CBS relies on reality standbys

The summer reality season begins in earnest with the return of "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS) and "Amazing Race" (8:30 p.m., CBS), both with 90-minute season premieres.

There's little to say or write about "Big Brother" since the network just released the names of the incarcerated contestants last week. Expect another round of petty, sleazy, manipulative behavior from the guests, and more cringe-inducing "reporting" from host Julie Chen.

Alison, the raspy-voiced, deceitful wretch from last season's "Brother" shows up on this summer's "Amazing Race" along with her long-suffering boyfriend Donny. They describe themselves as "the greatest example of new-age young adults. We give 110 percent to everything we do, and we don't accept not getting our way." Television writers and reality buffs will be praying for Alison to stick around. Her hideous antics are always grist for good copy.

Sexual identity (or nonsexual identity) is out this season. Unlike last year's "Race," there are no self-professed "virgins" or gay married couples. But there is Charla, born with a form of genetic dwarfism. She and her cousin Mirna are out to bust stereotypes and win cash. But diminutive Charla is left panting and far behind soon after the race begins.

No "Race" would be complete without a bickering couple on the brink of a breakup. New Yorkers Dennis and Erika fit the bill perfectly: They get into a tiff on the very first trip to the airport.

  • "Crossballs" (6:30 p.m., Comedy Central) offers a send-up of loud cable debate shows. Comedians pose as "experts" who make outlandish arguments to the consternation of "real" guests who think they're on a "real" talk show. The premiere episode offers a "debate" about the virtues of reality television as opposed to the "phoniness" of drama and comedy. One is left with only one question: Just how dense are these "real" guests, anyhow?

Tonight's other highlights

  • Jess sulks while his car is repaired on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
  • A child is the only eyewitness to a crime on "The Jury" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • A DA is found slain in a vice-ridden district on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Steamed in a manhole on "NYPD 24/7" (9 p.m., ABC).
  • The "P.O.V." documentary "War Feels Like War" (9 p.m., PBS) follows "unilateral" reporters who refused to be "embedded" with military forces during the Iraq invasion.

Late night

Paris Hilton appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Shia LeBeauf on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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