published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The dim sum of all our fears

At their best and worst, reality series often suggest good plots and settings for situation comedies. And we all know sitcoms can use all the help they can get. The fact that the creatively anemic fat-joke effort "Mike and Molly" is the year's biggest comedy breakout is a sad sign of the times.

Tonight's promising tryout is "Family Restaurant" (10 p.m., WE, TV-PG), a documentary-style glance at the workplace pressures and family dynamics of running a big Chinese restaurant.

Much like the recently launched Lifetime series "Russian Dolls," this offers a sympathetic look at immigrant life. Amy and Kinman Quon work as greeters at their vast eating hall and takeout restaurant, The Lingnan. Their westernized son Miles is the stern taskmaster in the kitchen, while sister Mandy takes reservations. Both children chafe at their parents' Old World ways and worry that their adherence to tradition is stifling the business. Not to mention their dating lives.

Like many series set in restaurant kitchens, "Family" unfolds at a desperate, frenzied pace. It could use some quieter moments, or even those contrived reality "confession" segments to get more insight into the characters.

The show strenuously sidesteps the fact that it was shot in Canada, giving "Family Restaurant" a literal sense of dislocation. All the same, these are real working people, too busy to shop or engage in product placements and too polite to complain terribly much, except about each other. And that is done with an undercurrent of affection.

"Family Restaurant" debuts right after the second season opener of "Downsized" (9 p.m., WE, TV-PG), where the Bruces' plan to purchase their own home takes a backseat to a medical emergency.

series delay

Summer's extreme heat has taken its first reality TV casualty. The new A&E series "American Hoggers" had to delay production because of the extreme temperatures in central Texas. The boar-wrangling series has been slated to air in the fall.

DVD releases

TV-themed DVDs available today include season five of "Dexter."



OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • A winner emerges on "MasterChef" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

  • "Cupcake Wars" (8 p.m., Food) break out at Comic-Con.

  • A silverback primate named Makumba sits down with "The Gorilla Whisperer" (8 p.m., Animal Planet).

  • A second chance for 12 contenders on "America's Got Talent" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

  • A family feud gets violent on "Memphis Beat" (9 p.m., TNT, TV-14).

  • A battle wound seems suspicious on "Combat Hospital" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

  • "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" (10 p.m., HBO) looks at the decline of professional tennis in the United States.

SERIES NOTES

  • Ziva's father complicates things on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, repeat, TV-PG, V).

  • "It's Worth What?" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

  • "Wipeout" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

  • Full circle on "90210" (8 p.m., CW, repeat TV-PG, L).

  • Three Marines go missing on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, repeat, TV-14).

  • "Take the Money and Run" (9 p.m., ABC).

  • Five couples remain on "Shedding for the Wedding" (9 p.m., CW, repeat, TV-PG).

  • A witness needs protecting on "Hawaii Five-O" (10 p.m., CBS, repeat, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

Anne Hathaway, Jason Momoa and Sean O'Connor appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS).

STS-135 astronauts sit down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).

Chaz Bono, Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs are booked on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS, repeat).

Jay Leno welcomes Jason Sudeikis, Adam Levine and Ziggy Marley on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC, repeat).

The Vaccines appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC).

Craig Ferguson hosts Rosie Perez on "The Late Late Show" (12:37 a.m., CBS, repeat).

CULT CHOICE

Yul Brynner, Joanne Woodward, Margaret Leighton, Stuart Whitman and Ethel Waters star in Hollywood's 1959 effort to adapt William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" (10 p.m., TCM). Brynner had appeared in "The Brothers Karamazov" just the year before.

Tiny Tim sang with one and George Harrison liked to use one. The 1920s and Hawaiian music made them famous, but they had fallen into neglect. The documentary "The Mighty Uke" (8 p.m., Ovation) hopes to set the record straight, chronicling the comeback of the ukulele by traveling to festivals all over the country and presenting some surprising performances from artists making the most of the tiny instrument.

In addition to its original run on NBC and its appearance in network syndication, "The Office" (8 p.m. through 11 p.m., TBS) airs six consecutive times on TBS tonight. After canceling "George Lopez" last week, TBS announced that the late night show would soon be replaced with repeats of "The Office."

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