Trust me on this one: Tonight’s “Mad About You” (NBC at 8) is about as close as it gets to a perfect half-hour of television comedy.
The show starts with Jamie (Helen Hunt) struggling with the mood swings of postpartum depression. And that means Paul (Paul Reiser) is struggling, too. I should say that there is very little inherent humor in this delicate and debilitating condition. But that’s the real world; this is a sitcom. The writing is so clever, and Hunt and Reiser so delightfully in-sync that you’ll be howling.
However, wait until you see Paul as the director of a charity performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” starring his parents (Louis Zorich, Cynthia Harris) and a cast of senior citizens.
Zorich, who aspired to be an opera singer, is a genuine laugh-riot in the play-within-the-show. You will love it.
More laughs on a theatrical theme are in store at 9:30 on NBC’s “Just Shoot Me” when Shakespeare-lover Maya (Laura San Giacomo) flips out over her father (George Segal) giving Elliott and Nina (Enrico Colantoni, Wendie Malick) tickets to hop aboard his private jet to see “King Lear” in London.
The sitcom players plot against each other in what is quickly recognizable as a modern-day “King Lear.” Not bad, but David Spade’s royal quips remain the funniest thing going in this series.
“Die Hard With a Vengeance” (1995), FOX at 8: John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns in the second “Die Hard” sequel, taking on a taunting madman (Jeremy Irons) who uses explosives as a diversion in a New York City gold heist. Lots of action, but entirely unbelievable.
“Nova,” KSPS at 7: Sir David Attenborough narrates “Wild Wolves.”
The hour gives you a rare glimpse at wolves in their natural habitat. Filmed in North America, Europe and Asia.
“JAG,” CBS at 8: Montel Williams guest stars as a Navy SEAL who is up for a Congressional Medal of Honor, but there’s a problem with the story of his daring rescue.
“Frontline,” KSPS at 8: The story of Keiko, the whale who starred in the movie “Free Willy,” is told in an hour that probes issues surrounding marine animals in captivity. Included is a look at the expanding Japanese whale-meat market. Animal lovers will be shocked by what “Frontline” has dug up.
“Ken Follett’s ‘The Third Twin”’ (1997), CBS at 9: The riddle finally begins to unwind as Ferrami (Kelly McGillis) discovers that there are more cloned “twins” (each played by Jason Gedrick) than she could have dreamed. Enormous plot holes and flat chemistry between Gedrick and McGillis keep this thing from clicking. Pray they don’t clone a sequel.
“Frasier,” NBC at 9: In the series’ 100th episode, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) celebrates the 1,000th broadcast of his radio call-in program. But, as can be expected, the really big show is a really big disaster.
“NYPD Blue,” ABC at 10: Nothing can stop Simone and Sipowicz (Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz) when they smell a rat. And they have little doubt that a man hungry for an insurance settlement killed his wife and baby.
“Von Ryan’s Express” (1965), AMC at 4 and 11:30: The vintage movie channel caps a day of Veteran’s Day military movies with this breathstopping World War II adventure about a group of Allied prisoners who make a break for freedom aboard a hijacked train. Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard star.
The evening continues at 6 and 1:30 a.m. with 1955’s “Battle Cry,” adapted from Leon Uris’ novel. And at 8:30, it’s 1958’s “The Young Lions,” based on Irwin Shaw’s book.
“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Actress Vanessa Williams.
“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actress Claire Danes, skating champion Michelle Kwan and singer Lorrie Morgan.
“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:05 a.m.: Aughor Dinesh D’Souza, Quincy Jones and comedian David Cross.
“The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder,” CBS at 12:35 a.m.: Actor Bill Murray and author William Diehl.
“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Director Francis Ford Coppola, Bryant Gumbel (“Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel”) and musical guest Green Day.