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Archive for Friday, July 20, 2012

Catch these comedies — if you can

July 20, 2012

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‘‘John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show” (10 p.m., Comedy Central) enters its third season. Oliver, the resident “British guy” on “The Daily Show,” offers about 10 minutes of observations, followed by short sets from four comics. Tonight’s performers include Wyatt Cenac, also of the “The Daily Show,” and comics Hari Kondabolu, Mark Normand and Ben Kronberg.

Meanwhile, on another network and on the other side of the TV continent, “Portlandia” (10 p.m., IFC) offers “The Brunch Special,” an extended director’s cut of the last episode of the second season. Leading up to this episode, IFC will air a marathon of eight episodes of “Portlandia” (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) as chosen by fans on the network’s website.

These two comedy specials air on networks embroiled in protracted carriage battles with satellite systems. Oliver’s show is broadcast on Comedy Central, a part of Viacom, which includes MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and others. That corporation is currently in a payment dispute with the satellite giant Direct TV, which has recently dropped all of those stations from its available lineup.

‘‘Portlandia” appears on IFC, a network owned by AMC Networks Inc., which is in its own battle with DISH Network, another satellite provider. If you depend on DISH, you can’t see “Portlandia” or “Breaking Bad” on AMC.

Wars over the cost of cable carriage have been fought and settled before. But these two conflicts take place at a time when a growing number of viewers are dropping cable or satellite services. Some balk at the cost at a tough economic time. Others complain that they are paying for hundreds of networks that they don’t watch in order to view the few that they really want. There is increasing consumer pressure for cable and satellite providers to offer “a la carte” menus, allowing customers to pay much less for the dozen or so stations they really want.

Programmers fear that this move to selectivity will simply wipe out huge swaths of existing content. Simply put, many smaller networks, such as IFC, are subsidized by the current system. They will vanish without it.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Christian Bale stars as the caped crusader in 2005’s “Batman Begins” (7 p.m., FX). He also dons the cape and cowl in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” (7 p.m., TNT).

• The crew runs a harpoon gauntlet on “Whale Wars” (8 p.m., Animal Planet).

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