The British are coming


Tuesday 10pm, TNT

Between “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” and now this new show, TNT has carved out a niche for strong female-led dramas starring washed-up movie stars. “Hawthorne” follows Jada Pinkett-Smith as Christina Hawthorne, a tough but vulnerable head nurse in a chaotic hospital. She’s forced to navigate stifling bureaucracy and incompetent doctors, and occasionally bends the rules to benefit her patients or fellow nurses. Sounds not unlike Showtime’s new black comedy “Nurse Jackie,” but this show is designed to pull heart strings. Pinkett-Smith is softer here than usual, and she’s surrounded by a solid supporting cast led by “Alias” vet Michael Vartan. (Has it come to basic cable already, Michael?)

“How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”
Sunday 10pm, BBC America

Following on the successful stateside run of “Any Dream Will Do,” BBC America has just started airing this British reality talent competition to cast the lead in the West End revival of The Sound of Music. Which already opened. In 2006. That’s right: This show is three years old, and if you want to find out who the winner is, just do a quick Google search. But that would take out all the fun. These shows have found an American audience because they’re so charming. Certainly it can’t be because of the singing, which is sub-“American Idol” level. (Some of those guys on “Dream” were practically tone deaf.) But everyone involved takes the proceedings seriously—even head judge Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is as weird as you expect him to be.

Sunday 8pm, NBC

Another direct British import, this 13-part series was initially created for the BBC as a family-friendly series in the vein of “Doctor Who” and “Robin Hood.” It retells Arthurian legend, but through the perspective of the wizard in the title. Here Merlin is a young man who possesses immense magical abilities, but he arrives in the kingdom of Camelot, where all magic has been outlawed by the rigid king (Anthony Head, Giles from “Buffy”). Merlin hides his powers but learns via dragon (hey, it’s legend) that he is destined to protect the king’s son, Arthur, who will some day create a great nation. Scholars should note that the series takes liberties with the original story—Arthur and Merlin are contemporaries, for instance—but the broad strokes remain the same.