I like shameless soap operas as much as the next guy, and The Client List is more shameless than most. Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Riley, a former Texas beauty queen who works as an erotic masseuse (read: prostitute) to support her two kids. In the season-two premiere (Sunday, 9 p.m., Lifetime), Riley's no-good husband needs an expensive lawyer, and you know what that means. She has to earn more money at the massage parlor, fulfilling clients' fantasies in lacy lingerie and a sexy smirk.
Thank goodness for Riley's persistent financial trouble, because otherwise it would make no sense that she continues this line of work. Actually, it makes no sense either way. The Client List presents her as a wholesome mom and solid citizen, even as she's cracking oral-sex jokes with her fellow prostitutes. The frequent montages try to titillate you one minute, then tug at your heartstrings the next.
It's hard to take, but remember, shamelessness is what brought us here in the first place.
Once Upon a Time
Sunday, 7 pm (ABC)
I know this fairy-tale drama has its fans, since it's survived into a second season. But I'm here to represent those of us who haven't been following Once Upon a Time and only happen upon it while flipping channels. ABC, I can tell you that we will not join the show's fan base. To us, your mishmash of enchanted characters and present-day people looks insane.
This week's episode, for example, makes no attempt to be accessible to the uninitiated. We're plunged into the story of a beautiful maiden (Rose McGowan) who inexplicably loves hideous, unpleasant Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) in fairy-tale land. The maiden also exists as a scary older woman in our time and place, threatening to kill a bunch of unidentified (yet significant-seeming) people. Meanwhile, everybody keeps muttering about the Dark One, who never shows up (or does he?). I won't even get into the invisible chalk.
Meanwhile, hideous, unpleasant Rumpelstiltskin keeps returning to the screen, as if daring you to change the channel again. "Rage makes straw turn into gold!" he hisses.
If confusion made straw turn into gold, I'd be set for life.
All-Star Celebrity Apprentice
Sunday, 8 pm (NBC)
Donald Trump emerged as an ugly figure during the last presidential election. He launched one pernicious attack after another on President Obama, all for the purpose of gaining media attention. And the media duly complied.
Trump is similarly ugly in the new season of Celebrity Apprentice. He brags, belittles the contestants, and stirs up ill will. But as a TV critic, I have to be honest: Trump's antics are enjoyable in a reality-show context.
So more power to All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. Better to keep Trump busy in this playpen so he has less time to poison the body politic.
Robot Combat League
Tuesday, 9 pm (Syfy)
In this reality competition, two-person teams are put in charge of eight-foot-tall humanoid robot fighting machines, with names like Thunder Skull and Steel Cyclone. They control the robots in combat situations, and the last team standing wins $100,000.
But let's consider the word "control" for a minute. As a regular viewer of Syfy programming, I know that people can only control humanoid machines for so long before they turn on us and enslave our population. That $100,000 isn't going to do the winners any good when they're hiding in an underground bunker with a small band of freedom fighters who have only the slimmest chance of vanquishing our metallic overlords.
Dukes of Melrose
Wednesday, 9:30 pm (Bravo)
Dukes of Melrose is a cut above most couture-based reality series. For one thing, it's only a half-hour, so it doesn't feel padded. For another, the tone is nice rather than nasty. And the concept has an effortless odd-couple charm.
Cameron Silver owned an extravagant vintage clothing business, while Christos Garkinos owned a more conservatively run store. They merge their operations into one high-end dress shop for L.A. celebrities, setting up a clash between the spendthrift Cameron and the sensible Christos. There's just enough friction to make things fun.
"We're not going to be cheap," Cameron insists. "We're going to be chic."
No, you're going to be both, and that's why we'll keep watching.