Baby Sellers (Saturday, 7 p.m., Lifetime) goes inside the criminal operations that provide infants for the adoption market. The TV movie is efficiently written and directed to evoke maximum outrage.
In the opening scenes, Homeland Security officers with flak jackets and assault rifles surround a truck carrying a cargo of babies in plastic bins. One of the officers (Jennifer Finnigan) is so disgusted by what she sees that she goes undercover to a shady adoption agency, posing as a woman seeking a baby from India. Agency head Carla (Kirstie Alley) is all sweetness and smiles in public, but cold and calculating as she deals with her suppliers behind closed doors.
I'm used to loving Alley on the small screen, so it's a shock to see her as a villain. And what a villain -- cynical, blunt and cruel. She makes such a memorable creep that it might be hard for her to go back to playing sympathetic characters. I'm worried that, from now on, even seeing her in Cheers reruns will make me uneasy.
Say Yes to the Dress
Friday, 8 pm (TLC)
The season premiere features Kristin Chenoweth, the spunky Broadway and TV star, who accompanies her assistant Julie to pick out a wedding dress. It's Julie's big day, but she doesn't get to be the center of attention. Chenoweth steals the spotlight, apparently unable to keep from mugging when a camera is turned on.
In a way, Chenoweth is joking when she insists that Julie pick out a dazzling Kristin-style dress rather than one suited to her own simpler taste. But in another way, she's not joking at all. She's used to getting her way, even at someone else's wedding.
"Her taste is plain!" Chenoweth snorts, viewing one of Julie's choices. "Snore! Wake me when it's over!"
By the end of the episode, Chenoweth has shamed Julie into choosing a flashy number that's outside her comfort zone. Julie says yes to this dress -- but I would advise that, at some point during her marriage, she learn to say no to Kristin Chenoweth.
America the Wild
Sunday, 9 pm (National Geographic Channel)
Wildlife expert Casey Anderson returns for a new season of getting way too close to North American wildlife. In the season premiere, Anderson hears about a place in British Columbia where wolves are aggressively attacking humans. For most of us, that would lead to only one conclusion: "Stay away from British Columbia." Anderson, by contrast, makes a beeline to the scene of the carnage.
When he discovers a mangled carcass in the woods, he's overjoyed. "The good news," he says, "is that there's wolves very close to here right now."
That's the good news?!
Monday, 7 pm (VH1)
Reality series about groups of passionate women acquaintances are all about the fighting. We wait for the moment when someone throws crockery, and they always do.
That is, until Basketball Wives came along. This group of passionate women, who are in and out of relationships with professional basketball players, have a penchant for intelligently talking through their problems. In the new season, Evelyn has broken up with Chad Ochocinco after only a month of marriage. He fooled around on her, and you would think that'd be enough to send her into a crockery-throwing rage. Instead, she behaves like a rational human being. She seeks out friends like Shaunie, Tami and Suzi, who give her the support she needs rather than spurring her to revenge.
I would applaud this behavior in any context but that of a reality series. Ladies, am I going to have to come in there and start throwing crockery myself?
Wednesday, 9 pm (BBC America)
A quiet English town registers shock when an 11-year-old boy's body turns up on the beach. No one on the local police force has experience in such matters -- no one except a new detective in town named Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Alec is haunted-looking and intense, given to outbursts when his partner, Ellie (Olivia Colman), makes mistakes. Ellie's son was a friend of the victim, and she can't help letting her own feelings affect the investigation.
This BBC series brings to life not only the two detectives, but a whole community. Everyone knows everyone in Broadchurch, and everyone becomes a suspect in the murder. It's refreshing to watch a crime drama that doesn't feel the need to throw buckets of blood at the screen. Instead, Broadchurch focuses on relationships, some of them almost embarrassingly intimate.
"I don't know if I can do this," Ellie tells her husband, expressing doubts about her ability to hold it together and do her job.
I certainly hope she can. After knowing Ellie for only a short time, I'm already counting on her.