When Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” debuted on ABC, I hailed it as a breakthrough in network programming.
A talk show for thinking people, it features Maher and guest panelists discussing a relevant theme, sometimes right out of the day’s headlines. ABC is giving those who don’t stay up past “Nightline” a look at what they’re missing with Maher live at 10 o’clock for four Thursdays in July.
I must say that “Politically Incorrect” hasn’t fulfilled all my expectations.
When it is good, it is very good. But I’ve seen combinations of guests that simply don’t click, and topics that seem forced.
It’s hard for all the elements of the show to come together night after night.
Maher’s monologues remain strong. He’s a talented comic with a sarcastic streak that lends itself well to political commentary.
It’s smarter stuff than you’ll hear from Jay Leno or David Letterman.
Maher is that wisecracker in the back row who cracks up the classroom. He’s the co-worker whose barbed one-liners catch you off guard.
Sometimes his guests are equal to the task. But what has been a revelation is that some celebrities who join the fray have practically nothing to say.
Tonight’s scheduled guests are Michael J. Fox, MSNBC’s Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, Al Franken and Congressman Bob Dornan.
A “Politically Incorrect” repeat airs at 10:30.
“Diagnosis Murder,” CBS at 8: During ground-breaking for a new hospital wing, the bones of Sloan’s (Dick Van Dyke) former mentor are discovered. The remains provide clues to a 30-year-old unsolved murder that the crime doc is determined to crack.
But the new evidence leads to a second killing. Repeat.
“Friends,” NBC at 8: This is the concluding episode of the two-parter in which Ross and Rachel (David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston) break off their relationship. Perhaps the best sitcom episode of the season, it’s a well-played, smartly written confrontation between the two lovers that comes after Ross has a one-night stand, just hours after breaking up.
“Martin,” FOX at 8: In a memorable repeat, Tichina Arnold plays a dual role as Pam’s cousin comes for a visit. What no one knows is that she’s escaped from a mental institution. This zany outing may not win kudos from mental-health professionals who aren’t familiar with this show’s no-holds-barred style.
“Seinfeld,” NBC at 9: Toilet humor anyone? Jerry can’t bring himself to tell his new girlfriend that he knocked her toothbrush in the toilet. And then he can’t bring himself to kiss her. Repeat.
“New York Undercover,” FOX at 9: Evander Holyfield, both ears intact, has a cameo in this episode from January. During a drug raid, Williams (Malik Yoba) accidentally shoots a pregnant woman.
“48 Hours,” CBS at 10: A report examines an allegation that the United States was part of a plan to sell Iraq components needed to build cluster bombs during the Iran-Iraq war.
“‘Crocodile’ Dundee” (1986), COM at 8: Funny, action-packed and one-of-a-kind, this romantic comedy was a sensation a decade ago, and it still holds up. Can’t say as much for the sequel, of course, but Paul Hogan made such a splash that he’s still getting mileage out of the outback hero in a series of clever car ads.
“Cartoon Sushi,” MTV at 10:30: If you like to frequent international animation festivals, then you’ll dig this new series that samples animated shorts from the United States and around the world.
Among the offerings in tonight’s premiere: “Howie Hurls … Abducted.” Howie Hurls, a nervous man with a sensitive stomach, is abducted by aliens.
“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Jane Pauley (“Dateline NBC”), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”) and musical group Beck.
“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actor Nathan Lane, athlete-model Gabrielle Reece and music group Third Eye Blind.
“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:35 a.m.: To be announced.
“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Musical guest World Party.