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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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TBS, Mondays-Thursdays, 11 p.m. ET/PT |


The failure of Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show left him adrift and troubled, the NBC debacle hanging from his neck like a dead albatross he could point to and joke about with mortified humor. Now he has resurfaced on TBS with a show that, not too surprisingly, looks a lot cheaper than Tonight. The spare set, featuring a ridiculous backdrop of a huge moonlit bay, seems cavernous and dwarfs the guests. But with time, Conan could be the success that his Tonight wasn’t. The first few nights showed O’Brien settling in with his charmingly original humor, which is sophisticated yet twerpily silly. How can you not laugh at someone whose mock-leering euphemism for sex is “decorating the lady cake”? And there’s his strangely funny sidekick, Andy Richter, who looks like a bank manager and barks out his comments. It’s as if Ed McMahon were a squeak toy.

Human Target

FOX, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT |


For its sophomore season, the action caper tweaks its hormonal makeup. Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), handsome daredevil and security expert, still depends on the backup of Winston and Guerrero (Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley), who have the politesse of pit bulls. But the team now includes a beautiful thief, Ames (Janet Montgomery), and the operation is funded by a gorgeous billionaire, Ilsa Pucci (Indira Varma). The interplay of the sexes has been used to better effect on other action vehicles-including FX’s animated Archer-but the actresses lighten the tone, adding zip to a show that thrives on speed.

Desperate Housewives

ABC, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Now in its seventh season, ABC’s classic prime-time soap opera remains slickly watchable, but the momentum is seeping out. The old Housewives quartet-Bree, Gabrielle, Susan, Lynette-continue to be thrown into dilemmas that cause them to gasp, but lately induce me to yawn. It’s not a great sign that villain Paul Young is back, played by Mark Moses with the irritability of a man battling crabgrass. Ugly Betty’s Vanessa Williams, as a Manhattan exile who considers Wisteria Lane Hicksville, is an inspired addition, yet the show hasn’t really exploited her haughty campiness. Maybe Michael Urie, her Betty match for cattiness, can be her lawn boy.