Lost causes are not always such a bad thing. Witness what's going on with this week's TV schedule. There are several returning shows where, whether literal (as in that series about a supremely surreal island) or figurative (as in a series where bad things inevitably happen to both good and bad people), the causes may be hopeless but the pursuit of them is still entertaining. The list of returnees includes:
Lost, G4, Mondays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
A while back, I started seeing someone who was stunning, smart, knew exactly when to be funny and when to be serious...I completely fell for her and couldn't wait for our dates. And yet, I got mixed signals from her. One week she seemed to care about me, the next she was so mysterious I had no idea what was going on. Things finally ended when she left me, but despite all the frustration, I'd take her back in a heartbeat. I mention this not for the sympathy I'm hoping it generates (although any would be appreciated) but because Lost is a lot like her.
It was a great show. It was a frustrating show. Then it went away. And, I'm guessing that most of its regular viewers would love to have it back anyway. Luckily, you have your chance as G4 will start re-airing the series this week. What exactly was that smoke monster? Who was alive and who ended up dead? How did they all manage to stay so attractive despite months on a deserted island? The repeats of each season offers the perfect opportunity go back and answer these and the 3,482 other questions posed by one of the most uniquely entertaining series of the past decade. Like a bad romance, the ending won't change but reliving the good times more than balances out the times you were left hurt and disappointed.
Covert Affairs, USA, Tuesdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
It should come as no surprise that James Bond pretty much ruined things for women. At least when it comes to career choices. Thanks to his success, cinematic spies have almost exclusively been guys while women were consigned to being people in bikinis whose presence slowed down the plot so 007 could....let's say, conduct some debriefing. Sure there have been occasional exceptions, but for the most part, it's been men charged with traveling the globe with their license to thrill. Which makes Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) a true TV trailblazer.
She's one of the few female spies allowed to chase after as much international political intrigue as the boys. When the series began, she was just a CIA trainee trying to balance her personal life with life at the Agency. As Season Three begins this week, though, she's coming into her own and becoming as much of a tough guy as the rest of the guys. Sure there's the patented slow-burning, potential romance back in the office (a wise, blind operative played by Christopher Gorham), but the fun of this series lies in all the globe-trotting Annie has been doing and the way she kicks, punches, and shoots her way out of various threats while maintaining a wide-eyed innocence about it all. Sure the character is following in the footsteps of people we've seen before, from Bond to Bourne, but those feet are in fashionable heels and the gender change makes Covert Affairs a lively, sexy escape from other action shows.
Damages, Audience Network, Wednesdays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
Okay, so it's not exactly Godzilla versus Mothra or Jennifer Aniston versus Angelina Jolie or Yankees versus Red Sox, but Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) versus Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) makes for a pretty intense rivalry. These two lawyers have been the fascinating forces at the heart of one of television's most innovative shows for fours seasons now, and you've pretty much known from the start that one or the other of them was going to fight a losing battle against the other. Which certainly appears to be the case as Damages' fifth and final season begins.
Hewes continues to be one of the best, most complex villains TV has ever seen. She's almost always on the side of righteousness in court, this time taking on the operator of a WikiLeaks-like website (Ryan Phillippe) whose actions resulted in the death of a corporate whistleblower. With her steely eyes and perennial smirk/grimace, she looks more like a bird of prey profiled on some Animal Planet show. And after trying to kill and then partner with Parsons, who has slowly become her dark and conniving equal, Hewes will finally battle in court with her one-time protégé since she's handling Pillippe's case.
The best part of this series has always been how surprising it is. It never follows traditional TV rules, so it's impossible to say where it'll head this year (how many other shows conclude their season premiere with a shot of a lead character's corpse?). Whatever happens, I'm probably going to hate Patty Hewes all season long and yet still not be able to take my eyes off her. She'll do no good to or for anyone, as is her way, but Close will still manage to find a glimmer of humanity within the character that makes you root for. Against your better judgment. Like a really good lawyer, she's scary to be around and yet I know I'll miss her skills once she's gone.
Big Brother, CBS, Thursdays, 9 p.m/7 p.m. CT and Sundays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
Let's say somebody told you that all you had to do for a one-in-12 chance at winning $500,000 was use the word "party" as a verb, instantly and negatively judge total strangers, and be willing at any point to lie about your past. Would you do it? If the answer is yes, then there's really no need for me to remind you that Big Brother is back for Season 14. Of all the long-running reality competition shows out there, this is the one that offers the greatest reward for people possessing all the characteristics you wouldn't want to spend 10 minutes with in the real world.
For the uninitiated, the premise is like Survivor in a suburban tract home: a bunch of strangers are stuck living, competing and conniving together in order to force each other out and get the half-million dollar grand prize. (I know....sounds pretty much like a college dorm, except for the prize part and that your dorm didn't have 58 separate cameras and 98 microphones sharing your every move with millions of viewers.) This season's roommates include such standard-issue reality TV types as Flamboyant Gay Man (Wil), Scheming Beauty (Kara, Danielle, and JoJo) and Well-Intentioned Nerd. (Ian). And, because no reality show can exist without a twist, four former contestants have been brought back to coach the current crop.
It's too early to pick a winner and, truth be told, it's more interesting to see who loses out anyway. You succeed in life by being an upstanding individual who places the welfare of others before your own. You succeed in Big Brother by saying and believing things like "It's all about me!" (an actual quote from returnee/coach Willie). Not exactly a lesson for the kids out there, but watching Big Brother continues to be worth it (at least for the first few weeks of each season) because it's one of the few times you can mock the behavior of others and not feel guilty about it at all.
Weeds, Showtime, Sundays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
If there were to be a patron saint for losing causes, I think she'd look a lot like Nancy Botwin's (Mary-Louise Parker) entire life. Every grand idea or new beginning she has always seems to fade away like, well, a puff of smoke. When Weeds began seven seasons ago, she was a suburban widow with two young sons who decided to sell marijuana to make ends meet. Which led to an affair with a Mexican drug lord. Which led to her youngest boy killing said drug lord's wife. Which led to going on the lam, and then to prison, and....well, you get the idea. There really seems to be no winning for Botwin and her family.
There's also not much time for them to finally get things right. This eighth season of TV's most twisted take on family comedy is also the show's last, and considering it began with Nancy getting shot in the head, things aren't leaning in a positive direction. This series has been uneven over the years, meandering between wryly engaging seasons (the first three) and repetitive, less involving ones (the past couple). But knowing that things have come full circle with the Botwins returning to a suburb (albeit much a much fancier one) is a big plus. So is having the supremely stunning Parker, who remains in top form. Nobody is better at making the sardonic seem sexy, and making the darkness of these storylines seem quite light. So maybe, there's still reason to hope that the Botwins come out on top for once.