TLC, the cable home to such reality series as "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," takes a baby step toward scripted drama with "Surviv ing the In-Laws" (10 p.m., and 10:30 p.m., TV-PG). Don't go looking for big stars and stellar dialogue. Each vignette will feature a loosely scripted re-enactment of real-life tales of intrusive and ridiculous behavior, open hostility and
Mother-in-law jokes and stories were a staple of comedy, particularly on television, culminating with "The Mothers-in-Law," a popular 1967-69 sitcom produced by Desi Arnaz that starred Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard.
I recently had a chance to rewatch a few episodes and was struck by their antique quality. Jokes about mothers-in-law seemed to represent the state of television comedy before the era of topical humor ushered in by the huge success of "All in the Family." Before Archie Bunker, it was thought you might lose your audience if you joked about race, gender, generations and politics. But the success of "Family" proved you could gain viewers, and then some.
As old-fashioned and tentative as "In-Laws" may be, its narrative still purports to reflect real stories rather than rehash phony "reality."
---Speaking of topical comedy, Cedric the Entertainer's "The Soul Man" (11 p.m., TV Land, TV-PG) wades into the issue of gay marriage.
---During the 1970s, a young woman (Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey") discovers her mother's (Charlotte Rampling, "Dexter") secret life as a World War II spy in the 2012 miniseries "Restless" (8 p.m., Sundance, TV-14), which will unfold in marathon fashion.
The series was adapted from a novel by William Boyd.
Secrets are revealed and identities redefined as action unfolds in both the 1970s and 1940s. As I wrote last December, "Restless" is a period piece -- make that two period pieces -- set in the wilderness of mirrors of international espionage, a shadow world where no one can be trusted and where transgressions are never forgotten.
---The "Do Something Awards" (8 p.m., VH1) honors young people under 25 engaged in social activism and social change.
---Litigating meteorite damage on "Franklin & Bash" (9 p.m., TNT, TV-14).
---A spin doctor on "Royal Pains" (9 p.m., USA, TV-PG).
---Valentine's Day erupts in July on "Camp" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---"Nazi Mega Weapons" (10 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) recalls the V2 rocket.
---"Best Darn Takeout" (Travel, TV-PG) celebrates food in Chicago (10 p.m.) and New Orleans (10:30 p.m.).
---Marco approaches a ransom case from a different angle on "The Bridge" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
---A family camping trip ends in crisis on "Bulloch Family Ranch" (10 p.m., UP, TV-G).
TCM wraps up July with four 1950s potboilers from director Douglas Sirk, films that have been considered both high camp and serious symbol-laden cinema. Feast your eyes on "Magnificent Obsession" (8 p.m.), "Imitation of Life" (10 p.m.), "There's Always Tomor row" (12:15 a.m.) and "Written on the Wind" (2 a.m.).
---Hank Azaria is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stew art" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Kevin Nealon, Christmas Abbott and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS).
---Jennifer Aniston is booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
---Emily Matchar sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Matt Damon and Hanni El Khatib appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Kate Hudson, Bob Costas and Kopecky Family Band on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Johnny Knoxville, Logan Lerman and Queens of the Stone Age appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
---Tyra Banks, Simon Pegg and Dominique Ansel visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Jane Leeves, Ahna O'Reilly and the Backstreet Boys on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.