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Timing, as the old showbiz punchline goes. You can't beat it.

Just as TNT's "The Grid" was set to debut in its 9 p.m. Monday time slot, the 9/1 1 commission's rumored proposal for the creation of a national cabinet-level intelligence czar to end all the interbureau wrangling was being debated everywhere they debate such things (a partial list of TV places where they don't: the Cartoon Network, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, "Total Request Live," local TV news).

The whole two-hour pilot (it continues Monday nights through Aug. 9) was awash in an alphabet soup of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic battling for jurisdiction and the inalienable right to distrust everyone else in the same business.

When the NSC deputy chief can't keep herself from devouring her oilman boyfriend in bed (she likes to be on top), she has an FBI man on her team who can't be trusted not to break the nose of his confidential informants in anger.

She also has a CIA guy working with her who is being secretly pressed by his old CIA superiors to dish up all the confidential NSC dirt.

Across the pond in London, a frosty MI6 prodigy would rather have a root canal than trust any of the cowboy Yanks, who are always dragging the Brits into their major intelligence blunders and then somehow leaving them holding the bag.

In the meantime, an international terrorist who calls himself only Mohammed is sending people around the world to let Sarin gas loose in London, threaten the New York subway system and bomb oil conferences in Lagos, Nigeria.

Our first-rate TV summer of certifiable grown-up entertainment blissfully continues.

"The Grid" is terrific. It not only had a sequence of brilliantly conceived suspense at the end (will terrorist explosives go off in a bar full of junketing oil executives?), it was unafraid to stop dead periodically while its denizens plausibly debated very real issues in the world we live in.

The NSC deputy (played by Julianna Margulies) had to be reminded by her CIA underling that Islam was one of the great forces in human civilization. And, across the water, her waspish MI6 counterpart scolded her about all the WMDs no one ever found.

Imagine "24" with real brains and a visible connection to yesterday's front page and put it into the restless hopscotch-the-world format of the BBC's mini-series "Traffic" and you've got the idea.

If you somehow missed the pilot, for heaven's sakes don't fail to sample the rest.

The tempestuous FBI guy on the NSC staff is played by Dylan McDermott of "The Practice," still profoundly troubled and melancholic.

If the frozen MI6 beauty across the water seems to have all the carriage and natural superiority of a Redgrave, that's because a Redgrave is what she is. Her name is Jemma Redgrave, which means, for those keeping score at home, she has some of the same blood coursing through her veins as Vanessa, Lynn and Vanessa's acting daughters Natasha and Joely Richardson (the latter of "Nip/Tuck" fame).

If all of this seems on a notably higher intellectual level than summer prime-time throwaways usually are, it's quite likely because it's a BBC co-production and the Brits don't have a many-decade tradition of contempt for summer TV to counter.

For those in need of summer television that treats its audience like a beach towel, there's always HBO's "Entourage," a half-hour comedy about a good-looking, empty-head young movie star and the horny, vacuous posse that lives in his house, eats his food, beds his would-be groupies and picks the scripts for his next movie when the star himself can't be bothered to read them (which is most of the time).

We are, then, supposed to find lovable and amusing the Hollywood condition of being young, ungifted and stupid. All of which is well and good unless you have to sometimes see the movies that the show's real-life counterparts actually make.

Mark Wahlberg is the show's executive producer.

By all means, spend your hard-earned money and take part of your valuable time to see Wahlberg's movie "The Truth About Charlie."

Then tell me if you think "Entourage" is funny.


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