'Son' succeeds at being silly

Featuring flagrantly raunchy double-entendres, silly situations, gross-out jokes and scantily-clad bathing beauties, the cable comedy, "Son of the Beach" (9 p.m., FX, TV-14) is a laugh-out-loud guilty pleasure. Last spring the makers of this show, including executive producer Howard Stern and writer/star Tim Stack, told critics that they were striving to recreate the mindless, cartoon-like humor that made old TV comedies like "F Troop" and "Get Smart" so fun to watch. They have succeeded and then some.

For all of its over-the-top innuendoes, "Son of the Beach" has a goofball charm that seems almost innocent in today's grim TV environment.

The FX network presents seven new episodes of the new comedy beginning tonight. Mark Hamill ("Star Wars") has a good time hamming it up as an evil cult leader who recruits B.J. (Jaime Bergman) after she suffers a crisis of confidence. Ace lifeguard Notch Johnson (Stack) has to employ the powers of a wheelchair bound genius to decode the magic muffins that give the cult leader his secret powers. Throw in an absurd subplot about an international tetherball competition and you have the ingredients for a deliciously ridiculous half-hour.

Future episodes will feature tidal waves, stalked movie stars, Vietnam flashbacks, mythical sea creatures and the Mafia. Look for guest spots by Corbin Bernsen, Erik Estrada, Alan Thicke, Corey Feldman and former Miss Sweden Victoria Stistedt.

� David Hyde Pierce, who plays the finicky Niles of "Frasier" fame, lends his voice to the insightful documentary "Phobias" (8 p.m., TLC). While many of us are familiar with such phobias as fear of heights, flying or sharp objects, more than one person in 10 is afflicted with paralyzing fear about a wide variety of objects and situations, including worms, insects and public places. In "Phobias" we meet a construction worker who can't stand on ladders; a woman who panics behind the wheel of a car and another woman for whom birds and feathers hold terror. We also see how different therapists approach each phobia and help patients confront and defeat their fears.

Tonight's highlights

� Jim Lehrer will play host three hours of the Republican National Convention ( 7 p.m., PBS).

� A secret service agent (Mariel Hemingway) is tested when the president's daughter is kidnapped in the wilderness in the 1999 cable drama, "First Daughter" (7 p.m., TBS, TV-14, V).

� Scheduled on "60 Minutes II"

(9 p.m., CBS): coverage of the Republican National Convention.

� Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): an insurance agent's investment scam.

� Live coverage of the Republican National Convention (9 p.m., ABC).

Series notes

Sequestered on "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS) � Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (7 p.m., ABC) � Spike returns in search of a powerful relic on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., WB, TV-14, D, S, V).

On the first of two episodes of "Just Shoot Me" (NBC), Finch can't fight his urge to attend a cat show (7:30 p.m., TV-PG), and censors threaten the magazine (8:30 p.m., TV-PG).

A fresh new voice (Kim Coles) threatens to eclipse Dr. Crane on "Frasier" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) � A golf outing on "Family Guy" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14, D, L, S) � New friends disappoint on "Dharma & Greg" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG, L).

A soft new discovery on "The PJs" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) � A bachelor auction on "Two Guys and a Girl" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).


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