Top Chef, Enchanted, Ax Men
What: Fourth season of cable competition.
Why: "I'm happy that somebody else really messed up," says a contestant--and there's reality TV in a nutshell. We can root for people to win and to fail, and get a parade of real-world characters too. There are too many people to keep track of in these early weeks, but the show has a whole online life to help you out--including lively blogs from hosts and chefs--which, like the show, teach you as much about food, cooking and restaurants as about the competitors.
What: Disney musical romance.
Why: Who needs genres? Everything's a self-mocking mashup now, even a Disney movie. This self-reflexive part-animated musical comedy romance for kids tackles as many constituencies as a politician. It starts as a cartoon fairy tale, then switches to live action as the princess lands in NYC, followed by her prince, his evil stepmother and a rodent sidekick. As clever as it is synthetic, it's a retrograde vision of women (a G-rated Pretty Woman) that's also a campy goof, with Amy Adams, Susan Sarandon and James Marsden embracing their inner cartoons.
On Demand: News & World/ History Channel
What: Reality series about Oregon loggers.
Why: Ice Road Truckers--last year's reality TV breakthrough--spawns this clone, another true-life adventure of macho men at work. It follows four logging teams in remote Northwest forests, using Ice Road's blend of sports drama, training manual, adventure serial and anthropological documentary. It's endearingly old-fashioned, with a sometimes jovial, sometimes melodramatic narrator trying to mine suspense out of every small moment--from a cable stuck in a tree to loggers' slips and stumbles--in stories of fathers and sons, class and age conflicts, and the casual loss of body parts.