BY TOM GLIATTO
This rattling good series starts with the old, old story of two brothers who take opposite moral turns on the road of life, but the route is complicated with ramps, loops and underpasses. The bad brother, a thug named Michael Caffee (Jason Isaacs), comes home to Providence, R.I., after years in hiding and picks up where he left off. He assembles a crime syndicate in his working-class Irish neighborhood. Or is he a deluded Robin Hood? He provides free booze for senior citizens and, in a repulsive act of chivalry, severs the ear of a rival gangster who attacks a young woman. The good brother, Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke), is a Kennedy type, a state representative trying to test just how many deals he can cut before he kisses his integrity bye-bye. Clarke, an Australian actor, is charismatic and convincing: He could be a pol letting his life serve as a reality show. Isaacs, a British actor known as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, plays Michael with more star swagger. He's the killer, but Tommy's dealings with the House Speaker seem truly life or death.
USA (Fridays, 10 p.m. ET)
This new series is being paired with the fifth season of Monk
, the detective series that has won Tony Shalhoub two Emmys. It's not in the same league. Or astral plane. James Roday plays Shawn Spencer, whose powers of deduction are so extraordinary he passes himself off as a psychic consultant. He's partnered with his best friend (West Wing's Dulé Hill), an anxious pharmaceuticals salesman willing to tag along for the adventure. When Roday surveys a crime scene, the clues falling within his line of vision light up in his head. This is a bit like the gimmick on ABC's Evidence
. It's also like watching someone test Christmas lights for faulty bulbs. The show is meant to be fairly lighthearted, and Roday never stops kidding around. Unlike Monk
, a gently comic character coping with mental illness, Roday's just an overgrown kid. Who needs him?
HBO (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Well, I can't say I've ever been won over by this revisionist western, now in its third and final full season. It's beautifully made, in its way—a meticulously mucky world of mud, manure and timber—and the cast (Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Timothy Olyphant, Powers Boothe) is first-rate. But the dialogue is a dense, dense sludge of obscenities and stilted talk. ("You and I will have much to discuss on our evening perambulations.") Just about any hour episode seems to last 18 minutes beyond that. It's like saddling up and putting the spurs to a drunk Shetland pony.
>Annabeth Gish, 35, gives a beautifully shaded performance as a troubled woman whose demons—drugs, extramarital sex—make her future as a politician's wife iffy. The marijuana she smokes, by the way, is oregano ("Definitely not a gentle experience"), and the naked backside is her own: "I do a lot of hiking—inclines are good for the butt."
>A Hero's Welcome
(CBS, July 4, 8 p.m. ET) Real-life survivors are reunited with the rescuers who put their own lives on the line to help. Hosted by former Dallas star Patrick Duffy.
(ABC Family, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET) A promising new series about a young man with strange powers, no memory and no belly button.
(ABC, July 6, 9 p.m. ET) The pilot episode from March 2005, introducing America's favorite cuddle-puddle medical staff: Ellen Pompeo
, Patrick Dempsey
and Katherine Heigl
Inside the Actors Studio
(Bravo, July 2, 9 p.m. ET) Repeat of the 2002 sit-down with reticent sex symbol and Pirates of the Caribbean 2
star Johnny Depp
The Twilight Zone
(Sci Fi, July 2, 9 a.m. ET) Two straight days of Rod Serling's bizarro classic. If your head explodes, don't come crying to me.
Age: 37 Birthplace: Warren, Ohio Latest role: Plays frazzled gay assistant Lloyd to testy Hollywood agent Ari Gold on the HBO show.
ON HIS CHARACTER LLOYD
I rarely see him as gay. He's more about trying to please his boss and get ahead in the world. He's putting up with stuff now to gain something later.
ON LIFE IMITATING ART
I was an assistant to a casting director not that long ago while working on Entourage. I was often late, but when I was there I was very good at it. It was a lot of clerical work, taking Polaroids of actors and organizational stuff. I'm excellent as an assistant.
ON WORKING WITH JEREMY PIVEN
He's very creative and ad-libs all the time, so if you're not there and ready to bring your stuff, he's gonna steamroll over you. I like to think that I hold my own.
ON LIFE AS AN ASSISTANT
I had one experience where a directing team came into the office and ordered lunch. When the food came, they assumed I was there to be their slave. I thought it was a joke, so I was questioning them at every step. I was like, "You want me to take your food out of a bag for you?" They said, "Yes." I said, "And you want me to put it on a plate for you?" They said, "Yes. Isn't that in your job description?" I said, "No."
ON WHOM HE WANTS IN HIS ENTOURAGE
Actor Alan Cumming. He's crazy. I don't always know how to create the crazy. I need someone around to get me into trouble.
With the announcement of Emmy nominations coming up July 6—the show airs Aug. 27 on NBC, with Conan O'Brien as master of ceremonies—let's remember some deserving shows and stars.
BEST SERIES, DRAMA The Book of Daniel
(NBC). Controversial with religious groups and not of much interest to the heathen, Daniel lasted only four episodes—which means, by Emmy rules, it doesn't have a prayer. But I believe in miracles! This drama about an Episcopal priest (Aidan Quinn), his family and their struggles with the world, the flesh and the devil had a messy, honest vitality I haven't seen in a show since.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA Michael Emerson, Lost
(ABC). Here's a show with a rich ensemble and, peeping out from behind the island fronds, some fringe performances with a special perverse appeal. Viewers seemed to really go for Michael Emerson as sneaky, grimy Henry Gale (left), who in any given scene looked and acted like the devil's pet weasel.
ACTRESS, DRAMA Emily Deschanel, Bones
(FOX). Academy, please don't ignore this forensic fox. Deschanel is a lovely presence on FOX's hip procedural—chilled, yet with an air of reserved, sexy mystery. And her chemistry with the volatile David Boreanaz is excellent.
ACTOR, COMEDY John Krasinski, The Office
(NBC). He may turn up nominated as supporting actor, but the show would be unwatchable without him: He's loosely funny, kind and human, whereas star Steve Carell always seems like some dumb little fascist inexplicably put in charge of a workplace instead of a country.
ACTRESS, COMEDY Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
(CBS). She's a pretty safe bet to be nominated, isn't she? Six months ago, who expected the Seinfeld curse could be broken? On Christine, she's sadder, wiser, still bitingly funny. If she's not nominated, though, the curse can be considered still on.
SPECIAL CITATION, BEST GO-TO GUY Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He was dying Denny, the heart-patient heartthrob on Grey's Anatomy
, the demon-hunting father of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on The WB's Supernatural—and he turned up on Weeds, where he was the already dead husband. He's consistently good, a handsome Everyman in need of a shave.
Commander in Chief
($29.99) The first 10 episodes of Geena Davis's ABC series about a woman President. Even if in the end this turned out to be a one-season Administration, the show launched well, with plenty of political gusto.
($39.95) The reality design contest's second season saw the defeat of Santino and the surprise breakout stardom of adviser Tim Gunn, a wise and superbly droll fashionisto. Extras include out-takes, auditions and Gunn's blog, which is loaded with barbs.
Showtime (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)