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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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True Blood

HBO, June 26, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Kicking off its fourth season, the HBO hit is an ark overloaded with seemingly every possible supernatural species: fairies, werewolves and werepanthers, witches, vampires and what may be a demon baby. Not even the blunt, no-nonsense clarity of Anna Paquin as heroine Sookie can bring much narrative focus to the first three episodes. Luckily Blood is still buoyed by its weird, Gothic zest-I’m not going to complain about a show in which a character says, “You just killed my fairy godmother!”-and the performers all operate with the same vibe of ripe sexuality and restrained camp. An entertaining twist provides Alexander Skarsgard, who dominates as icily chic vampire Eric, some unexpected scenes of oddball comedy-and he’s funny. The season has one terrific newcomer: Fiona Shaw, probably best known as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies, is Marnie, a shambling, seemingly harmless witch. But when Shaw begins bellowing incantations, she’s hair-raisingly powerful.

Necessary Roughness

USA, June 29, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Callie Thorne (Rescue Me) plays Dani Santino, a Long Island psychotherapist taking on her first celebrity client. He’s a football wide receiver (Mehcad Brooks) who keeps fumbling the ball and getting into trouble off the field. Dani has plenty of trouble herself: She’s divorcing her unfaithful husband and fighting to keep custody of their kids. Thorne has the right bristling, combative energy for all this commotion, but the pilot-which is setting up Dani as an in-demand mental handler to the stars-is hard to swallow. It’s In Treatment interrupted with blasts of air horn and vuvuzela.