MTV joins the Thursday-night comedy fray with several new series. "Human Giant" (9:30 p.m., MTV) has the most potential. "Giant" presents brief, absurd sketches in a short-film format. The similarity between these clips and a series of funny YouTube offerings is strictly intentional. The production values on "Giant" have a cheap and dirty feel to them, as if they were shot on the fly on the streets of New York City.
"Human Giant" also evokes memories of the short but influential Comedy Central series "Upright Citizens Brigade." Three from the Giant troupe (Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel and Aziz Ansari) are veterans of the UCB workshop.
The best of the skits involves a contest between two guys to create the lamest mix-tape. The loser has to play the medley on a giant boom box while walking through the streets of downtown Manhattan. It's as funny as it sounds. People hoot at the Reagan-era sound system and cringe at the music. It's clever and, like the best viral video, it's blissfully short. Another sketch involves the use of a ferocious dog attack to gain sympathy and the search for ultimate in hipster thrift store fashions.
The rest of the night has a hip-hop theme. The night kicks off with a new season of "Pimp My Ride" (8 p.m., MTV.) The sketch show "Nick Cannon: Short Circuitz" (8:30 p.m., MTV) follows with parodies of rapper culture.
"Short" kicks off with a somber public-service announcement from a Russell Simmons impersonator decrying the scandal of rappers not being able to buy expensive sneakers due to onerous child-support payments. The spot for "Rappers Against Child Support" is edgy but not funny. A sketch then lampoons TV court shows featuring grotesque black sexual stereotypes.
Given that it airs right after "Pimp," it's not always easy to tell whether "Short Circuitz" is offering a parody of hip-hop culture or just another celebration. You also have to wonder whether you can parody a culture that is already an ever-shifting put-on.
¢ Fans of "The Office" (7 p.m., NBC) have reasons to rejoice. The show returns with a new episode tonight. And the focus returns to the Jim-Pam saga. As you may recall, Roy has now caught wind of last season's fateful kiss. And he's not too happy about it.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Jack has a West Coast rival (Will Arnett, "Arrested Development") on "30 Rock" (7:44 p.m., NBC).
¢ A rapper (Method Man) makes an uncooperative witness on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ The case of a stolen laptop on "Andy Barker, PI" (8:59 p.m., NBC).
¢ A defendant takes the courthouse hostage on "Shark" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Neighbors turn in neighbors in a contest to determine who has the worst yard on the block on the makeover series "Desperate Landscapes" (9 p.m., DIY).
¢ Oscar-winning musicians Three 6 Mafia leave Memphis for Tinsel Town in the reality series "Adventures in Hollyhood" (9 p.m., MTV).
¢ Earl's confession shatters a nun's (Roseanne Barr) faith on "My Name is Earl" (9:28 p.m., NBC).
¢ Religion and dinner parties on "This American Life" (9:30 p.m., Showtime).