'Damage' Control

With the exception of AMC's "Mad Men," no new cable series drew more attention from critics last season than FX's "Damages." The legal thriller, starring Glenn Close as a rather sinister lawyer who will do anything to win, begins its second season tonight.

When we last left Close's Patty Hewes, she had just won a huge case against rotten CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson). Meanwhile, Hewes' naive protege Ellen (Rose Byrne) lost her fiance and nearly got killed herself while the case went on.

This season sees Ellen taking her revenge against Patty, turning informant for the FBI. Meanwhile, Patty finds herself reconnecting with an old acquaintance (William Hurt), a scientist who tried to turn whistleblower against the big corporation he worked for.

As was the case in Season 1, "Damages" takes place in two different time frames: the time of the actual case, and six months later with the fallout of that case.

As also was the case on the first season, no one is as they seem, be it Hurt's scientist, who seems to have a boatload of secrets, or Ellen, who finds herself walking a thin line, or even Patty, who is haunted by her Season 1 actions.

The acting is top-notch as one can expect from this cast, which also includes Tate Donovan as Patty's right-hand man, Mario Van Peebles as an FBI agent and Timothy Olyphant as a mysterious guy drawn to Ellen, and while the plot is a little difficult to decipher early on (the same way it was in Season 1 with the concurrent timelines), the viewer soon finds himself wrapped up in the mystery.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: The "People's Choice Awards" (CBS, 9 p.m.), perhaps the dumbest awards show ever created, celebrates its 35th year of being nothing more than a popularity contest. Do the winners of these things even bother to keep the trophies?

Barbara Walters interviews Patrick Swayze about his battle with cancer (ABC, 10 p.m.) On NBC, "Knight Rider" is new at 8 p.m. and Law & Order" is new at 10 p.m.

A new so-called reality game show called "13: Fear Is Real" (CW, 8 p.m.) debuts tonight. In it, 13 people are stuck in a "haunted" house and exposed to all sorts of scary things. The most notable thing about this show? All of the contestants are really, really pretty.

Finally, Kevin Kline has the title role of "Cyrano de Bergerac" (PBS, 8 p.m.), which also stars Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me").