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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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History, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


By the hammer of Thor! History’s first scripted series is a headlong tumble into an irresistible and surprisingly neglected genre, Viking adventure. Back in the 8th century, a young Norseman named Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel, who looks like Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam with a barbarian mullet) realizes that whole new worlds to explore-and plunder-might be discovered if he and his tribesmen sail west. His chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), is more conservative: Marauding has always been conducted east, and that’s that. When disobedient Ragnar has a high old time looting and slaughtering on the English coast, Haraldson appreciates the new revenue stream-but decides Ragnar is too potent a rival. The story doesn’t get much more complicated than that. If you were expecting Game of Thrones without dragons, this is a much more primitive story of conquest (Ragnar, in fact, is an important figure in Norse legend). Isn’t that enough? The sight of the old prows is stirring, and Byrne plays the chieftain with quiet, crabby indignation, as if he had requested bread that the waiter never brought. He’s excellent.

Body of Proof

ABC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Back for a third season, Dana Delany’s Body of Proof has been recast as a slightly older Bones-amatory forensics for the middle-aged. Brilliant but bristling medical examiner Megan Hunt (Delany, with her head of luxurious autumn foliage) is now teamed up with a new detective: Tommy Sullivan, who happens to have been Dr. Hunt’s lover many years ago. He’s played by the always dependable Mark Valley (Fringe), whose square face is so handsomely chiseled he could pose on monuments in his spare time. If sparks (and ratings) weren’t flying in the first two episodes, what matters most is Delany’s satisfyingly forthright portrayal of a woman who trusts her intellect and instinct. If her lips are more pursed than kissed, maybe that’s how it should be.