The O.C. (August 5; 9 to 10 p.m.; Fox) jump-starts the fall season with an angry soap in which a do-good lawyer, Peter Gallagher, saves a 16-year-old delinquent, Benjamin McKenzie, from gang life in Chino, California, by whisking him away to Newport Beach in Orange County, where the local gangs have much more money (and delusions of entitlement), and the girl next door, Mischa Barton, may be a cokehead. As if Theodore Dreiser and punk-rockers got together for a Class Hate concert.
The Spartans(August 6; 8 to 11 p.m.; Channel 13) means well, with a comely classical historian, Bettany Hughes, chatting abut the old Greek warriors, their fascistic city-state, even their “compulsory” homosexuality. But since they were too busy killing Persians to build anything up or write anything down, there’s not much to look at except the scenery, the historian, and a regrettable bit of animation in which dark figures on an Attic vase do the hokey-pokey.
Street Time (August 6; 10 to 11 p.m.; Showtime) returns for a second fraught season of parole officers like Erika Alexander trying to keep a leash on parolees like Rob Morrow, who is back in jail even as we speak, although at least he didn’t shoot Rob Smith.
Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales (August 9; 8 to 9 p.m.; HBO) stars Tracey as a makeup artist who comes back from retirement to mess with the opinionated likes of Debbie Reynolds, Paul Dooley, Jane Kaczmarek, and M. Emmet Walsh. Not as funny as it sounds.
Elton John at the Royal Opera House (August 10; 10 to 11:30 p.m.; Channel 13) seems to be what Great Performances has come to, an adjunct of the PBS Pledge Period: Pop With Strings.
The AMC Project: Gay Hollywood (August 11; 10 to 11:30 p.m.; AMC) lets five young gay men—actors, writers, producers, directors, and combinations thereof—talk about being out, looking for work, and whether this very conversation reinforces unfortunate stereotypes.