'LAX' soars past point of reality

Contemporary television is filled with not-so-subtle messages that are often at odds with reality and even common sense. If we accepted primetime sitcoms and dramas as gospel truth, we'd have to conclude that Las Vegas is the most exciting place in the universe; that gambling is harmless fun; that police forces and forensics labs have limitless funds to solve every crime using the latest technology; that unemployed goofballs can afford huge apartments in New York and Los Angeles.

But perhaps the greatest act of peculiar notion to come down the pike occurs in the new series "LAX" (9 p.m., NBC), a whimsical procedural drama dedicated to the concept that spending time in an airport is fraught with excitement and sexual sizzle. Hey, it's not just any airport -- it's Los Angeles International Airport. And that's near Hollywood!

As if acknowledging that many viewers may recall their airport experiences as something short of ecstatic, the makers of "LAX" have larded the plot with preposterous notions. Hence, Heather Locklear plays the gung-ho airfield chief. She's got a temper problem. And she wears low-cut blouses. Her chief rival for the job as LAX's head honcho is the dashing, slick terminal manager played by Blair Underwood ("L.A. Law"). Within a few nanoseconds of their introduction we discover that they've had a fling, and it was hot, hot, hot, but it's over. For now. Throw in a bomb threat, a frisky dog on the loose, a drunken Serbian flight crew and a customs official with an unprofessional crush on a seemingly duped would-be bride arriving from Asia in tonight's episode. Unless I'm very wrong, I suspect viewers will take one look and try to get the heck out of "LAX" as quickly as possible.

  • Mark Cuban is host of "The Benefactor" (7 p.m., ABC). He's touted as a billionaire ready to make one contestant a millionaire. And that's why 16 people are cooling their heels in his Dallas mansion. Unbeknownst to the covetous crowd, Cuban is spying on their every move and taking notes. Based on his observations (and a one-on-one competition), two players will get the heave-ho before the end of the hour. Will the remaining 15 receive roses? You'll just have to watch.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Simon mulls intimacy on the ninth-season premiere of "7th Heaven" (7 p.m., WB).
  • Postwar trauma on the second-season premiere of "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • Carolina plays Green Bay on "Monday Night Football" (8 p.m., ABC).
  • Scott Wolf joins the cast of "Everwood" (8 p.m., WB) as it enters its third season.

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