Girls vs. Boys

Two gender-specific cable networks undergo extreme hormone therapy

Nighty Night finds an ideal companion in Suburban Shootout, another English series that wrings laughter out of women behaving in radically unexpected ways. The English village of Little Stempington has the lowest crime levels in the country, leaving local policemen starved for action. But beneath the town's placid surface seethes an underworld of warring female gangsters. One housewife syndicate is knee-deep in extortion and illegal hormone peddling; the other tries to stop them while also keeping the village tidy. This is the kind of show that should run out of steam as soon as you've grasped the premise, but Suburban Shootout keeps on sparkling thanks to the flawless acting and clever scripts, squeezing endless laughs out of these women's double lives. One mom turned mobster is late for a stakeout because she has to pump milk for her baby; another uses a tea tray as an impromptu shield against gunfire. And when a DJ makes the mistake of picking Little Stempington as the site for his next sound-system party, he is ambushed, robbed, and scared shitless by three faceless furies disguised beneath colorful, hand-knit wool masks. "If we hear so much as a sound of a disco rave within the parish boundary, you and your kinsfolk will be executed," warns one of the ladies in her upper-class accent. Oxygen's wickedly daring programming makes me think there might be some televisual life in vive la différence after all.

If you're searching for another kind of masculinity on TV, look no further than Ed vs. Spencer (Thursdays at 11 on BBC America). Machismo is stretched to hilarious extremes in this British semi-reality show, a remake of the equally funny Canadian cult series Kenny vs. Spenny (which airs here at various times on the Game Show Network). Ed vs. Spencer features two pals fully aware of their own patheticness, forever locked in humiliating, absurd pissing wars: Two ex-snowboarders, sweet Spencer Claridge and his more piggish pal Ed Leigh, compete each week to prove who can get fattest or most famous. The two take opposite approaches: In the grueling "who can get sickest" challenge, Spencer methodically attempts to destroy his body—wearing rubber pants to encourage crotch rot, for instance—while Ed exudes a much more free-spirited, Jackass-ian attitude, hurling himselfstyle="mso-spacerun: yes">  down stairs.

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