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THE BIG THING : TV THIS WEEK

Raising the stakes, again

September 09, 2007|Mary McNamara

Tonight HBO gives us a 2 1/2 -hour reminder of how cable has changed and continues to change television and popular culture in America. "Tell Me You Love Me," which premieres from 9 to 10, is one of the most talked-about new shows of the season, if only because of its explicit sex scenes. In chronicling the lives of four couples as they enter counseling to cope with a variety of intimacy issues -- infertility, the sexless marriage, adultery -- creator Cynthia Mort clearly prides herself on pulling no punches. Love is examined, up close and personal, from graphic oral sex to the excruciating endless pause so often found in a marriage therapy session.

At 10, gears are admirably switched to allow the return of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," with Larry David and his pals exploiting once again the mundane injustices of everyday life in Brentwood and its environs, managing to parody their own narcissism even as they exploit it. Watch as Larry tries to get out of going to a friend's party, snigger as his wife (Cheryl Hines) tries to persuade him to take in a hurricane-dispossessed family. Vivica A. Fox joins the cast as the cheeky hurricane mom.

Then, at 10:30, the assortment is complete with "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." In this documentary, James Gandolfini, almost off-camera, interviews 10 veterans who sustained horrific, life-changing injuries during their service in Iraq. "Alive Day" (which refers to the day the soldiers were wounded) offers a portrait of war that goes way beyond politics.

It's difficult to imagine sitting through all three without getting a cultural nosebleed, but that's why TiVo was invented. (HBO, today, starting at 9 p.m.)

-- Mary McNamara

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