Picks and Pans Main: TV

updated 04/25/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/2011 01:00AM

Game of Thrones

HBO, April 17, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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FANTASY

Based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy novels, this galloping entertainment takes place in a medieval land, Westeros. King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), sitting none too comfortably on the throne, needs a new right-hand man and recruits his friend Lord Eddard Stark (the imposing Sean Bean, looking like James Gandolfini wrapped in Mr. Snuffleupagus' hide). Beyond that, the sprawling plot is strewn with an incestuous queen, a scheming dwarf (Peter Dinklage, in fine, sneering form), mystical wolves, bastard sons and what look like snow-dusted zombies. What's amazing is how quickly it all falls into place-the show goes like a shot. The characters don't have much more depth than what you'd find in Star Wars, but the cartoon clarity of their ambitions and passions makes them easily grasped pawns moved across a vast chessboard.

Happy Endings

ABC, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

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COMEDY

It may take a generation before we're done with sitcoms modeled on Friends, but at least Endings has something fresh at its core: a runaway bride (Elisha Cuthbert) reestablishing good terms with her jilted fiance (Zachary Knighton). Even better, the well-cast ensemble includes Casey Wilson (Saturday Night Live). She plays Penny, a desperately cheerful single woman, with just the right touch of exaggerated verve. She's a catch.

The Paul Reiser Show

NBC, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT |

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COMEDY

Paul Reiser, who had a great run in the '90s with NBC's Mad About You, returns in a sitcom that's mostly shrug-off-able. Playing a version of himself, he's a family man who hangs out with other family men and suffers farcical indignities-it's Curb Your Enthusiasm by way of Men of a Certain Age. Reiser, a precise, nimble comic, doesn't have the gut-level energy to bully life into this contraption. It's stalled.

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