In Warehouse 13 (Tuesday, 8 p.m., SyFy), two Secret Service agents (Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly) work with the caretaker (Saul Rubinek) of a top-secret government storage facility that houses mysterious relics. They investigate supernatural activity and wander through elaborate green-screen sets. Last year, I gave the series premiere a negative review, but the second-season premiere strikes me as a minor masterpiece. What the hey?
Warehouse 13 must have hit its stride while I wasn't watching. This episode's plot is fantastic (not to mention fantastical), involving novelist H.G. Wells returning to life for sinister purposes. The actors' droll delivery keeps the tone light and lively a real achievement when you're dealing with an over-the-top battle between good and evil.
Best of all are the gadgets. There's an Imperceptor Vest, which makes you invisible; an Escher Vault, which has the weird spatial logic of an M.C. Escher print; and the Pearl of Wisdom, which the villains place in your ear to control your thoughts.
Is Warehouse 13 really a hundred times better than it was last year, or has a villain just put a Pearl of Wisdom in my ear to make me think it is?
Sunday, 7 pm (Cartoon Network)
It's amazing how throwaway children's TV has improved over the years. This new live-action series is utterly meaningless and utterly fun, with a fast-moving plot and cool special effects. Today's kids have all the luck.
High school dude Henry (Kevin G. Schmidt) has spent his childhood in the Far East, seeking the path to enlightenment, but he moves back to the U.S. to solve mysteries. In a typical episode, he battles masked ninjas, shoots a poison blow dart, jumps from rooftop to rooftop, opens secret panels and finds buried treasure.
Unnatural History won't lead you down the path to enlightenment, but if I were 11, it would certainly be the path I'd want to follow.
The Real L Word
Sunday, 9 pm (Showtime)
The creators of the lesbian drama The L Word offer a real-life version, following six women as they love 'em and leave 'em in glamorous L.A. These lesbians are every bit as unappealing as their straight counterparts on mainstream reality series: insipid, exhibitionistic, foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed. Nevertheless, The Real L Word is automatically important just because it exists. It's politically bold to show real women hooking up on TV women who are not ashamed of their sexuality in spite of the culture's rampant homophobia.
I may not like these six women any more than I like run-of-the-mill reality show idiots, but I certainly approve of them more.
Tuesday, 9 pm (Bravo)
Double Exposure follows the fashion photography team of Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, who specialize in shooting celebrities. Markus is one of the most repellent reality show subjects in a long time: a frosted-haired narcissist with a foul temper and an irresistible urge to diddle his models. He affects leather jackets and gaudy crosses, and he screams at Indrani for touching his equipment. You can only laugh when he plays Mr. Sexy Euro Photographer Guy at the shoots, goading the models in his high-pitched accent: "That's hot! You're such a tiger! Yes yes yes yes yes that's hot!"
Double Exposure would be unbearable but for Indrani. She is beautiful, sweet and patient, enduring Markus' moods with good humor. Her lilting voice makes your knees go weak, and her spiritual approach to photography contrasts with Markus' meat-market worldview. "I'm always looking for that divine spark that illuminates my subjects," she says.
May I suggest a spinoff series featuring just Indrani, called Single Exposure?
Tuesday, 10 pm (FX)
Louis C.K. produces, writes, directs and edits this new comedy based on his life as a standup comedian and single dad. I use the word "comedy" loosely. Louis fills the half-hour with gloom: dates gone wrong, school field trips gone wrong, bus rides gone wrong, etc. He threads his standup act throughout the show, emphasizing existential angst: "Everything that makes you happy is going to end at some point."
Most people don't turn on the TV to be reminded of that fact. It's true that many great sitcoms are based on things going wrong - Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm - but they don't try this hard to drag you into the pit of despair. They're redeemed by comic energy, and Louis could use a lot more of that.
In one scene, Louis' horrified date runs away from him and, in an absurdist twist, flies off in a helicopter. After a half-hour in his presence, I yearned for a helicopter myself.