BrandX with Russell Brand

FX, Thursdays, 11 p.m. ET/PT |

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COMEDY

British comedian-actor Russell Brand natters on in a high, frantic voice, but he's also loopily clever and capable of being very funny. Yet this late-night project, which sets him in front of a studio audience and lets him riff on politics, sex and weird headlines, suggests that a solo show isn't right for him. He's a carousel that won't slow down to let you on. He's best when he pauses to chat with his unusual sidekick, political-financial expert Matt Stoller, who sits off to the side like a good student watching the class clown get all the attention.

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With the calendar year dominated by reality talent contests, America's Got Talent (NBC) and So You Think You Can Dance (FOX) rule the hot months. These are lighter entertainments than muscled thunder gods like American Idol or The X Factor, and that's a relief. Talent, which will take a break for the Olympics, is nearly done winnowing out the novelty acts-goodbye, pocket-size saloon singer Big Barry!-although some genuine performers have been sacrificed: Fourteen-year-old powerhouse vocalist Danielle Stallings wept like something out of Dickens after judge Sharon Osbourne alone voted to keep her in the race. (Howie Mandel and Howard Stern supported the high-flying acrobat act Donovan and Rebecca.) After seven seasons, the show knows how to skillfully play the emotions. So You Think You Can Dance, in season 9, brings us a much more consistent lineup of performers, all attractive, young, athletic and able to move with erotic grace-it's the sexiest reality show out there. And the choreography gets a huge boost from the music selections, which are hip and intriguing. The only disruptive note is the explosive enthusiasm of judge Mary Murphy. "People are just gonna Google you up!" she told one dancer after his routine. But she's only a judge. If she danced too, that might be a problem.

BOTH SHOWS:

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A NEW LEGAL PARTNER

ARE YOU A POWER DRESSER OFF-CAMERA TOO?

Usually I'm a black T-shirt and jeans type of guy. I have these combat boots that I stole when I shot [the 2003 movie] The Recruit. I wear them almost every day.

YOUR WIFE, ACTRESS JACINDA BARRETT, IS GUEST-STARRING ON SUITS THIS SEASON.

She's shooting with us right now. A little role, possibly more in the future. She plays a jury specialist. This is the first time we've acted together onscreen at the same time. You hope the chemistry is there [laughs]. But I think it is.

AND YOUR DAUGHTER SATINE IS TURNING 5. BIG PLANS?

My wife and Satine are going on a monthlong trip to Europe while I'm working. Then I have a hiatus, so I will meet them for a week out there and celebrate her birthday.

WHO'S THE LAW AT HOME, YOU OR JACINDA?

I am wrapped around Satine's finger. Mom has been laying down the law and has been influencing me to lay down the law as well. But Satine rules with us.

BATTLING CROHN'S DISEASE

Ken Baumann was busy preparing for his wedding to actress Aviva Farber this past winter when he was suddenly overcome by intense pain in his leg and abdomen. Over the course of a month, "it got gradually worse," says the Secret Life of the American Teenager star. In the ER doctors discovered a life-threatening abscess in his leg and a tear in his intestines. The cause? Crohn's disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that can damage the intestines. Facing major surgery, "I made my mom and my wife-to-be sit down with me, and we talked about what would happen if I died," Baumann recalls. "I'd never been afraid of death, but that was tough." Dropping to a "terrifyingly skinny" 108 lbs. after his surgery, Baumann had to fight his way back to a healthy weight (with the help of his mom's banana bread). Now his symptoms are under control, and he gives his new wife credit: "You could throw anything at me," the actor says. "I know that I've got Aviva."