“Onion News Network” (7 p.m., repeated at 10:30 p.m., IFC). Series premiere. If “The Daily Show” isn’t fake enough for you, then try this. From the creators of The Onion — the greatest, most hilarious satirical news source out there — comes this spoof of cable news that promises to deliver rapid-fire absurdity with a high-gloss look and a deadpan attitude. This will be funny.
“Portlandia” (7:30 p.m., repeated at 11 p.m., IFC). Series premiere. “SNL” alum Fred Armisen and indie rocker Carrie Brownstein team up for this sketch comedy show skewering the hipster haven of Portland, Ore. I’m gonna say right up front, this won’t appeal to everyone. But people of a certain age, who know Portland (or at least know SF or Berkeley or west Sonoma County) and can relate to the inside jokes, and who get Armisen’s brand of character-based comedy will dig it. At the very least, it’s brought us this awesome song:
“Fringe” (9 p.m., Fox). It’s a new night for the sci-fi series that’s in the midst of its best season yet. Friday night has been the kiss of death for sci-fi shows on Fox ever since “The X-Files” left more than a decade ago. The title of tonight’s episode of “Fringe” — “Firefly” — even references one of the failed series. But apparently Fox execs still like the show, and figure if it can keep maintain 80 percent of its audience from Thursdays, that’ll be enough to keep it alive for at least one more season. Since it has a strong, DVR-savvy cult following, I think its chances are good. Tonight, an Observer makes contact with the Fringe team to correct a critical error, and Walter meets the drummer (Christopher Lloyd) of his favorite band from the ’70s.
“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” (10 p.m., Starz). Series premiere. OK, here’s the story: “Spartacus: Blood & Sand” star Andy Whitfield has been fighting non-Hodgkin lymphoma for the past year, so production of the second season of that series has been delayed. “Gods of the Arena” is a miniseries intended to quench fans’ appetites until Season 2 hits the air, probably sometime at the beginning of 2012 (Whitfield’s role was recently recast). The six-episode series serves as a prequel, set five years before the events of “Blood & Sand,” and follows the exploits of the House of Batiatus. Lucy Lawless and John Hannah are back, and so are the over-the-top sex and violence that fans grew to love. I might check it out. I wasn’t a fan of “Spartacus” last year, but I’ve heard it improved over the course of the season, so maybe it’s worth a second look.
“Ebert Presents: At the Movies” (9:30 p.m., KRCB Ch. 22). Series premiere. Film critic Roger Ebert had to stop appearing on his weekly show, “At the Movies,” in 2006 after cancer surgery left him unable to speak. New hosts took over, but the long-running show was finally canceled last year. But Ebert has revived the franchise with AP film critic Christy Lemire and newcomer Ignatiy Vishnevetsky now co-hosting and giving the patented thumbs up or thumbs down. Ebert will appear as well, with a new prosthetic chin and a computerized voice. Whether or not your agree with his movie picks, it’s hard not to be inspired by his resilience and courage; this is worth watching for that reason alone. Check your local PBS listings for this one, because every station is different. SF’s KQED will air it at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and again at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Ricky Gervais Show” (9:30 p.m., HBO). In case you haven’t gotten enough Ricky Gervais this week. Tonight’s topics include Karl’s doppelganger, Karl’s dislike for Ricky’s cat, and Stephen’s vacation to Rio.
“Primetime: What Would You Do?” (9 p.m., ABC). There’s such a variety of good TV on tonight; why would you subject yourself to something this inane? If you want fake news scenarios, “Onion News Network” will be a lot more entertaining.