'The O.C.' gains buzz factor, ratings boost

Have viewers finally had enough "reality"? Of the dozens of unscripted shows to unspool this summer, not one has emerged as a genuine hit, like "Joe Millionaire" did last winter. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (9 p.m., Bravo) has become the water-cooler show of the season, but that's more in the makeover genre than "reality." Another interesting sign of change occurred last week when the soapy new Fox drama "The O.C." (8 p.m., Fox) actually gained viewers in its second week. That may not seem Earth-shattering, but after watching new summer series like "Charlie Lawrence" and "Keen Eddie" disappear without a trace, it's almost shocking to see a real drama gain some traction. On tonight's episode of "The O.C.," Ryan's flaky mother Dawn returns.

  • The documentary "West 47th Street" on "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) follows four mentally ill residents of a Manhattan facility as they fight to gain some stability and independence. Filmmaker Bill Lichtenstein is particularly close to the subject of mental illness and recovery. He was a producer for ABC News when his career was abruptly halted by manic depression.
  • The new series "Newlyweds" (9:30 p.m., MTV) documents the domestic bliss of married singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. It also provides nonstop hype for their new albums.
  • Considered one of the world's foremost authorities on nonverbal communication, Dr. Marc Salem shows off the potential and possibilities of the human brain on the one-hour special "Marc Salem: Out of His Mind" (9 p.m., Sci Fi). But can he bend spoons?

Tonight's other highlights

  • Country pop star Shania Twain performs songs from her new album "Up!" before 50,000 fans in Chicago at a concert taped in June. (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Fire breaks out on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
  • "I Love the '70s" (8 p.m., VH1) examines the fads and favorites of 1972. This is followed by a glance at 1973 at 9 p.m.
  • Bad news about Jared on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • A child pageant star's death uncovers a sordid network "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • An interrogation goes awry on "NYPD Blue" (9 p.m., ABC).

Cult choice

Bette Davis teams up with mad scientist Christopher Lee in the 1978 shocker "Return from Witch Mountain" (9 p.m., Hallmark).

Series notes

Stuck inside on "Big Brother 4" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Precocious child stars on "American Juniors" (7 p.m., Fox) ... A stolen kiss on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Natalie meets the folks on "One on One" (7 p.m., UPN).

Mixed signals on "Life With Bonnie" (7:30 p.m., ABC) ... Abby swings the ax on "Abby" (7:30 p.m., UPN).

The dating games continue on "Cupid" (8 p.m., CBS) ... A wounded critter on "According to Jim" (8 p.m., ABC).

Claude's brother impresses Lydia on "Less Than Perfect" (8:30 p.m., ABC).

Late night

Lucy Liu and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Jennifer Aniston, Tyler Florence and Sugar Ray on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Ringo Starr and Eddie Izzard are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Peter Boyle, Kelly Rowland and Jessica Simpson appear on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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