Critical darlings

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“Damages”
Wednesday 10pm, DirecTV Channel 239
Satellite-TV provider DirecTV scores its biggest coup yet, snatching up FX’s critically acclaimed but only moderately watched legal drama as the latest in its exclusive-content offerings. “Damages” returns for a fourth season (it’s also been renewed for a fifth, to air next year) with Glenn Close returning as tough, morally bankrupt lawyer Patty Hewes and the suddenly omnipresent Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids) as her protégé/rival. This year’s season-long case explores the complicated situation of private military contractors working in the Middle East, and features John Goodman and Dylan Baker as new series regulars, plus guest spots by Judd Hirsch, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunne and Julie White.

“The Green Room with Paul Provenza”
Thursday 11pm, Showtime
Paul Provenza has had a stand-up comedy career for decades, but perhaps his greatest credit is directing 2005’s The Aristocrats, a hilarious, filthy documentary in which he asked funny people to offer their takes on the classic joke of the title. Provenza puts that same network of comedians to use in this unscripted series, which returns this week for a second season. “Green Room” brings together a mix of comics who then sit around a table and bullshit for a while. Which doesn’t sound too exciting, but consider some of the names scheduled to appear this season: Garry Shandling, Judd Apatow, Kathy Griffin, Bo Burnham, Richard Belzer, Dave Attell, Janeane Garofalo, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Richard Lewis, Jeffrey Ross, Joe Rogan. These people are going to tear each other apart, and it should be hilarious to watch.
 
“Breaking Bad”
Sunday 10pm, AMC
If you’re still miffed at AMC for the non-ending to the first season of “The Killing” (and apparently many people are), fear not, because the basic-cable version of HBO has yet to fail with this critical darling, back for Season Four. Bryan Cranston has won the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy the past three years for his work as Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher who becomes an unlikely meth manufacturer to provide for his family after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. This is grim, gritty stuff that shows off the dark edges of what people are capable of, with honest, probing portrayals of understandably flawed human beings. Just keep the gas pipe firmly out of reach.

 

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