Soul searching doesn't come easily for a character as clinical, rational and emotionally aloof as Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel), but near-death experiences have a way of waking people up to what's important in life. Doesn't hurt that this is a Big Sweeps Month dictating Big Stunts on long-running shows, an opportunity for Fox's Bones (8/7c) to try its latest change of pace: a mystical trip into a heaven-like netherworld for this non-believer, prompted by a shooting in the lab that leaves Bones fighting for life.
With a fretful Booth (David Boreanaz) at her side, regretting their recent fight where he lit into her for not being spontaneous enough, Bones spiritually reunites with her late mother (Melrose Place's Brooke Langton) for an awakening about why it is that she favors scientific analysis over impulse and emotion. Dr. Brennan has earned her Hallmark moment, I suppose, but even better news is that the mystery behind her shooting, and why no bullet or exit wound can be found, is one of Bones' best forensic puzzles in quite some while. I kept itching to get outside of Bones' head for more clues to the how-done-it.
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In the latest episode of Fox's dark and icky The Following (9/8c), we get more insight into what makes another damaged do-gooder tick: Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy, whose past relationship with the ex-wife (Natalie Zea) of fiendish killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is explored in flashback mode while in the present, things get harrowingly personal between Hardy and newly revealed sicko Maggie - who like most of Carroll's acolytes, knows just how to make it hurt. Things get even more twisted back at the kidnappers' lair, where the presence of Paul's new abductee triggers an unexpected revelation about one of the circle of psychos, a secret that could prove murderously divisive. This is not a well show.
FUNNY LADY: When Mike & Molly premiered three seasons ago, it's a safe bet no one predicted what a major star Melissa McCarthy would become. An Emmy winner and Oscar nominee, one of the funnier Saturday Night Live hosts in recent memory, she's now at the center of a minor controversy over a veteran movie critic's childish insults about her weight in a review of her new hit Identity Theft. And with all of this, she still has her day job. She gives it her all in CBS' innocuous rom-sitcom (9:30/8:30c), but this year's Valentine's Day episode focuses more on Molly's vacuous pothead sister Victoria (Katy Mixon), who the newlyweds try to set up on a date with their Overeaters Anonymous lonely-heart pal Harry (David Higgins). It's funnier than the subplot that finds Mike's cop partner Carl (Reno Wilson) trolling for dates at the Laundromat.
LAUGHTER 101: Comic-turned-director David Steinberg is among the most passionate students of comedy you'll find, and his Showtime interview series Inside Comedy (11/10c) is a wonderful exploration of process from legends new and old. The second-season premiere cuts between Steinberg's chats with Louis C.K. and Bob Newhart, each equally entertaining as they discuss their careers, their breakthroughs (and in Louis C.K.'s case, catastrophes like Lucky Louie and Pootie Tang) and their approach to comedy. Newhart was part of a wave of '60s comedians who "presumed an intelligence on the audience's part," and still relishes trying out new material in front of an audience: "The alternative is Sunset Boulevard." Louis C.K., frank as ever in discussing his relationship with fans - don't ask to have your picture made with him - is fascinating on the subject of how in stand-up, "You only succeed by failing. ... If you want to get a real test of your material, you need to see it fight upstream." It may have been an uphill climb, but no one would doubt the auteur of FX's Louie is at the pinnacle now.
THE TUESDAY GUIDE: This week's Ask Matt column fields a complaint from a fan of ABC's Castle who feels the show hasn't done enough with the Beckett-Castle romance lately. Maybe this week's Valentine's-themed episode (10:01/9:01c) will remedy that. As the team investigates the murder of a Real Housewives-style reality star, Castle scrambles to give Beckett a Valentine's memento on their first holiday as an official couple. ... Another Valentine's twist: On ABC Family's Switched at Birth (8/7c), Bay hosts a singles-only anti-Valentine's party for her unattached hearing and deaf friends. ... Prolific guest star Treat Williams (recent recurring roles: White Collar, Chicago Fire) shows up on CBS' Hawaii Five-0 (10/9c) as an investigator hired by McGarrett to keep an eye on his elusive mom (Christine Lahti). Genre fave Summer Glau also guests, as the victim-of-the-week's daughter. ... A daytime "get" for the syndicated Katie (check tvguide.com listings), as Katie Couric interviews disgraced Penn State coach Joe Paterno's widow Sue, getting her side of the scandal. ... BBC America has fun with science in Bang Goes the Theory (10:20/9:20c). Among the challenges accepted by a team of experts: blowing over a brick house with a vortex cannon, and cooking an egg with a piece of newspaper. Useful? Not really the point.
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