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Tell Me You Love Me

HBO • Sunday, Sept. 9 (9 p.m.)

In HBO’s new drama series Tell Me You Love Me, characters often profess love for each other, but their utterances aren’t nearly enough to ensure happiness. That’s because that entity known as sex, or the absence of the same, keeps getting in the way.

The show tracks the trials and tribulations of three couples at various stages of life and relationships. Dave (Tim DeKay) and Katie (Ally Walker) are 40-something parents of two who haven’t coupled for a year. Carolyn (Sonya Wagner) and Palek (Adam Scott) are 10 years younger and have failed to become pregnant, a situation that is becoming extremely stressful inside and outside the bedroom. Jamie (Michelle Borth) and Hugo (Luke Farrell Kirby) are in their 20s, but their engagement is threatened by imagined issues of infidelity. Here, the lady doth protest way too much, only to jump her betrothed’s bones at every opportunity.

These storylines connect through a couples’ therapist, May Foster (Jane Alexander). Dr. Foster, who still has an amorous appetite for her retired husband, dispenses wisdom, often pedantically, about ways the couples can bridge their gaps of intimacy and in the sack. But would the patients readily embrace her advice if they were aware of what appears to be her own set of shame and secrets?

Oh, and did I mention the sex? Yes, there’ s plenty of it and in varied positions and venues. Indeed, many early reviews have dwelled on the graphic nature of the acts. But you’ll find the late-night fare on premium networks more prurient.

Tell Me You Love Me will succeed or fail on how deeply viewers connect with the couples. Given the cross-section of problems, plenty of watchers will no doubt identify either personally or vicariously. But the bigger question from this side of the couch was whether I want additional sessions with Dr. Foster.

— Mike Reynolds

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM

HBO • Sunday, Sept. 9 (10 p.m.)

Nearly two years after wrapping up its fifth season with an episode misleadingly titled “The End,” HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is back for another round.

Larry David’s everyman-that-nobody-would-admit-to-being shtick may feel a little tired by now, the familiar cast of supporting characters are going through a lot of the same motions and even the show’s political incorrectness doesn’t have quite the same bite. But the once-groundbreaking comedy still delivers a healthy dose of misanthropy-for-laughs that pay TV viewers still in Seinfeld-withdrawal will undoubtedly welcome into their living rooms on Sunday nights. The show’s return is also without question the best thing that’s happened on HBO since Tony Soprano ordered those onion rings.

Judging from the first three installments, this season’s unifying plot development concerns an African-American family displaced by a Katrina-like disaster whom the Davids “adopt.” Meanwhile, Larry is still making trouble for his wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) and excuses for his manager-buddy Jeff (Jeff Garlin), while contending with Jeff’s ferocious, vitriol-spouting wife Susie (Susie Essman). Also back are pals Richard Lewis and Ted Danson playing themselves, and Bob Einstein as friend-to-avoid Marty Funkhouser.

Vivica A. Fox joins the cast as one of the Davids’ adopted houseguests; and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has an amusing cameo in which she admits to wearing clothes that the dry cleaner gives her by accident. There are also references to global warming and environmental causes that will inevitably get viewers thinking about David’s real-life split earlier this year from political activist wife Laurie David.

While it’s hard to muster up the same level of enthusiasm for Curb’s latest outing, the series is still, to quote its antihero star and creator, pretty, pretty good.

— George Vernadakis

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