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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louie dare us to laugh, and we do


My enthusiasm for Larry David’s HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm has been curbed for some time. His act-running around Los Angeles, infuriating everyone and enjoying the agitation-grew smug and predictable. He was crabgrass under the delusion that it was welcome on every lawn. But this eighth season finds him spending time in New York City, and the trip rejuvenates him. The one Manhattan episode provided for review is the best Curb in years: a wild farce involving an obscene softball coach, a car that sexually arouses women in the passenger seat and a baby thrown from a burning building. Meanwhile, there’s another Manhattan comedy that outdoes Curb for genuinely pessimistic humor: Louis C.K.’s Louie, now in its second season on FX, follows the comedian in a bleak string of humiliations. The star, whose face has the blank pastiness of years spent in subways, is willing to let things go quite dark before throwing in a big gag, but it’s always a beauty. The show is a trampoline that sags clear down to the ground, the better to catapult you off into the air.



Rizzoli & Isles

TNT, July 11, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Angie Harmon is the bigger name in this Boston cop series, back for season 2, but costar Sasha Alexander sets the tone. As sophisticated medical examiner Maura Isles, she has the soothing but firm tone of a docent in a private museum. Isles, who frets over such details as whether the salmon found in a corpse’s stomach is wild or farmed, constantly smooths down the rough bluntness of Harmon’s detective Jane Rizzoli. The show continues to be soft, captivating fun, and the second episode is even touching as it deals with themes of motherhood.

101 Ways to Leave a Game Show

ABC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


The title seriously undersells the central gimmick. After guessing incorrectly at trivia questions, participants don’t just leave this game show. They’re expelled in the most spectacularly, viscerally unpleasant ways imaginable: strapped to the top of a biplane and flown off toward the horizon, left dangling upside down on the side of a speeding truck or dragged by speedboat across a lake and out of view. If that’s leaving, then being drawn and quartered is Pilates. The trivia segments aren’t very interesting, but I laughed at every screaming, shrieking exit. Sorry-I couldn’t help myself.

Breaking Bad

AMC, July 17, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Welcome back to hell, also known as Season 4 of Breaking Bad. Meth “cooker” extra-ordinaire Walter White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) is trapped working under the watchful eye of mean crime boss Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), who has the lean, cold stealth of a lizard. The first three episodes set up the show’s latest sweatily tense arc: Can Walt, jamming a porkpie hat on his bald head as if it signaled “assassin,” work up the nerve (and skill) to kill Gus? The show has evolved into a modern underworld Western-there’s nothing else like it.