Many of us can't afford to travel this summer, but there's nothing to stop us from watching a travel series on TV. In The Great American Road Trip (Tuesday, 7 p.m., NBC), families drive cross-country on Route 66, engage in a series of competitions and face weekly eliminations. Along the way they experience eccentric American roadside culture, taking in "The World's Largest Rocking Chair" and "A Sneaker the Size of a Car."
Will the adult family members sicken and die after drinking weeks' worth of roadside-diner coffee? Will the kids get permanent marker on the back seats? Will Dad slowly lose his mind in the featureless Illinois landscape and make the tragic mistake of ordering the Grilled Tilapia Hollandaise at the International House of Pancakes?
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Friday, 7 pm (Fox)
The game show returns with more questions about geography, math and history that can be answered by elementary-school kids but apparently by very few people over 30.
After we adults steered the economy off a cliff through our stupid decisions, I think the titular question was definitively answered: No, we're not smarter than a fifth-grader. I propose that President Obama immediately create a cabinet-level position for the show's 11-year-old participants. A wise use of long division may be our country's only hope.
10 Things I Hate About You
Tuesday, 7 pm (ABC Family)
Two teenage sisters - one shallow and popular, the other deep and edgy - move to a new high school. The shallow sister (Meaghan Martin) joins the mean-girl crowd, while the deep one (Lindsey Show) feuds with the popular kids.
I love one thing about 10 Things I Hate About You.
1. The young actors are gorgeous, including the edgy sister's boyfriend-to-be, a soulful biker dude (Ethan Peck).
But there are other things I hate about the series.
2. Every character is a stereotype, from the Cheerleader to the Nerd to the Doting Widower Father.
3. The actress playing the deep sister doesn't know how to be both "edgy" and "bearable." You end up disliking her as much as the popular kids do.
4. Do Hollywood writers really get paid for lines like "Bring it on, skinny bitch"?
In spite of the things I hate about 10 Things I Hate About You, I still plan to tune in to the second episode. (See 1. above.)
Tuesday, 8 pm (Sci Fi)
This new series about supernatural artifacts tries to set the tone with a whiz-bang opening scene. Two Secret Service agents (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly) encounter an evil Aztec "bloodstone" at a museum party: a carved head with jagged teeth whose bite turns humans into killers. The head is supposed to be scary, but it looks kind of like an angry bowling ball. And, sadly, this pathetic image does set the tone for Warehouse 13.
The agents end up working at a remote government warehouse filled with mysterious relics. The warehouse's eccentric caretaker (Saul Rubinek) sends them off on missions involving objects that could destroy the world - just as in TNT's Librarian series, sans humor and charm. The agents are unhappy to be stuck in Warehouse 13, and so are we, given the cold, cluttered set and Rubinek's hammy antics. I'd rather be anywhere else, and that includes bowling with an Aztec bloodstone.
Nova Science Now
Tuesday, 9 pm (WHA)
There must be a new breed of astrophysicist since I was in college. Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Nova Science Now, is more like the class clown than the guys I remember hunched over their equations. Introducing this week's segments, Tyson dresses up as Indiana Jones and pretends to be a contestant on The Dating Game. He gets away with such corny stuff, partly because the segments themselves are so interesting. We learn how to grow artificial diamonds, how to trace an anthrax attack and how to manipulate a singing voice through pitch-correction software.
Nova Science Now reveals that Celine Dion uses the pitch-correction device to stay in tune, but it doesn't even try to explain Dion's appeal to her large audience. That's a mystery modern science has yet to solve.
Wednesday, 7 pm (Cartoon Network)
Cartoon Network's reality series gives us an up-close look at the younger generation. We meet five teenage paranormal investigators, dedicated to exploring strange phenomena with the latest in high-tech equipment. We've seen their adult counterparts on TV before - ghost hunters, UFO seekers and the like - but these kids are distinguished by believing almost everything they read on the Web.
"For each investigation," says one would-be scientist, "we research a bunch of different locations from the Internet and choose the one with the most credible reports." One such "credible report" takes them to an abandoned penitentiary, which is supposedly stalked by a ghost named "Blue Boy."
Evil spirits will put a curse on these kids for entering forbidden areas. Their faucets will drip blood and their feet will turn to cloven hooves. Really, it's true - there are credible reports on the Internet!