The more television changes, the more it stays the same.
Last week, Oprah hosted a "Where Are They Now?" roundup, a television staple that dates back to the Cenozoic era. Half the people on TV seem to be participating in talent contests, a genre that dates back to radio days.
Another old chestnut is the candid-camera prank show. ABC uses it to somewhat serious ends on its "news" series "Primetime: What Would You Do?" Syfy scares strangers witless with the well-worn "Scare Tactics." Tonight, Lifetime launches "Prank My Mom" (10 o'clock). Vivica A. Fox hosts.
On "Prank My Mom," children test their acting (don't call it lying) ability as they do outrageous things in the presence of Mom just to get a rise of out her and see how far they can push her buttons. In one setup, a young man shoplifts and gets caught, right in front of his mortified mother. In another, a not-so-dutiful daughter sets her mother up on a painfully embarrassing blind date.
---Just when the tattoo parlor reality genre couldn't possibly get any more pointless or vulgar, "Ink Master" (10 p.m., Spike) sets up a competition involving 16 artists in a morgue . As host Dave Navarro puts it, "A dead client doesn't squirm."
So let me recap: On Lifetime, "the women's network," we can watch a show where children are encouraged to
torture their mothers. And on Spike, the network for dudes, folks are desecrating dead bodies. What's next, competi-
---Way back when, people used to wait to see movies until they came out on DVD or watch clips from shows when they were broadcast on YouTube. That's so 2007.
Tonight, CW broadcasts "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" (9 o'clock), an online
musical video produced by Joss Whedon and starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day.
It was viewed a lot or, in
Internet-speak, "went viral" sometime in 2008. Reportedly, it has been seen 50 million times since.
So let me get this straight. As part of introducing its new season, the CW is airing a self-consciously cheesy (Neil Patrick Harris' wheelhouse) Internet musical that's 4 years old, has already been seen repeatedly by millions of potential viewers and can be screened on demand at any given moment. And this is supposed to give the network some kind of hip credibility? For the record: I don't get it.
---TV-themed DVDs available today include "Whitney: Season One."
---A social worker pays a visit on "Raising Hope" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---Yet another quaint local festival on the season premiere of "Hart of Dixie" (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
---"History Detectives" (8 p.m., PBS) evaluates a poster from World War I.
---A scavenger hunt resumed on "Ben and Kate" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
---Rolling out the welcome wagon on "New Girl" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---"Frontline" (9 p.m., PBS) airs "The Choice," profiling President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.
---James Franco and Marina Abramovic form a mutual admiration society on the sixth season premiere of "Iconoclasts" (8 p.m., Sundance).
---Danny makes a professional commitment on "The Mindy Project" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---Mia's dad arrives on "Vegas" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Kristina breaks big news on "Parenthood" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Jax makes the case for a new business venture on "Sons of An archy" (10 p.m., FX).
Years before "Seinfeld," a group of buddies resisted adulthood while debating trivia in a Baltimore "Diner" (9 p.m., VH1 Classic).
Director Barry Levinson's 1982 gem starred Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Timothy Daly and Ellen Barkin.
---Ducky digs up an old case on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---Deaths at a diner are linked to an intelligence leak on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---Compulsive eating on "Go On" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Shania takes part in a fake ceremony on "The New Normal" (9:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---Violet tries to move on "Pri- vate Practice" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Mila Kunis, Joel Stein and Rory Scovel appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).
---Nico Santos, April Richardson and T.J. Miller are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
---Kevin James, Chris Elliott and Miguel appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Tyler Perry, Oscar Pistorius and Plain White T's on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Will Arnett, the latest "Danc ing With the Stars" castoff and Father John Misty appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC).
---Christopher Walken, Pete Townshend and Jens Lekman visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Jeremy Irons and Monica Potter on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at email@example.com.