Who knew there were so many words for "testicles"?
You'll learn a whole bunch of them if you have the cajones to watch Thursday night's premiere of "Tilt," (search) ESPN's (search) new hi-test (as in "testosterone") series about professional poker (search) players.
The series is one of two manly shows making their debut this week. The other one is "Jonny Zero," (search) premiering tomorrow on Fox.
"Tilt" is ESPN's second attempt at an original series following the abortive "Playmakers" (search) about pro football in 2003.
Set in a Las Vegas casino, "Tilt" hopes to benefit from the current poker vogue ushered in by all those televised poker tournaments.
The show concerns itself with the world of poker cheats who scheme in small groups to rip off casinos by counting cards and communicating with each other through a series of coded gestures.
On hand to foil their plans is a swaggering veteran card player employed by the casino and nicknamed "The Matador."
Played by the thuggish Michael Madsen, The Matador gets to utter some of the most repellent dialogue ever written for TV: "If I run out of toilet paper at home, I wipe my a- with eight grand!" he sneers, rejecting an $8,000 payoff.
The Matador is a bully, while Jonny Zero is not since he only picks on people his own size or much larger -- and only when they accost him with guns or clubs in the manner of violent videogames such as "Grand Theft Auto," after which this series seems to have been modeled.
Filmed in New York, Jonny's an ex-con freshly released from Sing Sing who attempts to go straight by hiring himself out as a self-styled, but unlicensed private eye.
Franky G. stars in the title role, along with an actor named GQ, who plays Jonny Z.'s sidekick, an artist and DJ named Random.
All the initials notwithstanding, my initial impression is that "Jonny Zero" is a proficient but violent series with a better chance of survival than "Tilt."
You can bet on it.