Forget about The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. HBO's True Blood is the vampire series that really matters this summer. It's the anti-Twilight, eschewing chaste undead romance in favor of depraved sex, bloody violence and pitch-black humor. Once you've seen hellishly appealing lead vampire Stephen Moyer, you realize that Twilight's Robert Pattinson is little more than face powder and hair product.
As season three opens (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO), Moyers' Bill has been kidnapped. Girlfriend Sookie (Anna Paquin) pursues him while the rest of the cast work through their own problems in a small southern town where vampires live out in the open. A vampire king scolds his underlings for allowing "moral anarchy" to run rampant, while the vampire queen asks, "Isn't moral anarchy sort of the point?"
It is, and I expect a heaping helping in this summer's episodes.
Sunday, 7 pm (CBS)
I didn't go to New York City for any of this year's theater season, but you can bet I'll watch the Tonys. I mean, look at the presenters with Broadway ties: Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney, Scarlett Johansson, Denzel Washington. Look at the mouth-watering nominees, including Alfred Molina, Christopher Walken and Rosemary Harris. Look at the musicals available for excerpts, with songs by Elvis Presley (Million Dollar Quartet), Green Day (American Idiot) and Fela Kuti (Fela!).
Why am I writing this blurb when I could be booking my plane ticket to New York City?
Sunday, 9 pm (HGTV)
Twelve interior designers compete in challenges, facing eliminations and blah blah blah. The format is similar to many such reality competitions, but I like Design Star's low-key tone. The contestants are all accomplished pros with real talent and mature personalities. The producers haven't dropped in any psychos in a desperate attempt to keep things interesting. Interest arises naturally from the designers' creative approach to their tasks.
Design Star does feature one woman you love to hate, but she's not the usual Cruella de Vil. She's just very good at what she does and a bit arrogant as a result.
It's not often you find a reality-show villain with such exquisite taste.
Jaws: The Inside Story
Wednesday, 8 pm (BIO)
You may not think you need to spend two hours on a beautiful summer night watching a documentary about the making of 1975's shark-attack classic. But trust me you'll be glad you did. The story behind Jaws proves to be as exciting as the movie itself, with disaster looming at every turn.
Like me, you may know a couple of facts going in: that director Steven Spielberg paid a steep price for deciding to film on the real Atlantic Ocean; and that the mechanical shark rarely worked, requiring Spielberg to imply horror rather than show it graphically. But there's so much more. Did you realize that Spielberg's career hung in the balance due to extreme budget overruns? That star Richard Dreyfuss disowned the movie in a TV interview when filming wrapped? That the filmmakers wrote the script as they went along?
We also learn that Spielberg has avoided the ocean for over three decades, fearing that sharks are mad at him for making Jaws. If that's so, this documentary will do absolutely nothing to appease them.
Bethenny Getting Married?
Thursday, 9 pm (Bravo)
Bethenny Frankel is arguably the most obnoxious member of The Real Housewives of New York City, and that qualifies her for a spinoff reality series. She's a crude businesswoman obsessed with her body and its functions. "Do I have snot up my nose?" she asks with typical eloquence. "Is my underwear up my ass?"
The series follows Bethenny as she deals with pregnancy and an upcoming wedding. She airs her self-pity in a filmed therapy session (so much for doctor-patient confidentiality), argues with her fiancé and makes multiple references to her "giant vagina." I can see why viewers might tune in once out of curiosity, but what would make us want to watch a second episode? Whether or not Bethenny gets snot up her nose is not my idea of a cliffhanger.