by Matt Roush
The periods are a giveaway. The more I watch ABC’s lighter-than-helium super-spy romp Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was just picked up to no one’s surprise for a full season, the more I feel thrust back to a different time, a simpler and brighter time when organizations like U.N.C.L.E. (as in, The Man From …) held sway on TV, fighting its evil counterpart T.H.R.U.S.H. — or given the hokey jokiness of S.H.I.E.L.D., maybe a better parallel is Get Smart and KAOS (which I’m not sure used periods, though maybe should have). I’m not what you’d call a comics maven, so I can’t help it that I giggled every time the word “Gravitonium” was uttered in last week’s episode. Things get a tad more serious this week (Tuesday, 8/7c) when the team comes across a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who’s apparently gone rogue — but as the episode’s title (“Eye Spy”) suggests, you can’t always believe your (or someone else’s) eyes.
A running theme in S.H.I.E.L.D. is that not everyone’s cut out to be an action hero, which doesn’t make them less valuable to the cause. For a broader survey of this enduring genre, PBS devotes an entire three-hour prime-time block to the subject of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (check tvguide.com listings), a pop-culture wallow that was originally scheduled to air over three weeks. But under the theory that, as with comics, it’s hard to stop with just one, Superheroes delivers the whole package in one night. The history starts with the birth pangs of Superman and Batman in the Depression ’30s and continues through the social relevancy of Marvel Comics’ more brooding heroes of the revolutionary ’60s, and up to the evolution of Batman into a Dark Knight as superhero franchises conquer the multiplex. For more on this special, go here.
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PICKING UP THE PIECES: The old clubhouse ain’t what it used to be, as FX’s Sons of Anarchy sifts through the wreckage of their exploded HQ — a catalyst for change, it would seem, in a sprawling episode (10/9c) that shifts gears from despair and resolve to macho triumph in a display of undying brotherly love. Characters who’ve strayed are reunited in a memorable charter council meeting that features one of Jax’s most stirring soliloquies, and one of the show’s more colorful figures returns with a testimony we never saw coming.
HE’S NOT HEAVY: Well, actually he is, which is why former American Idol Ruben Studdard returns to the world of reality TV as a contestant on a new season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser (8/7c), weighing in at 462 pounds as the heaviest contestant and first celebrity player. Another first: the trainers helped select this year’s cast, and each will get a “trainer save,” which lets them save one contestant from elimination. It’s all about second chances, after all.
THE TUESDAY GUIDE: Having risked life and limb on Law & Order: SVU last week, Dean Winters dons uniform again on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine (8:30/7:30c) as a Special Crimes legend nicknamed “The Vulture,” who upstages Jake (Andy Samberg), which prompts the precinct to seek revenge. … On Fox’s New Girl (9/8c), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) ponders the meaning of life with a rabbi played by Jon Lovitz. … The legacy of Mike Franks (Muse Watson) lives on in CBS’s NCIS (8/7c), when a trip to Afghanistan leads to a women’s shelter that was a pet cause of Gibbs’ late buddy. … In the 100th episode of CBS’s NCIS: LA (9/8c), a kidnapping case involves a man who claims to be the father of man-of-mystery Callen (Chris O’Donnell). … It’s the devil you know on The CW’s Supernatural (9/8c), when Dean kidnaps Crowley (Mark Sheppard) to help find demons on Earth. … Magician Criss Angel lets viewers in on the creative process behind his performances in the new Spike TV series Criss Angel BeLIEve (10/9c). … Travel Channel’s Gem Hunt (10/9c) sends three jewel experts and dealers around the world to search and negotiate for glittery riches. First stop: Vietnam, where the team attempts to fly under the government’s radar as they head to the source of the country’s ruby supply.