"As you know if you’ve turned on the TV lately, there’s nothing much on. But there will be. And soon — starting with the excellent Mad Men (10 p.m. Thursday), AMC’s first original series, set inside an advertising agency in 1960.
Last week, PBS and the cable channels came out here to show what they have planned for the next several months. Here’s what look to be the best of those offerings.
War’s on: Ken Burns’ The War, a sobering 15-hour, seven-night film about World War II that’s guaranteed to have you in tears, debuts Sept. 23 on WFYI (Channel 20). Meanwhile, HBO and James “Used to Be Tony Soprano” Gandolfini introduce you to the most recent vets in Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq (Sept. 9). It’s an apolitical film, but if you thought you hated the war before, just wait. And CNN’s Christiane Amanpour looks at religious fervor and its relationship to politics in God’s Warriors, which airs Aug. 21-23 in two-hour segments.
Just for laughs: HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm returns for a sixth season Sept. 9 with a great episode in which Larry and Cheryl take in a family displaced by a hurricane. Orlando Jones and Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris) team up for BUFU, an animated sketch comedy series that bows in October on BET. And PBS plans an animated version of Car Talk in spring 2008.
Thought-provoking: Coming this fall on the PBS series Nova are a couple of supremely interesting episodes: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,” about the Dover, Pa., court case in which a federal judge struck down the teaching of Intelligent Design in the local high school, and “Marathon,” in which a group of ordinary people train to run the Boston Marathon. BET will unveil the town hall-style discussion Hip Hop vs. America in the fall, and PBS offers a six-hour, three-night documentary called The Jewish Americans in January.
If thrills are what you’re after, try Damages (10 p.m. July 24, FX), starring Glenn Close as a hard-charging lawyer chasing a CEO played by Ted Danson. Spike TV unveils The Kill Point (9 p.m. July 22), an eight-episode hostage drama with John Leguizamo as the bank robber and Donnie Wahlberg as the cop who tries to get him to surrender. TNT brings us Holly Hunter in Saving Grace (July 23), about a hard-living police detective. (Anything with Kenneth Johnson — Lem from The Shield — is worth a look, right?) Also on TNT: The Company, about the CIA, KGB and the Cold War (Aug. 5).