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Three shows promise to serve up the laughs

As the old rye bread commercial goes, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the long-awaited fifth-season premiere of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (10 p.m. Sunday, HBO).

But it might help. A couple of trips to a deli and temple reminded me how much I missed "Curb," which airs its first original episode in 18 months, "The Larry David Sandwich."

An episode of HBO's "Entourage" revealed how tough it is to get good seats to a U2 concert, but it's up to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to explain that in Los Angeles a seat in a synagogue during the coming Jewish High Holy Days is a much tougher ticket and a scalper's paradise.

It's almost as difficult to get a ticket as it is for a celebrity to get a decent sandwich named after you at the local deli.

David gets that honor, but he isn't pleased by the ingredients in the "The Larry David" and tries to make a trade with his good buddy, Ted Danson. Danson eventually smells something fishy and more hilarity ensues.

The twin story lines and a third one involving Larry's selfishness at home make this episode a religious experience for "Curb" fans. Welcome back, Larry.

HBO is pairing "Curb" with another comedy set in the entertainment world, "Extras" (10:30 p.m. Sunday), from the British folks best known for creating "The Office" before NBC Americanized it.

Ricky Gervais, the co-creator and star, is a lower-level, low-key British version of David. Like David, he plays a self-centered character who doesn't often realize when he is being politically incorrect and hurtful.

In "Extras," Gervais plays Andy, who prefers beng called a "background artist" to an "extra." He hangs around movie sets with a female version of himself, Maggie (Ashlee Jensen), who is looking for love and finding creative, Larry David-like ways to destroy her relationships.

It takes a while to get used to the British accents, but once that issue is solved "Extras" solidly hits its mark.

HBO smartly has changed the order of episodes of "Extras" it showed to critics in July, opening with an image-shattering episode featuring "Titanic" star Kate Winslet. Starring as a nun in her next movie, Winslet doesn't play the big star. She gets down and dirty with the extras, offering Maggie some shocking relationship advice and some hilarious politically incorrect views on what it takes to win an Oscar.

Winslet might not get an Oscar, but she might get an Emmy nomination. In the second episode, Ben Stiller makes a spectacle of himself as the egomaniacal director of Andy and Maggie's next movie.

It seems like everybody wants to be as offensive and self-centered as Larry David.

Gervais and Jensen make an appealing team and the humor is smart and dry. All in all, "Extras" is a strong companion for "Curb."

One of the most eagerly awaited network comedies, UPN's adorable "Everybody Hates Chris" (8 tonight, WNLO-TV), is narrated by an HBO star, Chris Rock. It is based on his childhood growing up poor in Brooklyn in 1982 and being bused to an all-white school where he was treated roughly. And he wasn't exactly treated like a prince at home by his parents, either. The oldest of three children, he had extra responsibility and fortunately was wise beyond his years.

The cast is uniformly excellent, led by Tyler James Williams as Chris and Terry Crews and Tichini Arnold as his combative but loving parents, Julius and Rochelle.

Rock's deadpan, serio-comic narration on a variety of topics, including his mother's method of discipline and his father's ability to know how much every food item cost, can be as poignant as it is humorous.

The language gets a little PG-13 at times for a family series, but its heart is always in the right place. As the credit card commercial says, this is one nostalgic, funny, moving pilot that is priceless.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm"

10 p.m. Sunday, HBO

Review: 4 stars (Out of 4)


10:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO

Review: 3 stars

"Everybody Hates Chris"

8 tonight, WNLO-TV

Review: 4 stars


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