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Published: Saturday, 5/17/2008

Laughter and tears Amid season finales, BBC, PBS offer new shows

The Vine, left, is Tim, Lee Mack plays Lee, and Megan Dodds is Kate in <i>Not Going Out</i>, a romantic comedy that debuts Tuesday on BBC America. The Vine, left, is Tim, Lee Mack plays Lee, and Megan Dodds is Kate in <i>Not Going Out</i>, a romantic comedy that debuts Tuesday on BBC America.

May sweeps and the 2007-08 television season come to a close Wednesday, and some of the familiar summer reality shows launch new editions this week as ABC's The Bachelorette (9 p.m. Monday), NBC's Last Comic Standing (9:30 p.m. Thursday), and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (8 p.m. Thursday) premiere.

A few scripted shows will have postseason finales, including ABC's Ugly Betty (8 p.m. Thursday), Grey's Anatomy (9 p.m. Thursday), Lost (9 p.m. May 29), and the canceled Men in Trees (10 p.m. May 28), which returns with the first of its final three new episodes next week.

Two of this week's new TV offerings conjure laughs and tears. We'll start with the more upbeat program.

This summer, American broadcasters will air a slew of reality shows and a smattering of scripted dramas, but scripted comedy will be in short supply. As usual, viewers will have to turn to cable for the likes of BBC America's Not Going Out (8:40 p.m. Tuesday), a 2006 Britcom where the quips come fast and furious.

After Tim (Tim Vine) dumps his American girlfriend, Kate (Megan Dodds), Tim's jobless best friend, Lee (Lee Mack), moves into Kate's London flat. Lee is a laugh-riot jokester who uses humor as a defense mechanism to mask his emotions, including feelings he has for Kate.

Matters become more complicated when Tim re-enters Kate's life and tries to go out with her again. In spite of the multiple strands of will-they-or-won't-they? tension (Kate and Tim? Kate and Lee? Kate and someone else?), Not Going Out avoids the Rachel-and-Ross effect by putting most of its emphasis on comedy.

Although some of the accents and slang may leave American viewers scratching their heads, enough of the humor - euphemisms galore - translates and makes a jolly good impression, particularly when Lee goes to dinner with a morose author and when Kate commits several faux pas at a clown college.

This 90-minute PBS special won't appeal to everyone, but it is worthwhile for viewers who think a loved one may suffer from depression. The program, narrated by actor Michael Murphy, makes the point that despite stigmas that continue to irrationally surround mental illness, clinical depression is a medical disease caused by many factors, including personal loss, stress and giving birth. It also explores the science of depression and the importance of mental benefits in health-care coverage.

Similar to the recent Caring for Your Parents PBS special, Depression (9 p.m. Wednesday) starts off on a downer note, explores the issues, then ends on more upbeat terms.

Most important, Depression shows the myriad ways depression is treatable, chronicling assorted patients and their recovery experiences using talk therapy, drugs, and electroconvulsive therapy, which the program says can be particularly effective in treating the elderly whose depression can be misdiagnosed as dementia or the onset of Alzheimer's.

Depression spends time with people from different walks of life, including teenagers, an author, a business executive, and a gang member, whose story brings to mind fictional mobster Tony Soprano's therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos.

Jane Pauley, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 50, hosts the down-to-earth half-hour special that follows, Take One Step: Caring for Depression (10:30 p.m. Wednesday). The program tries to take all the information from the documentary and focus the discussion on how to recognize signs of depression in family and friends and what individual factors, particularly genetics, make a person more likely to suffer from depression.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

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