but Sunday's premiere of Mad Men (AMC, 10 p.m.), defending Emmy winner as best drama, definitely seems to mark the end of the summer doldrums. While the second season was maybe a bit overpraised -- I found it slower and more artsy-for-its-own-sake than the spectacular debut season -- that's really just a quibble.
The new season resumes in the aftermath of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) surviving his power struggle with Duck, which left him with renewed strength in the firm even as it came under the control of new owners. Of course, this followed a couple of episodes of what might be termed freaking out, so we can look for more of Don in the wilderness in the coming weeks. Viewers are likely to find that the problems of the Don-Betty marriage have not been solved by a new baby, while Roger Sterling (John Slattery) has to deal with having less power in the company that still bears his name. Pour me a martini and smoke 'em if you got 'em!
Also this week:
Monday: Teen Choice 2009 (Fox, 8 p.m.): This is like the Super Bowl for 11 year-old girls. Check it out: the Jonas Brothers are hosting, Miley Cyrus and the Black Eyed Peas perform; Britney Spears (all of 27) is getting the "Ultimate Choice Award;" and the cast of the Twilight films will put in an appearance. The Glee cast will be there too, as Fox tries to build hype for next month's premiere.
Tuesday: NYC Prep (Bravo, 9 p.m.): The series that took the term poseur to new depths ends its first season with the graduation of Jessie and PC -- we can only hope that any further seasons won't contrive to keep these two airheads around. Also, Sebastian throws a charity shindig, presumably to benefit those with tragically outdated hair.
Wednesday: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (ABC, 8 p.m.): As we come to the end of a decade, ABC is airing a two-week primetime revival of the series that was the biggest hit on television at the beginning of the '00s, complete with original host Regis Philbin. I'm offering up my "phone a friend" services to anyone who might require them, though if the subject is anything other than pro football, snack foods, and reality TV, I likely won't be of much help.
Thursday: Royal Pains (USA, 10 p.m.): USA is well on its way to becoming the official network of summer. Everything seems to be working for them, most notably this series. Hank has concerns about an unusual method that Tucker's father is employing for drug rehab, while Evan's attempt to boost the business creates problems with a club owner.
Friday: Woodstock: Now & Then (VH1, 9 p.m.): Yeah, I'm sick of the boomers inflicting their youth on us as much as you are, but the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock is worth commemorating. Acclaimed documentarian Barbara Kopple has compiled interviews with the organizers of the seminal rock festival, as well as presenting the memories of performers and the now AARP-demographic attendees.
Saturday: Househusbands of Hollywood (Fox Reality, 9 p.m.): This new reality series follows five Los Angeles men who spend most of their time at home (not necessarily in child care) while their wives are in the workplace. One of the men is Darryl Bell of A Different World quasi-fame, whose sweetie is Tempestt "Vanessa Huxtable" Bledsoe. It certainly has been a long trip down for those two.