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New this week: 'The Hard Times of R. J. Berger' and Dancing With(out) the Stars

It's an edgy, profanity-laced MTV comedy about high school kids drowning in sex, drugs and party-hearty attitudes. And it surfaced on MTV months before stories about nervous executives turned the channel's remake of Skins into a national controversy.

The second season of MTV's gonzo high school sex comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger returns at 11 p.m. Thursday, right after the Jersey Shore season finale.

There are two big differences between MTV's Skins remake and RJ Berger. On Berger, the actors are in their 20s (one, main love interest Amber Lancaster, is actually 30, according to So any talk about child pornography in the making doesn't apply.

And Berger is way more entertaining, offering an in-your-face sex comedy that blows up all the typical stereotypes about high schoolers, status and hormones.

The series started last year with geeky idealist Berger forced to play in a school basketball game. When his oversized shorts inevitably fall, the crowd realizes just how well-endowed the lowest guy on the school's food chain is.

This year's Berger seems a bit tamer, with fewer sight gags based on his unique, um, characteristics, and a greater emphasis on the comedy. But there's still plenty of R-rated action, including a gag where Berger's mom — growing more sexually liberated amid a divorce — bursts into her son's room and shows him how to unsnap his girlfriend's bra.

Story lines this year include Berger romancing the school's most beautiful cheerleader (in just one of many fantasy leaps, she actually sees how cool he is inside) and a gym full of kids tripping on drugs baked into cookies. There's even a nod to Jersey Shore, as Berger's cool, Shore-style cousin offers tips on romance in a surprisingly knucklehead-free scene.

When this show debuted last year, I wondered what it said about how TV shows teens dealing with sex, packed with explicit jokes and bleeped dialogue. But given all the controversy about Skins, Berger might just seem like a tame cousin. Good thing it's actually a funnier relative.

What happens when the 'stars' all have two left feet?

Bad enough that ABC's Dancing with the Stars is debuting tonight with a serious lack of stars. And now a look at early-released rehearsal footage shows some of the contest's biggest names — including former Cheers star Kirstie Alley, retired boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard and onetime Karate Kid Ralph Macchio — may be the worst dancers. Here's my breakdown — with odds in favor, against — of who will shine on the dance floor and who won't when the curtain rises at 8 tonight on WFTS-Ch. 28. When the dust clears, the biggest casualty just might be ABC's ratings. (By the way, wrestler/author Chris Jericho is a part-time Tampa Bay resident who spent two weeks recently practicing with partner Cheryl Burke at the Palm Harbor Arthur Murray Studio. There's a watch party tonight at Tiffany's Family Restaurant in Palm Harbor to cheer him on.)

Kendra Wilkinson

3-to-1 in favor

The former Playboy model and Hugh Hefner ex knows her way around a dance floor, among other things.

Chelsea Kane

2-to-1 in favor

The Disney Channel star dances almost as well as Wilkinson, but kiddie actors have to work hard to succeed here.

Hines Ward

even money

He may be a relatively obscure Super Bowl MVP, but he nails a cha-cha with partner Kym Johnson.

Romeo Miller (a.k.a. Lil' Romeo)

2-to-1 against

He seems more worried about looking silly while rehearsing than nailing his cha-cha with Chelsie Hightower.

Kirstie Alley, Mike Catherwood, Petra Nemcova, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ralph Macchio, Wendy Williams, Chris Jericho

5-to-1 against

Tough to lay odds on a field where everyone is various shades of bad. Watching Alley fall to the floor in midpractice didn't inspire much confidence in the show's biggest star.

The social whirl

Like — One of the best aspects of social media is its capacity to galvanize the world in times of emergency. So there are lots of great resources pumping out information about the ongoing tragedy in Japan, as workers struggle to contain damaged nuclear plants and the population is buffeted by homelessness and rolling blackouts. Google has an impressive array of information links – along with a superb list of places to donate for disaster relief at For coverage, I've been following Associated Press reporter Tomoko Hosaka on Twitter @TomokoHosaka, and Columbia University professor Sree Sreenivasan has a great Facebook page pulling together great news links and stories called SreeTips.

The Feed

New this week: 'The Hard Times of R. J. Berger' and Dancing With(out) the Stars 03/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 7:31pm]
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