I had to admit, I was a little skeptical when "Shark Tank" (ABC, 8 p.m.) added Mark Cuban to the mix of millionaires bidding for start-up businesses. But having seen the first two episodes of the show this season, I can report that he really helps to mix things up.
"Shark Tank" has settled into its own. Having spun off from the UK version "Dragon's Den" (which BBC America no longer wants to air, even though it's still going on in Britain), "Shark" was the louder, more obnoxious US version when it first started.
But lately, the show seems to have found its groove, and if the first two are any indication, could be one of the best so-called reality shows out there in terms of real drama.
"Shark Tank" is a perfect show for these uncertain economic times, because it celebrates the American ingenuity that made the country great in the first place. There is a genuine sense of surprise over what happens in the tank, because some ideas seem incredibly dumb but still get investors, while other ideas that could be really great get sunk because of poor decision-making by the person seeking the loan. I swear there are a couple of would-be businessmen you just want to slap because they are so stupid.
As I've noted many times, I'm generally not a fan of reality TV because a lot of it seems manufactured and edited in such a way that it comes off as fake. But with "Shark Tank" tonight, you'll see an incredibly real, emotional moment toward the end that makes the series stand out.
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: It's sort of a light night tonight, as "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.) continues to wind down to next week's finale, followed by a new "Grimm."
"Fringe" (Fox, 9 p.m.) continues to follow Peter in the alternate universe. On cable, "Merlin" (SyFy, 10 p.m.) is new.
On Saturday, I was really unimpressed with the new fantasy series "The Fades" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), but I'll give it one more chance.
On Sunday, NBC is burning off the remaining new episodes of "Prime Suspect" from 9-11 p.m.
Fox is going for a ratings blitz, airing the NFC Championship game, followed by a new "American Idol" tentatively scheduled for 10 p.m.
ABC is all new with "Once Upon A Time," "Desperate Housewives," and "Pan Am," while CBS airs only a new "Undercover Boss."
PBS continues with "Downton Abbey" (PBS, 9 p.m.) on "Masterpiece." In case fans were wondering, a third series has already been commissioned in the UK.
On cable, AMC shows the four-hour director's cut of "Kingdom of Heaven," also known as "the script Ridley Scott chose over mine."
Showtime has new episodes of "Shameless," "House of Lies" and "Californication" from 9-11 p.m.