“The Onion News Network”
Tuesday 10pm, IFC
“The Daily Show” has been winning Emmys for years for its cynical news parodies, but The Onion has been doing that shtick for decades now, and must’ve wanted a piece of that sweet Old Spice advertising budget. “The Onion News Network” debuted in January of this year and returns for its second season this week. Much like the parody newspaper from which it spun off, the show features reports on all kinds of offensive, sometimes inane topics, like a story about General Mills producing a new version of Lucky Charms with 15 percent less leprechaun meat. You could argue that Onion parodies and actual news stories grow harder to distinguish every day (actual headline on Yahoo homepage as I write this: “Foul-ball flub earns dad a death stare”), but I would counter that that’s all the more reason to laugh at the stuff we’re supposed to, instead of weep for reality.
“American Horror Story”
Wednesday 10pm, FX
Ryan Murphy has been terrorizing Americans with good taste with the increasingly infuriating “Glee,” so it’s only fitting that his next project be an intentionally scary one. “American Horror Story” is precisely what it sounds like: a modern thriller, this one about a dysfunctional family that moves into a haunted house hoping to reconnect, but instead finding madness and death. I hope that the eat-in kitchen was worth it. The previews promise plenty of psychosexual mindfuckery, and the cast is aces: Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”), Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”), Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under”), Denis O’Hare (Russell on “True Blood”), and Zachary Quinto (“Heroes”), plus Jessica Lange in her first regular TV gig.
Monday 9:30pm, HBO
Laura Dern joins the ever-growing list of critically acclaimed actresses finding refuge on cable TV. In this new comedy the Wild at Heart star plays a high-level executive who has a full-blown meltdown in the middle of the office. After three months of therapy in a Hawaiian treatment center she returns to her life with a new positive outlook, which she insists on forcing on everyone else, whether they want it or not. The cast also includes Diane Ladd and Luke Wilson, and the series is created and written by Mike White, writer of Chuck & Buck and School of Rock, who you might recognize from his two stints as a contestant on “The Amazing Race” with his also-awesome dad.