This weekend, HBO fills out its summer Sunday lineup, as the final season of Entourage (begging the old "that's still on?" question) joins the red-hot True Blood and a resurgent Curb Your Enthusiasm, which airs its most uproarious episode of the season to date.
Let's take it from the top — or should I say, over-the-top — with a nod to True Blood (9/8c) for delivering the goods this season, adapting one of Charlaine Harris' best-ever storylines from the Sookie books and providing Alexander Skarsgard with a tour de force as the newly vulnerable Viking vampire Eric Northman. All memory of his majestic demonic past wiped clean by a possessed witch who's in over her head (the riveting Fiona Shaw as Marnie), Eric is like a lost child, playfully impulsive and clearly smitten by his caretaker Sookie but easily chastened and profoundly confused as to his true nature.
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This week's eventful episode, which builds to a gripping cliffhanger, finds Eric reacting to a deeply disturbing vision while Sookie assures him, "There's more to you than your worst self." Is she deluding herself the way she's lying about Eric to her nearest and dearest? It's a very compelling and complicated, and ultimately romantic (in the classic and literal sense of the word), situation.
Meanwhile, the panicked witches fret about payback from the vamps — for good reason, because Pam is on the rampage after Marnie melted half her face off in another of her whoopsie spells. There are significant developments as well in the subplots involving shape-shifter Tommy and his despicable white-trash parents, Bill and the sin-cestuous Portia, Arlene and Terry and their demon-spawn baby — and Jason has good cause to mutter "Oh my gravy" after his escape from the were-panthers, having been rescued by best pal Hoyt and a blood-sharing Jessica.
As the prospect of a full moon looms large, the witty pop-culture references this week cover the gamut from famous TV witches to Gandhi and Fox News, grounding True Blood's surreal shenanigans in a context all TV fans can relate to. This season has been a riot, and this episode leaves you hungry for more.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is just as outrageously addictive an entertainment, often making you want to cover your ears the way True Blood sometimes makes you want to avert your eyes. This week's "The Palestinian Chicken" episode (10/9c) is one of the best and most satisfying Curbs in a while, presenting Larry David as a "social assassin" unafraid to speak unpopular truths as he and Jeff get enmeshed in a standoff between a Palestinian chicken joint — where the lure of the savory food trumps the anti-Semitic vibe — and a neighborhood Jewish deli. Religious converts, cuckolds and a golf tournament play into this week's savage farce, which is very likely to make you "LOL" (in the annoying words of former Friends scene-stealer Maggie Wheeler).
Saving the least for last, Entourage (10:30/9:30c) feels awfully washed-out and washed-up, kind of like Vince Chase's dormant career, as the show counts down to the end. Vince emerges from rehab a sadder but wiser man, but does anyone really care? Drama is busy voicing a cartoon alongside Andrew Dice Clay — and that subplot (not to mention casting) is as appetizing and relevant as it sounds. Eric is the most secure professionally with his name on a management shingle, but like everyone else, including a slimmer Turtle, his personal life's a mess. It all feels like a show spinning its wheels, and I kept wondering as I watched everyone flutter around the pallid Vince: Why in the world has no one suggested he play a vampire? That at least would be timely.
The buddies from Queens are no longer good or interesting company, so it's up to Ari Gold (the role of a lifetime for Jeremy Piven) to keep us engaged. And his desperate pursuit of the estranged Mrs. Ari does have comedic and dramatic urgency, and is fraught with surprising twists. Wish I could say the same about Entourage — but seriously, if they think there's still enough juice here to make a feature film after the series wraps, I have five cautionary words for everyone to chew on: Sex and the City 2.