A new season of “Dancing With the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) begins. As in the past, the show has used its casting to generate publicity and controversy. The inclusion of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even caused genial host Tom Bergeron to complain. He thought that “Dancing” was the kind of show where people tuned in to escape nasty partisanship.
Funny, I don’t remember Bergeron getting so exercised in 2009, when they cast former Rep. Tom DeLay. Nicknamed “The Hammer,” DeLay took pride in turning legislating into a game of scorched-earth politics. He was facing legal charges when he appeared on the family-friendly dance show, and while he was on “Dancing,” gave several interviews promoting racist “birther” nonsense about then-President Barack Obama.
So, while Sean Spicer ranks among the more odious creatures to tango before the audience, he’s certainly no DeLay. Nor is he Tucker Carlson, another fount of racist nonsense.
It’s also rather weird that Bergeron expressed outrage about Spicer but had no qualms about including former NFL star Ray Lewis in this season’s cast. Lewis faced murder charges before reaching an out-of-court settlement. The athlete must be happy to see Spicer take the heat.
The rest of the cast contours to predictable “Dancing” patterns. Just who is playing the Cloris Leachman role, that of the senior dancer still sassy and spry? Is it Supremes legend Mary Wilson? Or former supermodel Christie Brinkley?
Just what do we call “Real World” and “Queer Eye” veteran Karamo Brown? ABC uses just his first name. Back in the day, it seemed like James Van Der Beek would be the really big star to emerge from “Dawson’s Creek.” But tonight, he’s on “Dancing With the Stars.” And since half of the point of most ABC shows is to promote other ABC shows, look for Hannah Brown from “The Bachelorette.”
• “Country Music” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-14) enters its second night with “Hard Times,” a look at the musical genre during the Depression and war years, a time when mass internal migration displaced millions from failed farms in the Midwest, transplanting many to California.
A generation later, these so-called “Okies” would create the Bakersfield sound that would change country music. These fact-filled two hours also recall how the country sound moved west with the “Singing Cowboy” movie craze spearheaded by Gene Autry. A new voice named Roy Rogers emerged when cheapskate studio Republic Pictures failed to meet Autry’s demand for higher pay.
The Lone Star state also looms large in this survey, with the story of Bob Wills and his Playboys and the birth of Texas swing.
• The Acorn streaming service imports the Irish drama “Taken Down,” a detective series set in the world of smuggling and exploiting undocumented refugees.
• Attention, night owls and insomniacs! NBC launches the late-late-night show “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” (1:35 a.m.) tonight. Or is that tomorrow?
Tonight’s other highlights
• Seven new obstacles on “American Ninja Warrior” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
• A winner emerges on “So You Think You Can Dance” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
• A little history illuminates on “The Terror” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
• On two helpings of “Bull” (CBS, r, TV-14): old, familiar stirrings (9 p.m.), muddying clear-cut evidence (10 p.m.).
• Frankie’s amateur venture upsets the pros on “The Deuce” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• Dud’s wound festers on “Lodge 49” (10 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
• Julie London, Gary Merrill and Robert Mitchum star in the 1959 Western “The Wonderful Country” (8 p.m., TCM). Baseball legend Satchel Paige also appears.
A chance to bond on the putting green on “The Neighborhood” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) ... Illusionists audition on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG) ... The long goodbye on “The Big Bang Theory” (8:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG).
On two helpings of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (CW, r, TV-14): Heather Anne Campbell (9 p.m.), Jeff Davis (9:30 p.m.) ... Sudsy check-ins on “Grand Hotel” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
Nikki Glaser appears on “Conan” (11 p.m., TBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Sen. Kamala Harris, Lilly Singh and Charli XCX on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC).
Dax Shepard, Lilly Singh and Yesod Williams visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Constance Wu, Neil Patrick Harris and Sheryl Crow appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (12:35 a.m., CBS).