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DirectTV dukes it out with Fox

Time is winding down for DirecTV and News Corporation to work out some kind of deal.

The two are in the middle of nasty contract negotiations, with both sides warning customers that some Fox channels (FX, Fox Sports South, Speed, National Geographic, Fuel, Fox Movie Channel) will go black on November 1 if an agreement isn't reached. So far, no agreement, but it's likely they'll at least decide on a short extension before midnight tonight (3 a.m. Eastern deadline).

I'm sure everything will get worked out. It always does, right? But then again, I also said that about Aetna and UNC Hospitals/Rex Hospitals, and I'm almost 9 months into having nearly unusable health insurance, so don't go by me...

FX airs "American Horror Story," "Sons of Anarchy," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and "The League."UP

UPDATED: The New York Times reports that a channel blackout has been averted.

Watching TV without cable or satellite

If you haven't seen it already, I have a piece in today's Connect section on different ways to watch TV without cable or satellite. I compare the pros and cons of options like Netflix and Hulu and iTunes and Amazon Instant, but the list isn't intended to be all inclusive. There are probably dozens of ways to pull this off (feel free to discuss in the comments). I just picked out some of the most popular sources and focused on how you might watch cable shows (like "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" or "White Collar") if you don't have cable or satellite. I'm aware there are some free options out there that aren't exactly legal. And I'm aware that you can just plug in your TV and watch and record over-the-air broadcast shows without anything special.

Er, except maybe a better TV antenna. 

Speaking of antennas, there are lots of them out there and apparently you can even build your own. But if you're interested in the Mohu Leaf antenna I mentioned, you can check out the Raleigh company's website or contact them online or by phone (919) 896-7696.

DirecTV launches weekly "Damages" sweepstakes

DirecTV is hosting a weekly "Damages" watch and win sweepstakes and giving away some pretty cool prizes like Sony laptops and $500 Brooks Brothers gift cards.

The "Justice is Served" sweepstakes starts at the DirecTV Facebook page, where you'll need to Like them to play. Once you're on the page (you may need to select "Damages New Season" on the left side of the page to get off their main wall), you select the prize you want to play for and you'll get a question to answer and an entry form.

You can play every week.

"Damages" (which is great, by the way) airs exclusively on DirecTV (239) on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.  It stars Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, and John Goodman.

Giveaway: "Damages" Season 3 on DVD

The fourth season of "Damages" premieres tonight on DirecTV (the show previously aired on FX). To celebrate the return of one of our favorite shows, we're giving away a DVD set of "Damages" Season 3, which just went on sale yesterday.

Season 3 borrowed from the Bernie Madoff scandal and featured amazing performances from guest stars Lily Tomlin, Martin Short, and Campbell Scott (as well as "Damages" regulars Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Ted Danson, and Tate Donovan).

To win, send me an email with your name and mailing address. I'll draw a winner randomly from those entries. I'll take entries until midnight this Sunday (July 17).

If you don't win, the gorgeous Sony Home Pictures Entertainment set lists for $39.99, but you can usually get it a little cheaper than that (Amazon has it for $19.99 right now).

WINNER! Congratulations to Justin from Greenville! 

Season 4 of "Damages" debuts on DirecTV

Much as it did a few years ago with NBC's neglected jewel "Friday Night Lights," DirecTV rescued FX's superb drama "Damages" from the scrap heap last year, promising the show's fans two more seasons of Patty Hewes' mind-bending machinations.

The fourth season of that acclaimed Glenn Close series -- its first on DirecTV -- premieres tomorrow night at 10pm.

Season 4's legal plot involves a lawsuit against a powerful military security contractor, à la Blackwater, with John Goodman playing the Erik Prince role (in a fairly obvious nod, Goodman's character is named Howard Erickson). Chris Messina ("Julie and Julia") plays an Iraq war vet who took a job in Afghanistan with Erickson's High Star Security Corporation. He just happens to be an old high school friend of Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), who is trying to bring about the lawsuit on behalf of families of those killed during questionable High Star missions.

Final season of 'Friday Night Lights' on DVD today

The DVD set of the fifth and final season of 'Friday Night Lights' hits stores today, a full ten days before the season airs on NBC.

Season 5 of the critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged drama already aired on DirecTV this winter. It's currently on the NBC schedule for a Friday, April 15 (8pm) debut.

But if you just can't wait those last ten days, head out to the store now and settle in for a marathon of all 13 episodes, back-to-back. If you call in sick for work tomorrow, you can get it done. I know you can do it. Because I believe in you. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

Free Showtime weekend starts today!

Great news, TV fans! You get free Showtime this weekend! Well, that is, unless you're a Time Warner Cable or AT&T U-Verse customer. If you are, you'll have to occupy yourself this weekend with hating all your DirecTV and Comcast friends.

The free preview began today and according to Showtime reps, it was up to individual providers as to whether or not to carry the free preview. Locally, DirecTV, Comcast, and Suddenlink are carrying the preview.

I'm totally jealous. Showtime has some great shows, but this weekend is a big one for them because they have two very good new series debuting Sunday night ("Shameless" and "Episodes"). I'm guessing Showtime hopes you'll get hooked on those and subscribe.

Have DirecTV? Then do some Damage.

If you subscribe to DirecTV, you're in for a real treat.

Starting tonight at 10pm, the carrier will begin showing episodes of the critically acclaimed FX drama, "Damages." They will start with the first episode of Season 1 and show a new episode each Wednesday night at 10pm, leading up to the premiere of Season 4 this summer.

Season 4 of "Damages" will be available exclusively on DirecTV.

"Damages" stars Glenn Close, Ted Danson, and Rose Byrne. It originated on FX but the ratings for Season 3 weren't fantastic, so the series was canceled and DirecTV picked it up. Unlike DirecTV's deal with "Friday Night Lights," in which that show is broadcast first on DirecTV and later on NBC, "Damages" will not be shown later on FX. If you don't have DirecTV and want to see the final season, you'll have to wait for the dvds. I know. Bummer.

I highly recommend DirecTV customers tune in tonight. It airs on Channel 101.

DirecTV settles consumer complaints case, some NC residents may be due refunds

DirecTV will pay a total of $13.25 million to 49 states, including North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia.

The settlement stems from charges that DirecTV ads were misleading customers about how much they would pay for monthly service and then charging hidden fees and sticking consumers with long-term contracts.

As a result of the case, California-based DirecTV will pay $605,000 to North Carolina.

Consumers in North Carolina voiced nearly 1,000 complaints against the company since 2007, Cooper said. Common complaints were that consumers were not told how long they would have to sign up for or that they were enrolled in extra contracts when they tried to replace defective equipment. Others said they were promised cash back but were given account credit instead.

Final season of "Friday Night Lights" begins tonight

The fifth and final season of "Friday Night Lights" begins tonight -- if you have DirecTV, that is. If not, you'll have to wait for NBC's run next year.

Here's a quick rundown of the ever-changing cast. On the team, quarterback Vince  Howard (Michael B. Jordan) is back, and so is Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria). Also back are students Becky (Madison Burge) and Jess (Jurnee Smollett). And a new character is introduced --  Hastings Ruckle (Grey Damon) -- when  Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) recruits from the basketball team. 

In other parts of the "Friday Night Lights" universe . . .

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