With summer almost over, there's not much time left to wallow in warm-weather trash. So don't miss The Lying Game (Monday, 8 p.m., ABC Family), a shameless wish-fulfillment fantasy based on the old twins-separated-at-birth premise. And I mean "shameless" as a compliment.
High school beauties Emma and Sutton (both played by Alexandra Chando, who looks like Kristen Stewart without the soulfulness) have just discovered one another's existence, communicating via webcam. Emma is a foster child in a low-rent, abusive Nevada family, while Sutton has been adopted by a wealthy, loving clan in Scottsdale. While Sutton heads off to find their lost parents, Emma arrives in Scottsdale to take her place " and here's where the shameless wish-fulfillment fantasy comes in.
After a lifetime of pain, Emma finds herself in paradise. Masquerading as Sutton, she has not one, but two hunky boyfriends competing for her attention. She has her own BMW and a huge closet full of designer clothes. Best of all, she has parents who constantly hug her as sentimental music soars on the soundtrack. "What would I ever do without my Sutton?" coos Emma's new mom.
The search for my own twin with a perfect life begins tomorrow. He's got to be out there somewhere.
Friday, 8 pm (Animal Planet)
This new reality series follows a couple of craaazy New Yorkers who move to Las Vegas with a dream of becoming the world's number-one aquarium builders. Admittedly, it's not a very telegenic dream, and that's where the "craaazy" part comes in. These dudes try hard " too hard " to entertain us with dopey high jinks, like pantsing each other.
I thought I noticed even the fish rolling their eyes.
Friday, 9 pm (Cinemax)
In this new series, a roguish American special forces dude named Damian (Sullivan Stapleton) joins a British military unit to stop a terrorist group. Strike Back flaunts its only-on-premium-cable language and gory action scenes, but aside from that, it's reminiscent of all such TV action series.
Damian delights in breaking rules and making nonchalantly witty comments even with a gun pointed at his head. The Brits, of course, insist on doing things by the book. "You are to maintain proper military discipline and respect at all times," British colonel Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) tells Damian in this week's episode.
If she really expects this guy to follow her orders, I doubt she's seen many such TV action series.
Sunday, 7 pm (Discovery)
Discovery has embarked on another of its epic investigations. Curiosity sets out to answer a series of Big Questions, each posed by a well-known personality. For example, Stephen Hawking asks "Did God Create the Universe?" Michelle Rodriguez asks "Could We Survive an Alien Invasion?" (After a lifetime of paying close attention to science fiction movies, I know I could survive one; the rest of you are on your own.)
This week's question is more down to earth: "Why Is Sex Fun?" Maggie Gyllenhaal undertakes a scientific examination of the orgasm, using ultrasound scans and MRI imaging to track the sperm's journey toward the fallopian tubes.
It's all very interesting, I suppose, though I must admit I wasn't really looking for a complicated, research-based answer to "Why Is Sex Fun?" I'm all for intellectual inquiry, but in this case I'm perfectly satisfied with "It Just Is."
Beyond Scared Straight
Thursday, 9 pm (A&E)
"A&E" stands for Arts & Entertainment, but A&E's Beyond Scared Straight has questionable entertainment value. Every episode is a solid hour of yelling, as wayward kids are taken to jail on a dry run. Guards get up in their faces and harass them relentlessly, all by way of showing them what's in store if they don't straighten out.
"WHEN I TALK TO YOU, YOU DON'T ROLL YOUR EYES!" the guards bellow at kids while they're handcuffed and fingerprinted. "WHEN I TALK, YOU LISTEN, 'CUZ I DON'T LIKE REPEATING MYSELF!"
The therapeutic value of abusing these children is questionable, since many of them already have abusive adults in their lives. The people most likely to be "scared straight" are viewers at home. Like me, for instance. After watching these sadistic guards in action, I vowed never to do anything that might put me in jail.
I mean, anything that might put me in jail, sir.