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by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Dirt (Tuesdays, 10 pm, FX) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & rom FX, the network that made its name by being the gritty extreme of basic cable, comes another show that's also supposed to be gritty and extreme. (Nip/Tuck is occasionally riveting television; The Shield is consistently so.)





True to FX form, Dirt begins with a viewer-discretion advisory. Such advisories aren't a warning to me; they're a promise I expect to be kept. Dirt, I don't mind saying, is a liar. In three weeks, the only thing requiring my discretion was Rick Fox's butt crack.





Still, there are ways to be gritty without being profane. You can, with keen insight and wit, probe the dark corners of industry cellars. More than basic cable wickedness, Dirt promised insight. Instead, we have two characters created completely devoid of it: Lucy Spiller (Courteney Cox) -- woman in a man's world, supposed literati feeding with the slime -- and her schizophrenic photographer Don Kinney (Ian Hart).





The things people say about Lucy are stupid. "She's gorgeous... and she's read Proust," says one dotard. The things Don says about himself are so perfunctory as to not be self-analysis. "This is hard for me because I have a tenuous grasp on reality," he tells us in a voiceover, in case we didn't notice his visual hallucinations.





Lucy has the unenviable task of editing two crappy magazines. Drrt's like Us Weekly; Now's like People. Rather than using fiction to offer insight into celebrity gossip magazines, we get Courteney Cox saying the most inane things. To the assertion, "You're overspending," she replies: "I'm busting my ass to make two magazines work!" Whoa.


Don even has a cat that dies of cancer.





A cash-flow crisis last week almost shut down both magazines. Lucy fixed it by merging the two into DrrtNow! -- turning Us Weekly and People rip-offs, respectively, into an OK! rip-off. That's about the least-shrewd decision I can think of, and going forward, it destroys the show's only interesting tangle: stars trading sleaze to one magazine for favorable write-ups in the other.


FX's supposed next triumph, then, is a toothless charade that, tragically, connects best in Episode One, as a portrait of feline lymphoma. I'd suggest renaming the show Cat Tumor, but I worry they'd find a way to make that derivative too.





SAG Awards


The Screen Actors' Guild awards are often a good predictor for certain Oscars, if you care about such things. (I care, despite myself.) The SAG only awards dramatic performances, as you might expect. No best director; no best picture. The tradeoff is that, at two hours, it's wonderfully brief. (Sunday, 1/28, TBS and TNT, 8 pm)





FOX 28 News at 10


I'm not advocating watching this every day -- I wouldn't do that to you. I'm just saying watch it immediately after American Idol on Tuesday. The best part of Idol's stop in Seattle was watching Dana Haynes get beet-red over what she called Simon's "below-the-belt comments" about Seattlites. There's bound to be more carnage as the show wears on. (Tuesday, 1/30, Fox, 10 pm)





Veronica Mars


Would you think less of me if I said this were one of my favorite shows? Well, it is. The sleuthiness of having a college-aged Nancy Drew is cool, but what makes the show a winner week in and week out is the careful attention the writers pay to youthful parlance. It's the only current show on TV that gets it right. (Tuesday, 1/30, the CW, 9 pm)

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