Mystery! just ended "Foyle's War" with a yawn. The "Inspector Lynley" series also ends this summer, but what a difference. This week's episode, the second-to-last (Sunday, 8 p.m., PBS), is almost unbearably tense and tragic.
When "Inspector Lynley" began in 2001, Det. Thomas Lynley (Nathaniel Parker) was a cool customer. Handsome, reserved, upper-crust - he was born on top of the world and seemed destined to stay there. But cracks slowly appeared in his faade, and by now it has completely crumbled. Lynley's wife was murdered right in front of him, and he starts this season a wreck. He's on leave from the force, drinking himself to death and seeing a psychologist. "She asked me to draw my grief," he tells his loyal partner, Det. Havers (Sharon Small).
Clearly, it will take more than drawing to pull Lynley out of his pit. It will take the discovery of a corpse - that of a little boy who disappeared 12 years ago. Lynley is a friend of the boy's parents, and he throws himself into this cold case. It soon heats up again, spectacularly so, and Lynley himself gets burned. Before he knows it, a woman mysteriously dies and he's accused of her murder.
No, our hero will not be allowed to make a graceful exit. Fasten your seatbelts; the series finale is Aug. 17.
Olympics Opening Ceremonies
Friday, 7 pm (NBC)
Once again, the Olympics sets up shop in a repressive country. The choice of China for the summer games has sparked worldwide outrage, and the touchy Chinese authorities may not be able to keep a lid on dissent as the international community floods into Beijing. Some of the fastest times all week may be clocked by protesters fleeing government goons.
True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet
Saturday, 8 pm (Lifetime)
Joanne "JoJo" Levesque walks, talks and acts like Lindsay Lohan in a TV movie about a teen actress who parties till she drops - literally, face first on the red carpet. Morgan is rushed to rehab, then to Indiana to live incognito with her regular-gal aunt (Valerie Bertinelli). You can connect the dots from there. Morgan begins her Midwestern adventure snobby and cynical, but slowly warms to normal life. The Indiana dreamboat arrives right on cue.
The plot offers no surprises, but the performances are another story. Everybody sparkles, particularly Levesque. The script supplies her with two hours of clueless (make that Clueless) dialogue, and she makes the most of it. "Can I sign for it?" she blithely asks a mean lunch lady when caught at the cafeteria cash register with no money.
If the real Lindsay Lohan were this amusing, I'd be glued to the E! network for daily updates.
The American Mall
Monday, 8 pm (MTV)
MTV offers a High School Musical of its own, set in the world's singing-est, dancing-est mall. Ally (Nina Dobrev) labors in her mom's failing music store, with secret dreams of being a sensitive singer-songwriter. A hunky janitor (Rob Mayes) hears her warbling after hours and emerges as her artistic soul mate. We're supposed to be swept up in the wonder of it all, despite the trashy earnestness of their collaboration. "When gray meets light it creates new colors/That stay lost inside till they find each other!" they sing, marveling at each other's marvelousness.
Full disclosure: I was swept up in the wonder of it all. If The American Mall is trash, at least it's energetic trash. The performances are snappy, the setting crackles with food-court verisimilitude, and the production numbers will have you tapping your Payless ShoeSource loafers.
Set your critical faculties to "off," crack open a fresh carton of Cinnabons, and enjoy.
Million Dollar Listing
Tuesday, 9 pm (Bravo)
This reality series about high-stakes L.A. real estate introduces us to "three agents and three egos." You'll notice they didn't say "three agents and three hearts." Hearts, of course, would just get in the way as these operators scramble to sell their million-dollar properties. Hey, if they didn't make their six-figure commissions, how would they afford classy cars, partners and pants?
Yes, pants. Twenty-one-year-old Josh informs his friends that he's wearing $600 jeans. (If you don't tell them, how will they know to be impressed?) Josh is shocked to learn that a wealthy friend has died, but not so shocked that he forgets to calculate how it might benefit him. "I'm sure they're going to sell the house," he says, lurching for his cell phone. "Never miss a business opportunity!"
Madison seems to have been chosen simply for his stunning good looks. He claims to be omnisexual: "Men, women, whatever." (TV critics?)
Then there's Chad, a self-important dweeb with a stuffed-up nose and no trace of humanity. He reveals that other kids laughed at him in school, but he's vowed never to let it happen again. "The way to do that is to get as wealthy as I can and as powerful as I can."
I'd tell him how thoroughly he's failed if I weren't laughing so hard.