By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service
By Mike Hughes
"Damages" debut, 7 p.m., FX; repeats at 8. Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is a smart young lawyer, able to land a job anywhere. Alas, she wants to work for Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), who has a strong mind, a stone heart and a foggy soul. This can't work out well. We know that because of intermittent scenes showing Ellen as a murder suspect in shock; the core of the series is a flashback from there. "Damages" is a great show or an awful one, depending on what you think of FX's "Nip/Tuck." Like that show, it has superb performances — Close is one of the world's great actresses — and strong camera work. And like "Nip/Tuck," it piles on layers of unrelenting cynicism. Patty adds some human traits in future episodes, but for now she's one of the darker characters in TV history. Ellen is tough to warm up to, too, with her unrelenting ambition.
"Nova ScienceNow," 8 p.m., PBS. In the courtyard of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., is an appropriate sculpture. Designed by a retired code breaker, it contains letters in an unexplained code. That has drawn intense interest from the real spies inside and from amateurs around the world. They've passed the letters around by Internet. Eventually, an amateur code breaker solved three of the four portions; the last one is still pending. That's a fascinating story, told alongside an explanation (oversimplified at times) of code breaking. It's one of four interesting stories. One report eyes the quirks that cause one person to be healthy and an identical twin to be seriously ill. Another views discoveries of preserved blood cells in the bones of dinosaurs. And another profiles Arlie Petters, once a poor kid in Belize and now a researcher with a doctorate from MIT.
"Eureka," 6 p.m., Sci Fi Channel. The town is suddenly hit by weird climate changes.
"Ice Princess" (2005), 7 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. Michelle Trachtenberg plays a brainy teen-ager who uses her smarts to master figure skating.
"America's Got Talent," 7 p.m., NBC. Here's the second week of finalists' performances, with viewers voting.
"My Life on the D-List" season-finale, 7 p.m., Bravo. After getting an award from an Irish-American magazine, Kathy Griffin heads to Dublin to visit her roots and to honor her late father.
"House," 8 p.m., Fox. A teenager goes into respiratory arrest while making out with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Dr. House is irate that his handicapped-parking spot is going to someone who uses a wheelchair.
"Shaq's Big Challenge," 8 p.m., ABC. Shaquille O'Neal's proposals for school — physical workouts, healthier meals — face hurdles.
"P.O.V.: Prison Town, USA," 10 p.m., PBS. Some small towns try a desperate solution to their economic woes — luring prisons. Those will bump up the economy, they're told. Or will they? This deeply depressing report looks at the gloom of the prison town of Susanville, Calif., and at the minor effects on the economy.