Lone Star (Monday, 8 p.m., Fox) gives me hope for the 2010-11 season. Bob (James Wolk) lives his life as a con artist, with pressure from his dad (David Keith). He's set up oil-and-gas scams in Houston and Midland, Tex., while also creating fake identities and romantic relationships in each place. The thing is, Bob wants to stop faking it, against dad's wishes. He wants to go legit but in both places, with both women. You see the potential problems.
Lone Star's cast is brilliant, including Jon Voight as Bob's menacing oil-tycoon father in Houston. Wolk is not only devilishly handsome, but devilishly seductive. He's a guy we can't help sympathizing with, no matter how badly he behaves. We want him to pull off his double life, in spite of his father's warning: "Son, this is a house of cards. You don't get to live in it!"
It will be fun to watch the house of cards quiver over the next few months.
Monday, 8 pm (PBS)
Hollywood star Andy Garcia produces a portrait of the late Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" López, the Father of Mambo. Cachao was still alive during filming, telling stories that date all the way back to the 1920s. He's such a humble man that you'd never guess he played a key role in the evolution of Latin music.
"Humble" isn't the word you'd use for Garcia. He deserves credit for rediscovering Cachao, who fell into obscurity during his exile in the United States. But I'm not sure he deserves as much credit as he gets in the documentary, with interviewees praising him to the sky. Garcia inserts himself as an interviewee, narrator, concert MC and even a bongo player in Cachao's band.
It's distracting to see the legend of Andy Garcia mixed up with the legend of Cachao.
Monday, 8 pm (NBC)
We don't have Lost to puzzle over anymore, but now we have The Event. The pilot leaves you confused, but it's masterfully managed confusion, with characters who aren't what they seem and a doozy of a mystery.
The Obama-like president of the United States (Blair Underwood) visits a secret prison in Alaska, a young man (Jason Ritter) discovers strange goings-on during a cruise with his girlfriend, and…well, I can't tell you what happens next. It's not that I want to avoid spoilers it's that I don't really understand what happens next.
Mike & Molly
Monday, 8:30 pm (CBS)
In this new sitcom, overweight Chicago cop Mike (Billy Gardell) woos overweight schoolteacher Molly (Melissa McCarthy) while Mike's partner (Reno Wilson) taunts them with fat jokes. The cast is strong and the pace is snappy, but those relentless fat jokes grow tiresome. "I would shoot you right now," the partner says, "but I don't have enough chalk to outline your body!"
My recommendation for Mike & Molly: fewer girth-obsessed punchlines. Is it possible to put jokes on a diet?
Monday, 9 pm (CBS)
The old Hawaii Five-O is remembered for its swingin' theme song and the immortal episode-ending line "Book 'em, Danno." I expected the remake to have some fun with this kitschy cultural artifact, the way the Charlie's Angels movie did with another silly '70s cop series. We do get the theme song, but its brassy high notes seem all wrong for the dour drama that follows.
In this version, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) is a hard-ass crimefighter from the post-NYPD Blue era. He spends the entire pilot with clenched jaw and steely gaze, assembling a task force to patrol the mean streets of Hawaii. (You'd be surprised how many machine guns are necessary to subdue the bad guys in this vacation paradise.) The most jarring moment is an instance of police brutality we're supposed to admire as proof of McGarrett's dedication to law and order.
After this sickening scene, the inevitable arrival of "Book 'em, Danno" is hard to enjoy.
Tuesday, 9 pm (ABC)
This crime drama feels authentically gritty rather than Hollywood gritty. There are no gimmicky characters, no oozing corpses stuck in our noses. Those are the usual ways a new cop show tries to grab our attention, but Detroit 1-8-7 tries something harder: creating meaningful, realistic drama. We simply follow Detroit cops (Michael Imperioli, James McDaniel, Aisha Hinds et al.) as they pursue murderers and drug dealers in their troubled city.
"Another night in D-Town," the chief (Hinds) sighs at the end of the pilot.
If every night in D-Town is this compelling, count me in as a permanent resident.