Picks and Pans Main: TV


TNT, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET/PT | 3½ stars


Like finding an abandoned Teddy Ruxpin at a garage sale or discovering a Swatch watch at the bottom of a Trivial Pursuit box, hearing the theme song to Dallas opens an instant wormhole to the ’80s. Wisely preserving the iconic tune-along with the now-retro scrolling opener-this updated take on the classic nighttime soap pulls off a 10-gallon-hat trick: It’s both old and new, a comfy piece of nostalgia that doubles as a fresh guilty pleasure. The secret is the blended cast, which successfully mixes fan favorites from the original (only Victoria Principal, who played Pam, is MIA) with sexy Southfork newcomers. Ewing brothers J.R. (the ever-irascible Larry Hagman, letting his overgrown eyebrows do the heavy dramatic lifting) and Bobby (a still-buff Patrick Duffy) remain at odds, while their sons carry on the family feud. J.R.’s clone John Ross (Josh Henderson) wants to drill, baby, drill, while Bobby’s boy Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) plays for Al Gore’s team. They both yearn for the heart of Elena (Jordana Brewster), the spunky daughter of the family’s Latina cook. (Really? It’s 2012; let’s leave the stereotypes in the bin with the Punky Brewster suspenders.) The show’s breakout star is Desperate Housewives alum Henderson. (Metcalfe and Brenda Strong, who plays Bobby’s current wife, Ann, also hopped over from Wisteria Lane.) A real-life Dallas native, he nails the twang and the good ol’ boy glint.


ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT | 2½ stars


Duets needs a diva. The newest sing-off competition boasts two vocal powerhouses in Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Nettles-along with R&B smoothies John Legend and Robin Thicke-but as mentor-judges, they’re so blandly polite they may as well be ordering skinny lattes at Starbucks. The premise-amateurs get to duet with their idols-feels more like wish fulfillment than a bona fide talent search. And when a terrified Jordan Meredith teamed with Clarkson, their duet underscored the series’s biggest flaw: Meredith was bested on nearly every note. It was like watching a glowworm try to outshine a klieg light.


ABC Family, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET/PT | 3 stars


Gilmore Girls fans, you’re not in Stars Hollow anymore. Well, okay, you are. But now it’s called Paradise, a similarly postcard-perfect town, and our plucky heroine is Michelle (Broadway vet Sutton Foster), an ex-ballerina who ends up teaching a group of “bunheads” at Paradise’s dance school. Foster makes a smooth pirouette from stage to small screen. She’s likable, bright and sweetly smudged around the edges. And once again, Gilmore creator Amy Sherman-Palladino gives her actors a zip-drive’s worth of dialogue. A romantic rival “has got some serious ‘I’m-driving-cross-country-in-diapers-to-kill-you’ potential,” zings Michelle. Foster’s got the mouth-and charm-to pull it off.

Updated by Jessica Wedemeyer
and Liza Hamm
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