'Big Brother' returns

Last summer, I blasted "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS) as one of the dumbest, dullest and depressing TV shows ever. Of course, that was before "Fear Factor" and "Chains of Love" premiered.

For those who still care, "Brother" sentences 12 strangers to live in a house outfitted with 38 cameras and 62 microphones. Unlike "The Real World," where the contestants can come and go and have what we call lives, the saps on "Big Brother" are confined. It's like "The Real World" under house arrest. Last summer's "Brother" failed to generate much buzz or spectacular ratings.

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AP Photo

The 12 houseguests on "Big Brother 2," a summer reality series on the CBS television network, are, top row, from left, Mike, Monica, Sheryl, Krista, Nicole, Autumn, Bunky and William; front row, from left, are Shannon, Hardy, Justin and Kent.

The hour-long "Big Brother 2" will air on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the next 11 weeks. This season, one guest will get kicked out every Thursday. The last remaining contestant wins $500,000. You'll have plenty of chances to hate it or ignore it all over again.

l Two cult filmmakers get their due tonight. Toronto-based David Cronenberg is featured on "The Directors" (7 p.m., Encore). While often considered just a horror movie director, Cronenberg's films � including "Scanners," "Naked Lunch," "Dead Ringers" and "The Dead Zone" � often explore discomforting social and political issues. Encore follows the program with screenings of Cronenberg's "The Fly" (8 p.m.) and "M. Butterfly" (10 p.m.).

Tonight's other highlights

l Winona Ryder guest stars as Rachel's old sorority sister on a repeat of "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).

l Based on a novel by Dean Koontz, the 2000 thriller "Soul Survivor" (7 p.m., Fox) concludes.

l A fat cat's funeral on a repeat "The Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

l Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth McGovern star in "Racing with the Moon" (7 p.m., AMC), director Richard Benjamin's nostalgic glance back at the World War II home front.

l Death in the desert on a repeat "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

l Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): Three married couples face the seven-year hurdle.

l George Plimpton guest stars as Carter's grandfather on a repeat "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

l An ABC News special (9 p.m.): Women and smoking.

Series notes

l Candid camera antics on a new episode of "Spy TV" (7:30 p.m., NBC) ... Drew Carey hosts back-to-back episodes of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Wrestling on "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Party animals settle down on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC) ... Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (8 p.m., ABC) ... A burglary inspires further education in enchantment on "Charmed" (8 p.m., WB).

Late night

l All are repeats ... Regis Philbin and David Gray appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (10:35 p.m.) ... Jay Leno's guests include Courteney Cox Arquette, Gloria Estefan, Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla on "The Tonight Show" (10:50 p.m., NBC, following Wimbledon highlights).

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