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Sometimes a TV formula just works. And because TV success can be rare, you can rest assured that any such formula will remain alone in the sun for only a brief moment. One big trend… shows that aim to save failing or dysfunctional restaurants, and there's a reason: It's great reality drama. Why? Because these owners are essentially stressed-out small business owners drowning in a sea of incompetent staff, grumpy cooks and endless problems with suppliers, equipment, customers, you name it. What better than to send in a husky superhero like Robert Irvine, who can seemingly whip any restaurant into shape in 2 or 3 days on Food Network's “Restaurant: Impossible,” or the even grouchier Gordon Ramsey, who pummels the weak with a good dose of profanity and ruthless barbs on BBC America's “Kitchen Nightmares” Let's face it: We like bullies with a heart–and that's essentially who these guys are. They berate. They shout. They get people to cry. And then, miraculously they seem to fix everything as the people they had been chewing out the day before offer to name kids after them. It's tough love on steroids. Another variation: “Undercover” shows that expose horrible restaurant staff. On Food's “Restaurant Stakeout,” gruff tell-it-like-it-is-er Willie Degel forces owners to watch a bank of monitors as their workers run wild. He often sends in operatives to further trip them up. Food's similar “Mystery Diners” also involves spying on staff but focuses more on the undercover work than the antics of someone like Degel in the control room. In the end, these shows work because they get us emotionally invested in characters. The owner is the protagonist. The bad staff or manager is the redeemable villain. And the “fixer” is the tough-love Angel. Do these shows overstate the scale of these turnarounds for dramatic effect? Probably. But this isn't business school. It's just good TV. MG

“Final Cut,” premiere, Wed, 9p, Investigation Discovery. The net's newest series eyes deadly crime in Hollywood, providing interesting stories, complete with useful interviews. The pilot examines the cases of two, young, blonde models, Linda Sobek and Kimberly Pandelios, who disappeared en route to photo shoots. Their bodies were found within miles of each other, although Pandelios was killed 3 years before Sobek. Police must determine if the confessed killer of Sobek also murdered Pandelios. — “Boardwalk Empire,” season 3 finale, Sun, 9pm, HBO. For disciples of “The Sopranos” who still feel deprived that they never got the killing spree during the final season of that series, this week's “Boardwalk” will be a boon. It's loaded with so much theatrical plasma we'd expect the cast of “True Blood” to come by for dinner. Fortunately, there's more than violence, ending the series' strongest season in fine form. — “Regular Show: The Christmas Special,” Mon, 8p, Cartoon. Although too violent to recommend for youngsters–Santa (the voice of Ed Asner) dons a bullet-proof vest over six-pack abs–it's clear why this whacky series is an Emmy winner. Better for kids: “The Amazing World of Gumball” (Tues, 7p, Cartoon). — “Be The Boss,” premiere, Sun, 10p, A&E. “Undercover Boss” creators let franchise bosses judge store employees vying for their own store. – Seth Arenstein

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