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Showtime Outshines HBO Tonight, And Broadcast TV is Back, Too

HBO cleaned up at the Emmys a week ago, winning more awards than any other network, broadcast or cable. But tonight, as HBO premieres its latest two new series, the cable crown really belongs to Showtime, where Dexter and Californication return with new season premieres.

The third-season opener of Dexter (9 p.m. ET) is fabulous.  It begins with Michael C. Hall’s titular character enjoying a rare sense of security and serenity. Having gotten away with murders (several of them) the past two seasons, he now has an idyllic home life, respect at his Miami police forensics job, and seemingly nothing left to hide or fear.

So he screws it up almost instantly, with a plot twist that sends the district attorney (new recurring guest star Jimmy Smits) and Dexter’s own sister sniffing in his direction, and Dexter himself uncharacteristically stumped as to what to do next.

Coincidentally, that’s pretty much what happens to David Duchovny’s Hank on Californication (10 p.m.), which begins its second season on Showtime tonight. When last we saw him, he was blissfully happy, having successful won back his ex-love on her own wedding day to another man. But now, he’s surrounded by temptation of all sorts, and isn’t that terrific at resisting it. Here, too, the new season begins with a self-assured, high-RPM accelerated blast.

Meanwhile, HBO continues with new episodes of True Blood (its best episode yet, at 9 p.m. ET) and Entourage (a place-setter for coming plot conflicts), followed by the premieres of Little Britain USA and the network’s first animated series, The Life and Times of Tim. The first features a guest appearance by Rosie O’Donnell, which, sad to say, qualifies as one of the premiere’s highlights. Its humor is very mean-spirited, which it shares with the low-rent, low-laughs Tim. It’s not HBO. It’s more like YouTube.

And back on the broadcast side of things, don’t forget all the season premieres scheduled for tonight. Remember, especially, to watch or record 60 Minutes, The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives and The Amazing Race.