The much anticipated return of Charlie Sheen to prime time lived up to expectations. “Anger Management” (8:30 p.m., FX) attracted over 5 million total viewers for the cable network and was easily the most watched program of the night in the 18-49 audience, the demographic of choice for advertisers.
Somewhat overlooked in the “Anger” hoopla has been the return of “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX) for its third season. If television comedy is becoming a hybrid of short, cheaply made “webisodes,” then “Louie” is the best of that new breed.
The show has a deceptively deliberate, homemade quality to it. It’s like a grittier version of “Seinfeld,” with a series of short vignettes bookended by star and writer/creator Louis C.K.’s stand-up appearances at a comedy club. And as on “Seinfeld,” ‘‘Louie” often seems to be about nothing at all. But at the same time, these short collections of disparate scenes can leave audiences with a great deal to ponder.
I find myself a late convert to “Louie.” I was initially put off by C.K.’s angry stand-up persona. I’m also not a fan of comedians talking about the “craft” of comedy, or the difficulty of the process. A story in season two about a feud between C.K. and Dane Cook left me with a profound feeling of “who cares?”
But compared to Sheen’s delivering punch lines to a laugh track, or George Lopez’s Neolithic pattering as he hosts “Take Me Out” (7 p.m., Fox), “Louie” is nothing short of breathtaking. Its New York locations and hand-held camera work make it much like an independent film or foreign movie.
On tonight’s “Louie,” look for Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo as an unlikely date for the misanthropic comedian. Their bracing banter is well beyond the bounds of traditional sitcoms, and certainly earns tonight’s episode its TV-MA rating.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The remaining talent takes on American standards on “Duets” (7 p.m., ABC).
• Alex shows her mettle during two difficult procedures on “Saving Hope” (8 p.m., NBC).
• The troupe rallies around Rex on the season finale of “Breaking Pointe” (7 p.m., CW). This short-lived series deserves points for letting the dance and its performers emerge on their own, while avoiding fake drama and cliches.
• Domestic violence on “Rookie Blue” (9 p.m., ABC).