'Joey' not a clever spinoff

The good news is that "Joey" (7 p.m., NBC) is not horrible. But its merely adequate status is depressing in itself. The sole reason you won't turn it off immediately is that, over the years, you've probably developed a reservoir of affection for Matt LeBlanc's character from "Friends." We all loved Ringo, too, but somewhere around his third solo album, affection alone was not enough to sustain interest.

It didn't have to be this way. You can make intelligent spinoffs. "Cheers" was a great, one-liner driven sitcom. "Frasier" shocked and delighted everyone by becoming an entirely different, and to my mind superior, comedy. "Joey" unfolds with the same tired three-camera-and-a-laugh-track sitcom format that viewers just don't accept as "real" anymore.

  • Neal McDonough, star of the late, great, lamented "Boomtown," returns in "Medical Investigation" (9 p.m., NBC). With "CSI" and its offshoots, Jerry Bruckheimer has clearly raised the bar for cinematic slickness in police/medical procedurals. That's not always a great thing.

McDonough's character is a hotshot member the National Institutes of Health's task force. If a funky medical emergency breaks out, he's got to be there lickety-split. We quickly learn that he is a very, very busy man with a job that has taken a toll on his personal life. And we also see that "Medical" will go to preposterous lengths to make that point.

  • What if terrorists attacked a nuclear power plant near New York City? Filmmaker Rory Kennedy ponders several ghastly scenarios in "Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable" (7 p.m., HBO).
  • "Chernobyl Heart" (7:45 p.m., HBO) looks at the aftereffects of the 1986 nuclear accident in the Ukraine, which unleashed 90 times the radioactivity of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Pompoms and prognostication on "NFL Opening Kickoff 2004" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Another guest leaves on "Big Brother 5" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • The New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts in NFL action (8 p.m., ABC).
  • A teen claims she was kidnapped as a tot on "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).


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