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Politically Incorrect (Comedy Central, 8-8:30 p.m.): Is it OK for a talk show to be politically incorrect if it's funny enough - if it actually begins, in fact, with a brief stand-up comedy bit, then proceeds with a free-wheeling "discussion" of subjects of substance, where virtually anything goes?

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The weekly series debuting here thinks the answer is "yes," and to prove the point it has recruited some of the best comedy talent around, along with other guests (including some politicians). The four-person panels they form are almost surrealistically diverse (Roseanne Barr with conservative Richard Viguerie, for instance), and some of the members are undoubtedly appearing together for the first time - with results that promise to be shockingly outspoken at times. The panels are presided over by the se ries' host, comedian Bill Maher.

In some shows, caustic editorials called "Somebody's Got to Say It" will let Maher air his eccentric notions about the world, and in a closing section called "Cleaning Out Our Notebooks" Maher and comedy writer Bill Sheft read jokes they're working on.

(On Aug. 1, the program begins airing regularly at a more typical talk-show time:

11 a.m.).

In Nature's Wake (CNN, 9-10 p.m., E.T.): Behind day-to-day press coverage of the disastrous flooding in the Midwest lie longer-term issues: Should we be attempting to control the Mississippi River system, or do such measures only worsen future problems? Should taxes pay for most of the damage? What about the environmental impact?

These are some of the topics covered in this live special hosted by CNN's Frank Sesno. It examines the effect of the flood on the northern and central Plains in political and even cultural terms. Environmental correspondents David Mattingly, Sean Callebs, Peggy Knapp, and Sharon Collins appear on location along the Mississippi in Minneapolis, and medical correspondent Dan Rutz reports from St. Louis.

Please check local listings for both these programs.

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