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Bad Times

Strike Back

Friday, Aug. 9 (Cinemax)

Season Premiere: This series is more macho than Jason Statham crashing a Hummer into an MMA octagon where Ron Swanson and Nickelback are fighting over a rib-eye, but the addition of Rhona Mitra to the cast of military actioner Strike Back last season brought at least a little feminine balance—too bad it looks as though she's going down hard in Season 3. When Major Dalton's (Mitra) terrorist-hunting mission in Beirut is compromised, Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Stonebridge (Phillip Winchester) are pulled off a completely-heterosexual joint vacation(?) to track said terrorist's associates in Columbia; as usual, things go from bad to worse for Team America (actually, MI6). Strike Back may be predictable, but it's predictable with such visceral style and grit, who cares? Kill 'em all!

The White Queen

Friday, Aug. 9 (Starz)

Series Debut: Starz execs: "We need our own Game of Thrones, only waaay cheaper, with watered-down sex and violence, and scripts that were previously rejected by The CW or Drunk History." BBC One execs: "Have we got a show for you!"

Clear History

Saturday, Aug. 10 (HBO)

Movie: If you're expecting a huge thespian departure for Larry David, forget it: The Gandolf wig and beard early in the movie are as far removed from Curb Your Enthusiasm's "Larry David" as he gets; Clear History is really just an extended episode of Curb. On the upside, extended episode of Curb! David stars as Nathan Flomm, a marketing exec at a start-up electric-car company who, after getting into a stupid, Larry-like fight with his boss (Jon Hamm), quits and sells his shares. Five minutes later, the company breaks billions-big, Apple-style, and Nathan is a national joke. A haircut and 10 years on, Nathan is now Rolly, anonymously and happily living Larry-like in Martha's Vineyard—until his old boss shows up and builds a mansion on the island. Clear History is funny and star-studded enough (watch for an uncredited Liev Schreiber), but Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm would have been pretty, pretty, pretty preferable.

Breaking Bad

Sunday, Aug. 11 (AMC)

Mid-Season Premiere: The second half of the final Breaking Bad season (The Only TV Column That Matters™ is not going to miss explaining that) cuts right to the meat of The End of Heisenberg/Walter White; returning episode "Blood Money" is a bracing, all-killer-no-filler episode that simultaneously spells out Walt's (Bryan Cranston) post-meth-biz fate and somehow leaves it wide open at the same time—quite a trick. It's so jam-packed, nearly every plot point is a spoiler (real spoilers, not your Mad Men bullshit, Matthew Weiner), but it's at least safe to mention that Jesse (Aaron Paul), Hank (Dean Norris); Saul (Bob Odenkirk), Skyler (Anna Gunn) and, my pick for lone survivor, Marie (Betsy Brandt), all get quality screen time—even Badger and Skinny Pete show up for some much-needed comic relief. You don't need me to tell you to Be There.

Low Winter Sun

Sunday, Aug. 11 (AMC)

Series Debut: Speaking of Breaking Bad, Gale Boetticher is back! Not really, but the actor (David Constabile) who played him is, as a Detroit Police internal affairs officer investigating a cop's murder—at the hand of Low Winter Sun's (anti)hero, Det. Frank Agnew (Zero Dark Thirty's Mark Strong). Fortunately for AMC, Low Winter Sun is more The Shield than The Killing, less cop procedural than tension-escalating indie flick. Just in time, eh, Detroit?

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