ABC's 'Family Tools' needs some repairs
Other highlights Cult choice Series notes Late night BY KEVIN McDONOUGH
The television season may be nearing its end, but new "midseason'' replacements keep arriving.
ABC presents "Family Tools" (8:30 p.m., TV-PG), a contrived fish-out-of-water tale about a hapless adult son, Jack (Kyle Bornheimer), forced to take over his family's home improvement business after his father, Tony (J.K. Simmons, "The Closer''), has a heart attack. The good news is that this is not a "Home Improvement" knockoff. The bad news is that the good news stops there.
Even Tony's heart attack is done for laughs, with his sister, Terry (Leah Remini, "The King of Queens"), negotiating with him to bring Jack into the business before calling the ambulance. Tony has good reason to keep Jack away: His son has no business being around power tools. Sadly, much of the physical humor in "Tools" involves horseplay with nail guns. It's as funny as it sounds.
Bornheimer's credits include a stint on the short-lived 2008 CBS adaptation of the British comedy "The Worst Week of My Life." "Family Tools" is an adaptation of the U.K. series "White Man Van." Help yourself.
nKal Penn hosts "The Big Brain Theory" (10 p.m., Discovery). The series is clearly intended to encourage viewers to put their science and engineering aptitude to work to solve problems and dream of being the next great innovator or inventor, a Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs for today.
As celebrities go, Penn (who also appears on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" tonight) has an interesting resume, appearing in the stoner "Harold and Kumar" comedies, playing a doctor on "House" and working in the Obama administration. In fact, he cites his work in the White House and the president's concern about America's scientific literacy and continuing competitiveness as a reason for hosting this show. President Obama has previously appeared on the quirky science-related series "MythBusters" (9 p.m., Discovery).
For all of its good intentions, "Brain" is essentially "Project Runway" for would-be engineers. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Tonight, two teams of bright young things compete to prevent a contrived calamity: Two trucks carrying explosives, rigged to go off at a certain speed, will collide. How do you keep those trucks from reaching that speed? It turns out, what sewing and sketching are to "Runway," math is to "Brain." And making those calculations exciting television is the real trick of "The Big Brain Theory."
n"Nature" (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) profiles Vienna's glorious white Lipizzaner stallions and the breed's history, which reaches back to the Moors' conquest of Spain and their origins in North Africa.
The competition continues on "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
Frankie meddles in Sue's failed social media mingling on "The Middle" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Oliver has more amends to make on "Arrow" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
The documentary "Manhunt" (8 p.m., HBO) recalls the search for Osama bin Laden.
A concert crowd gets out of hand on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Phil shares career talk with Luke on "Modern Family" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
A corpse receives a spa treatment on "CSI" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Voight arrives to collect a favor on "Chicago Fire" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Rayna mulls a surprise offer on "Nashville" (10 p.m., ABC).
Philip and Elizabeth attend a meeting that feels like a setup on the season finale of "The Americans" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
"R&B Divas" (10 p.m., TV One) enters its second season in Atlanta.
"Secrets of the Dead" (10 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) recalls efforts to record the conversations of German POWs during World War II.
Sean Penn stars in the 1983 drama "Bad Boys" (10:15 p.m., IFC) as a teenager in reform school. Ally Sheedy co-stars.
Raising the stakes on "Survivor" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... "The Voice" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... Ritual slayings in Rapid City, S.D., on "Criminal Minds" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... The guys get a cryptic message from Kevin on "Supernatural" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Lessons in "me" time on "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" (9:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Kay Bailey Hutchison is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) ... Bo Burnham appears on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) ... Sarah Chalke is booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!) ... Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sit down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
Tobey Maguire and Tom Odell appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Kathy Griffin, Eli Roth and Cheap Trick on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Pierce Brosnan, Greta Gerwig and Alice Russell appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
Ben Kingsley, Kal Penn and Johnny Marr visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Craig Ferguson hosts Michael Ian Black on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).