A quirky champion, Adrian Monk makes the world a little safer, while never feeling safe himself.
Monk, of course, is the obsessive-compulsive gumshoe who solves crimes while remaining desperate to keep order and his hands clean. But as uncomfortable as he is with his life - that's how comfy and delightful "Monk" is to watch.
With the first of a batch of new episodes airing 10 p.m. EST Friday on USA, this lighthearted whodunit continues to charm in its sophomore season.
One big reason is series star Tony Shalhoub, who makes Monk vulnerable, comic and oddly valiant, never a boob or a caricature. As he investigates a murder at an auto shop, you feel his horror at wiping his faintly soiled hands on a cloth, only to discover it's a mechanic's greasy rag - even as you laugh at his mistake.
This week's case surrounds the mysterious murder of Monk's paper boy. But, as usual, the particulars of the story don't much matter. The fun comes from watching Monk (and Shalhoub) work, ably assisted by sidekick-caretaker Sharona (the terrific Bitty Schram).
Other shows to look out for:
- Drake and Josh were high schoolers with little in common - until Drake's mom and Josh's dad married. Suddenly they were odd-couple stepbrothers. Now "Drake & Josh" is a new live-action comedy series starring "The Amanda Show" alumni Drake Bell and Josh Peck as, respectively, the manipulative cool guy and the roly-poly egghead. Can teens who mix like beer and cola learn to get along? "Drake & Josh" begins on Nickelodeon at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
- On the heels of ABC's "Celebrity Mole Yucatan," which premiered last Wednesday, The WB weighs in with "The Surreal Life," another series answering these twin questions: Where do celebrities go when they stop being celebrities? And where would a bona fide celebrity never be found? For a dozen days and nights, six formerly famous people live together, and the cameras roll. For this "Surreal" sequel, the has-been housemates are: former evangelist's wife Tammy Faye Bakker Messner; former porn star Ron Jeremy; former "CHiPs" star Erik Estrada; former rap star Rob Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice); former "Real World: Vegas" star Trishelle Canatella; former "Baywatch" star Traci Bingham. It airs at 9 p.m. Sunday.
- The term "reconstruction" has gained new currency in the aftermath of the war in Iraq. But in a speech delivered in April 1865, President Abraham Lincoln applied the word to the task then facing the nation as the Civil War came to a bitter end. Three days before he was assassinated, Lincoln addressed the challenges that lay ahead: the opposing North and South had to be reconciled, while 4 million former slaves had to be accepted by the nation in ways they had never been accepted before. "Reconstruction: The Second Civil War" spans the years from 1863 to 1877 as it chronicles an era's epochal struggles. An "American Experience" presentation, the film airs in two parts, at 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, on most PBS stations.
- Meredith Phillips, former participant and romantic hopeful from Bob Guiney's season of "The Bachelor," is the star of the latest edition of "The Bachelorette." Meredith, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist, is looking for a man. She'll meet 25, and reject 10 of them, when "The Bachelorette" returns at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.
- Rock, roll and chow down. That sums up the menu for "Dweezil & Lisa," a new series featuring food-loving rock stars Dweezil Zappa and Lisa Loeb that premieres 10 p.m. Friday on the Food Network. Part documentary, part cooking show, each episode follows the couple through their daily lives making music and breaking bread.