"Dirty Sexy Money

Wednesdays, 10 p.m.

WRTV (Channel 6)

Aliens in America

Mondays, 8:30 p.m.

WTTV (Channel 4)

Back in the days of six channels, we waited anxiously for this week — the beginning of the TV season. New series! New episodes! Rejuvenation! Rebirth! All that crap! It was like spring, except it happened in the fall.

Today? Eh. New-TV season is year-round, and we’ve already spent the summer with Mad Men, Californication, Flight of the Conchords, Entourage and more. How can the networks top that?

They can’t. But tonight, with Dirty Sexy Money, and Monday, with Aliens in America, they give it their best shot.

Dirty Sexy Money follows a lawyer named Nick George (Peter Krause) who’s hired to keep the richest family in New York, the Darlings, out of trouble. Unlike the ’80s, when the nighttime soaps gave us glamorous rich people, DSM presents them as purely dysfunctional. The parents (played by Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh) have raised a family of ne’er-do-well rich kids with a variety of drinking, drugs and bastard-children problems. And in a nice touch, the only successful one is a would-be U.S. senator who’s cheating on his wife with a transvestite.

There’s another nice touch, too, having to do with Nick’s late father, who was the Darling family’s lawyer for decades until his plane crashed under questionable circumstances. That element helps DSM work as both a drama and a mystery. The show also succeeds as a comedy that mocks the idle rich, and it even makes brilliant use of cell phone ringtones. Watch and you’ll see what I mean.

Aliens in America, meanwhile, is an intelligent, funny sitcom about a small-town Wisconsin family that agrees to take in an exchange student as a friend for their misfit son. They’re expecting a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy from London. Instead, they get a Pakistani Muslim named Raja.

The show is peppered with good laugh lines (Raja can’t understand why his new high school classmates call him “Fudge Pakistan”), and newcomer Adhir Kalyan plays the boy from Pakistan with such heart and innocence that it’s no wonder his host family comes to love him. You will too. And if you don’t, hey, there’s bound to be something else worth watching soon.



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