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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Game of Thrones

HBO, March 31, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


There’s event television, and there’s Game of Thrones. The HBO fantasy series, launching a superb season 3, has swelled to proportions that make the word “epic” look dinky. With dozens of characters—not including zombie warriors and teenage dragons—the show is like a recipe of Tolkien and Tolstoy, combined with yeast and water and popped in the oven. Now, that’s a loaf! Over the first few hours, a sort of happy giddiness sets in as plot strands return that you’d forgotten you’d even forgotten. Is there anything significantly new here? Not really. Everyone repeats the ominous mantra “Winter is coming,” as if all the other seasons were keg parties.

But the plot steadily advances, inch by inch. Can Lady Margaery (Natalie Dormer, aided by Diana Rigg as her crafty grandmother) get the upper hand with her fiancé, the grotesque tyrant Joffrey (Jack Gleeson)? Can Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) make sense of his dreams about three-eyed crows? Can anything conclusive ever come of this mayhem, in which hands are lopped off, military leaders butchered and misfits like Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) unappreciated and underestimated? I don’t care. Let’s just keep going.

Mr. Selfridge

PBS, March 31, 9 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings) |


PBS’s Masterpiece, home to the phenomenally popular Downton Abbey, has backed the wrong period piece with this fact-based miniseries about the intrigues, upstairs and down, of a London department store. Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the American-born entrepreneur who in 1909 founded Selfridges, still in operation more than a century later. Piven has the same humming energy he brought to Entourage, but without the profane eloquence of Ari Gold, he’s just a handsomely whiskered gentleman shouting to his minions about window displays, perfume counters and publicity stunts. The production is gorgeous and the tedium unrelenting.


ABC, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT


This new diving competition serves as an apt metaphor for its stars, among them comedian Louie Anderson and former Playboy Mansion kitten Kendra Wilkinson: We watch them climb up, stand on the cusp of some kind of greatness, then—aiiiieeeeh! sploosh!—gravity assists them back down. For that alone, this likably silly series has entertainment value. And the premiere, which included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar landing on his belly in the pool, showed the thrill and agony of executing a back somersault when you’re 7’2″.

How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)

ABC, April 3, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


Sarah Chalke plays a stressed-out divorced mom moving back in with her folks (Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett), a couple whose “laid-back” 1970s attitude has only mellowed with time. Delighted to share their thoughts on sex, they strike their daughter as alarmingly overripe. Chalke and company are all expert comic actors—and Rachel Eggleston, as her little daughter, is adorable—but the pilot (like many pilots) is leapingly frantic, a puppy wanting love. Settle down, then we’ll see.