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Hunter’s feisty ‘Grace’ returns

By Kevin McDonough

United Feature Syndicate

Intense, serious and self-consciously absurd, "Saving Grace" (9 p.m., TNT, TV-14) stars Holly Hunter as an out-of-control Oklahoma City policewoman with more issues than a month of "Oprah" shows. She’s a heavy drinker, she sleeps around, and she’s got angry baggage that her personal link to her city’s greatest tragedy doesn’t begin to explain. Oh, and she’s got a personal relationship with an angel named Earl, who looks like a distant cousin of Billy Bob Thornton.

As "Grace" enters its second season, our heroine appears to have been drinking. It’s still morning. While at brunch with her colleague, the devout and Earl-obsessed Rhetta Rodriguez (Laura San Giacomo), a gun battle breaks out on the street. Grace sobers up in a hurry and tracks down the suspect. The fact that he happens to be on the FBI’s most-wanted list makes Grace a media darling.

Most shows would stop right there, but "Grace" adds another story — about a rogue priest who molested Grace and many of her classmates — that ups the emotional quotient and helps explain Grace’s problems with faith, authority and fidelity.

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Few shows are as deadly earnest and as over-the-top — often at the same time. Hunter seems to be having the time of her life.

• On a similar theme, the cartoon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon) enters a new 10-episode season. The title character is this bald kid who has been asked — make that destined — to save the world and return it to the harmony between wind, water, earth and fire. Its combination of martial arts, mystical mumbo jumbo and ’tween-age shenanigans has won "Avatar" a wide audience. The cartoon will also be adapted as a live-action picture by director M. Night Shyamalan, no stranger to the pretentious and absurd.

Other highlights

• A buried time capsule hides grim evidence on "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14,V).

• "The Bachelor: Where Are They Now?" (7 p.m., ABC) follows up with swains past.

• Jewel helps separate the gems from the rhinestones on "Nashville Star" (8 p.m., NBC).

• A camera crew documents a troubled teen patient on "House" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14,V).

• A fatal fire falls under suspicion on the fourth-season premiere of "The Closer" (8 p.m., TNT, TV-14).

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• Shot entirely undercover, "China’s Stolen Children" (8 p.m., HBO) looks at a vast kidnapping ring and the social distortions of China’s one-child policy.

• Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): Tiki Barber explores billions in unclaimed bank accounts, forgotten stocks and other issues.

• Zombies on the loose on "The Middleman" (9 p.m., Family).

Series notes

On two episodes of "Big Bang Theory" (CBS, r, TV-PG), the Physics Bowl (7 p.m.), Leonard needs advice (8:30 p.m.) … Competition on "American Gladiators" (7 p.m., NBC) … Wading in the deep end on "Gossip Girl" (7 p.m., CW, r, TV-14,D) … Ted throws parties on "How I Met Your Mother" (7:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … Alan seeks revenge on "Two and a Half Men" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14,D) … On two episodes of "The Mole" (ABC), a glance back (8 p.m.), deception (9 p.m.) … Lucas and Linda’s wedding woes on "One Tree Hill" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) … A carjacker’s murder links him to drug dealers on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14,V).

Late night

Pierce Brosnan, Bud Selig and Jason Mraz appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) … Jay Leno hosts Will Ferrell, Mary McCormack and James Hunter on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) … Adam Carolla, Peter Berg, Romany Malco and Billy Idol appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC, r) … Gary Oldman, Joe Buck and Kenny Chesney on "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Craig Ferguson hosts Chris Isaak and Debbie Reynolds on "The Late, Late Show" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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