Gratuitous ultraviolence! Pointlessly explicit sex scenes! Stereotyped villains of every ethnic stripe! Yes, "Banshee" (10 p.m., TV-MA) is a new Cinemax series. And as such, it's not half bad.

With a list of executive producers that includes Alan Ball ("True Blood"), "Ban shee" stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, a handsome and brooding ex-con who assumes the identity of the new (and newly murdered) sheriff of the small town of Banshee, Pa., located somewhere in Cinemax's idea of Amish country.

Lucas takes the gig for three reasons: Because he watched the newly arrived officer get shot before his eyes, he's an impulsive guy, and his ex-partner in crime, Carrie (Ivana Milicevic), also his ex-lover, lives in Banshee, having settled down from her job as a safecracker to have two kids with the local district attorney, Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell).

"Banshee" begins with an elaborately choreographed Manhattan car chase, featuring a collision with an overturned double-decker bus. This ridiculously high- concept calamity adds little to the plot development, but does get your

attention. Lucas barely escapes that mayhem on a stolen

motorcycle that takes him to Banshee, where he meets the wise and enigmatic boxer-turned-bartender Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), who owns the watering hole where the above-mentioned sheriff gets the short end of a Mexican standoff.

It's as if "Banshee" wanted to be a Michael Bay movie before it became a Quentin

Tarantino movie on the way to settling down to become a sexed-up contemporary mystery by way of a Western.

Bad guys include Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), a local operator who controls practically everything worth owning in Banshee and is linked to the local Amish. Lucas is also pursued by Eastern European gangster types. Lucky for him he's got an able partner in Job (Hoon Lee), an Asian-American cross-dressing computer hacker who fronts as a stylish hairdresser. Did I mention the Indian chief? Or the sexually voracious Amish teens?

Having exploited and exhausted every Southern-fried gumbo-swamp cliche with "True Blood," Alan Ball proves there are stereotypes galore north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

---"A New Age of Explor- ation: National Geographic at 125" (8 p.m., National Geographic) looks to new realms of the unknown, within the mysteries of the human anatomy and the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

---Walter hopes a deprivation tank can provide answers on "Fringe" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14), the last episode before next Friday's two-hour series finale.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

---Richard Karn ("Home Im provement") guest-stars on "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

---The CEO of a campground empire roughs it on "Undercover Boss" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

---Meryl Streep portrays Margaret Thatcher in the 2011 biopic "The Iron Lady" (8 p.m., Showtime). The premium cable network will be available for free this weekend on cable and satellite systems serving 80 million viewers. Check your listings.

---"Retro Roadhomes: RVs Gone Crazy" (9 p.m., HGTV, TV-G) celebrates unusual mobile homes.

---Erin has doubts about the mayor on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

---Ancient prophecies come true on "Merlin" (10 p.m., Syfy, TV-PG).

---Not even a hospital bed can keep John down on "Bering Sea Gold" (10 p.m., Discovery, TV-14).

---Nina places great importance on her 32nd birthday party on "Portlandia" (10 p.m., IFC, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

A killer creates a doll likeness for every victim in the 1966 shocker "The Psychopath" (2 a.m., TCM).

SERIES NOTES

---On two episodes of "1600 Penn" (NBC, r, TV-PG): the president's son is an idiot (8 p.m.) and stays that way (8:30 p.m.).

---An imperiled Brooklyn pizza parlor on "Kitchen Nightmares" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

---Catch and release on "Nikita" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).

---An awkward baby shower on "Malibu Country" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

---Murder off duty on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

---Ice cream inspires a science project on "Shark Tank" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

---Oliver reboots Christmas on

"Arrow" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

---Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on "Late Show With David Letter man" (11:35 p.m., CBS).

---Jay Leno welcomes Ben Affleck, Kristen Bell and Rodriguez on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).

---Sofia Vergara, George Lois and Bruno Mars appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).

---Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, David Duchovny and Nick Kroll visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).

---Craig Ferguson hosts Julie Chen and Angela Kinsey on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).

Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com.