PBS attempts to lift shroud of mystery

Liev Schreiber narrates "Science of the Shroud" on "Secrets of the Dead" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings), an examination of the controversial origins of the Shroud of Turin. For centuries, the faithful have believed that this relic contains the bloodstains and very image of Jesus Christ. Less than 10 years ago, scientists, using carbon dating and other methods, categorically proved that the shroud was a product of medieval times and not from the first century of the Christian era. "Science" offers new theories that rebuke the earlier findings and that may date the shroud to a time closer to the time of Christ. Yet another skeptic emerges to theorize that the shroud may reflect the efforts of a medieval alchemist and may also be an early example of photography. Fascinating stuff.

  • Fans of vicarious sadism should enjoy "The Swan" (8 p.m., Fox). This new series takes insecure, less than gorgeous gals and requires them to submit to plastic surgery and other indignities before applying to enter a beauty contest. And even after all of this mutilation and angst, some of them still will be rejected before a national audience.

But if trends continue, that promises to be a pretty miniscule audience. As Fox reality shows have gotten sicker ("The Littlest Groom," "My Big Fat, Obnoxious Fiance," etc.), their ratings have shrunk.

  • The folks at ABC have really lost their minds. I can just imagine the boardroom decision-making process: "Hey, guys, 'Monday Night Football' and 'The Bachelor' (8 p.m., ABC) are our two most dependably popular shows. Let's mix 'em up!" Hence the recruitment of New York Giants backup quarterback Jesse Palmer to date a bevy of beauties.

People used to watch reality television to see nobodies become somebodies. In contrast, Palmer is already a highly paid football player. What's next, a "Bachelor" starring Regis Philbin?

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS): Two 13-year-old boys stand trial as adults for the brutal murder of a playmate; the confessions of an accused al-Qaida terrorist.
  • The results are in on "American Idol" (7:30 p.m., Fox). Do we really care about the tastes of a home audience that prefers John Stevens to LaToya London?
  • The documentary "Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic" (7 p.m. Turner Classic Movies, part two of two) concludes.
  • Jodie Foster discusses the joys and shortcomings of celebrity on the series premiere of "Famous" (7 p.m., Biography Channel).
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): a teen's confession that he killed his parents may have been coerced. Should the case be reopened after he served 15 years in prison?
  • Peter's art finds its purpose on "Kingdom Hospital" (9 p.m., ABC).
  • "Modern Marvels: Bible Tech" (9 p.m., History) speculates about the science behind some of the technological wonders of the Good Book, including the Tower of Babel and Noah's ark.

Late night

Jimmy Fallon and Usher appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Donald Trump and Ben Harper on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Lorraine Bracco, Bill Bellamy and Eagles of Death Metal are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Vivica A. Fox and Stuart Townsend appear on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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