Friday, Oct. 23 (USA)
Series Debut: Aside from Law & Order: Criminal Intent first-runs and Special Victims Unit reruns, USA is not the place for gritty crime dramas or dark personalities—characters are welcome, but only if you'd want to do brunch with them. White Collar takes the old 48 Hours premise (cop enlists criminal to nab other criminals, because who knows criminals better?) and pretties it up with Matt Bomer (from Chuck; criminal) and Tim DeKay (Carnivale; FBI agent), then tacks on Willie Garson (Sex and the City) and Tiffani Thiessen (uh, let's go with Saved by the Bell) for color and T&A, respectively. The show is all Bomer's, however—he carries the pilot with the same cool charm as Burn Notice's Michael Westin, only waaay less conflicted and angsty. If you're down with the breezy USA brand, you'll be down with White Collar; if not, there's always TNT.
New Season: Last week's two-hour Season 4 premiere of Ugly Betty promised a whole lotta Hope and Change—but where have you heard that before? At the very least, Betty (America Ferrera) is finally becoming a bit more fashionable after three years of working at a fashion magazine, and the braces will come off later this season (only a year late on that one)—if there is a "later this season." Fridays have only been good for CBS, and Ugly Betty's high-heeled glitz probably won't drag any female viewers away from the comfy sweatpants of Ghost Whisperer and Medium; if anything, it'll just kill Fox's Dollhouse even deader. But, Vanessa Williams is still the best villainess on TV, and the guest stars haven't stopped knocking: Tonight, Jamie-Lynn Siglar drops by to make up for wasting a season on Entourage.
Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful
Saturday, Oct. 24 (Showtime)
This decade-long PR push to make Jon Bon Jovi over into some kind of Springsteen-esque "career artist" really must end: Dude had a few bouncy hair-band hits in the '80s, but so did Kip Winger—get over it already. Playing "Livin' on a Prayer" on an acoustic guitar while sitting down doesn't make it any more of a "timeless classic" than "She's Only 17," and late-career masquerading as a country band (hey, they already had the cowboy hats and chaps) doesn't make you crossover artists any more than Bret Michaels. That said, When We Were Beautiful documents Bon Jovi's 2007-08 "Lost Highway" (groan ...) tour and the band's 25-year rise to the middle. Cougars, ahoy!
The Venture Bros.
Sundays (Adult Swim)
New Season: Year 4 of the smartest, most subversive series on Adult Swim premiered with little fanfare last Sunday, Oct. 18—hell, even The Only TV Column That Matters™ almost missed it! The Venture Bros., a savage-but-loving satire of superhero/geek culture with a deeper mythology than Heroes and Jonny Quest combined, is tougher to follow than most Turner 'toons but holds up under long-form scrutiny more than any other show on the network. In other words, a weekend spent watching Venture Bros. DVD sets is far more rewarding and revealing than catching up on, say, Squidbillies. This season, brutal bodyguard Brock Samson has quit and is off working rogue, leaving Dr. Venture, Hank and Dean under the default protection of the somewhat unbalanced Sgt. Hatred (the name should have been a giveaway). Also, 24 (a butterfly-suited henchman of supervillian The Monarch) was killed off ... or was he? Will we never hear his mellifluous whining again? Answers tonight, Team Venture!