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9/19/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

BRICK CITY

(Sundance Channel, Monday, Sept. 21, 10 p.m.)

Some people will undoubtedly compare Brick City, Sundance Channel’s ambitious five-part series that takes an in depth look at life in Newark, N.J., to HBO’s critically acclaimed, Baltimore-based, urban-themed scripted series The Wire. But while both shows offer an all-to-real portrayal of the often tragic images of inner city life, Brick City tries to focus its cameras more on the positive and uplifting images of politicians, city workers and residents working hard to make their city better.

The documentary offers viewers exceptional access to the city’s mayor, Cory Booker, as well as to the inner workings of Newark’s police department under the leadership of police director Garry McCarthy during a period in 2008. The result is a gritty, often uplifting and sometimes gut-wrenching portrayal of the city.

The series paints an honest and balanced representation of the city’s efforts to turn itself around from years of violence and urban decay. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s well-produced and serves as very compelling television viewing. — R. Thomas Umstead

CALFORNICATION: SEASON 3

(Showtime, Sunday, Sept. 27, 10 p.m.)

It’s good to be Hank Moody.

The economy may be holding back buyers for his latest book, but not to worry. Hank (David Duchovny) has landed a new gig as a professor at an Los Angeles college, which puts at least three new women into his life and lap: teacher’s assistant Jill (Diane Farr); creative writing student/stripper Jackie (Eva Amurri); and English department head Felicia Koons (Embeth Davidtz).

His relationship with the latter figures to become especially complicated. Not only is Felicia married to the school’s stuffy dean (Peter Gallagher), but she’s also the mother of Chelsea (Ellen Davis Woglom), the new best friend of Hank’s teen daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). Chelsea has a taste for trouble, drugs and perhaps Becca herself.

Hank also carries a long-distance torch for Becca’s mom Karen (Nataschca McElhone), now in New York.

Meanwhile, Hank’s agent-buddy Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) finds his job security predicated on being a boy toy to agency head Sue Collini (Kathleen Turner), whose primary passion is for an epithet that rhymes with her last name.

It’s all very prurient, provocative, puerile and playful. — Mike Reynolds

September