Lots of TV going down Sunday—more than I can reasonably review here, more than you will probably watch. The rundown:
* Dexter returns to Showtime. I’ve only watched one of several episodes the network sent out, but it fairly quickly involves Dexter—riding high from his escape from being caught for the harbor bodies last season—getting in a new, yet different quandry with a new antagonist/ally, a district attorney played by Jimmy Smits. After one episode, I’m interested but not engrossed, though it offers the potential for a change-up in the Dexter storyline. But reports from critics who have watched all four are not encouraging.
Californication, two new HBO comedies, The Amazing Race and Mad Men after the jump:
* David Duchovny may be trying to kick his sex addiction, but Californication is not. I hated this show at first, learned to like it better, but by the end of last season still thought it was more clever than actually good, hamstrung by its male-fantasy ridiculousness. The first couple of episodes, in which Hank tries to be monogamous with his ex, offer some promise, but for me the show is still works better for its pithy little scenes—there’s a great disquisition by Carla Gallo as a porn actress on the practicalities of the biz—than it does as a whole.
* I did watch each episode of Little Britain USA, and while I know the show has avid fans, this version leaves me cold much like the original does. As I wrote before, the sketch show is basically a collection of premises—some of them hilarious—that become less effective with each repetition. Picking up these characters and moving them to the States (some very incongruously, like chavette Vicky Pollard) doesn’t make them any fresher. There are a few new inventions for the HBO series, some good, like Byng Gordyn, the eighth astronaut to go to the moon, who forces everyone around him to relive his glory days; but again, they’re repeated until the chewing gum loses its flavor. And like Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, but more so, the show is full of boorish American stereotypes, like its hillbilly redneck hunters. The original was full of boorish British stereotypes, of course, but it’s not like reminding us of that makes this version any more successful.
* HBO’s second new comedy, The Life and Times of Tim, is another curiosity for the channel. The animated comedy, about a hapless twentysomething who gets into embarrassing binds (involving, say, hookers meeting his girlfriend’s parents, or Tim impersonating a Latino to help his firm reach a diversity target), plays like a very R-rated Adult Swim cartoon. (Think Home Movies or Lucy, Daughter of the Devil.) I love Adult Swim, so I mean that as a compliment; the opening episodes are uneven but show a lot of potential.
* Multi-Emmy-winning The Amazing Race returns to CBS. I’ve been saving this screener for myself as a treat, and apparently I haven’t earned it yet.
* Finally, Mad Men comes back from a week’s hiatus with an episode that is approximately five zillion times better than the Emmy Awards it was bumped for.