Russell Brand

Cable overload: Sheen, Brand, Louie and a guy in a dog suit

Cable keeps finding new ways to dominate the summer. HBO is doing it with quality ("The Newsroom"), TNT and USA with sleek quantity. And now FX has anew approach.

In one overcrowded Thursday, it debuts shows by two eccentric sorts -- Charlie Sheen and Russell Brand -- sandwiching them around the returns of a good show ("Wilfred") and a sometimes-great one ("Louie"). Here's the story I sent to papers:



"Rosie": Slow start, strong finish

The worst and best moments of Rosie O'Donnell's new show came at the beginning and end.

The worst, surprisingly, came with the opening monolog. O'Donnell, a smart stand-up comic, had hired joke-writers, but there was little evidence of them here. She had some mild remarks, then turned to questions from the audience -- never a good idea unless the whole thing is sharply edited -- and (belatedly) a witty song.

And the best came at the end. Her first mini-game show was quick and fun and let O'Donnell play off the contestants cleverly.

Rosie O'Donnell: The Oprah makeover begins

For the Oprah Winfrey Network, this is sort of Launch Day II.

The cable network started on Jan. 1, with high expectations and low ratings. Looking at this sea of talk and reality, viewers shrugged.

But today (Monday, Oct. 10), it sort of starts over -- Rosie O'Donnell's  new talk show at 7 p.m., "Oprah's Lifeclass" (built from 25 years of "Oprah" reruns) at 8, reruns of Lisa Ling documentaries at 9, "Oprah" reruns at 10. A lot more new shows, including the start of Ling's new season, start this weekend.

Conan VII has some Brand-name entertainment

Tonight's "Conan" was what late-night shows should be. It started with 42 minutes (less the time for commercials) of non-stop comedy.

David Letterman and others used to be like that. After the monolog and an offbeat sketch, a stand-up comedian would sit down with the host and keep the laughs rolling.

Then someone decided viewers wanted starpower. The first guest would be a big-name actor or actress; the laughs would stop. This became so ingrained that Jimmy Fallon's very first guest was Robert DeNiro; he is not, Fallon admitted later, a verbal man.