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What: Season debut of “Arli$$"

When: Sunday, 9:30-10 p.m. on HBO

Arliss Michaels, the sleazy yet likable, hilarious, eternally optimistic, resourceful, fast-talking, fast-dealing sports super-agent, is back for a third season. We learn in this first show that Michaels, played by Robert Wuhl, is broadcaster Al Michaels’ cousin, and the real Al Michaels is part of the cast. So are Oscar De La Hoya, New England Patriot owner Bob Kraft and Ken Norton Jr. But the real actors--Wuhl, Jim Turner (Kirby Carlisle) and Sandra Oh (Rita Woo)--are the ones who carry what might be the funniest show on television.

There are always a number of stories going on at once, and they usually become intertwined. One story on the first show has Arliss trying to get one of his clients, a backup quarterback named Theo Holt, re-signed. But Holt’s team wants no part of him. Arliss is told they prefer Jim McMahon. “Why don’t you just sign Y.A. Tittle?” Arliss screams.


Because Holt is African American, Arliss fears it might be “a black-white thing.” However, the problem, as cousin Al Michaels reveals, is that the word around the league is that Holt is gay.

Meanwhile, Kirby, Arliss’ untrustworthy underling, is arranging for De La Hoya to buy a hot Ferrari. But De La Hoya doesn’t know it is hot. Anyway, Oh volunteers to pick up the Ferrari. As luck would have it, Sandra, reputed to be a bad driver, runs into a police car. The police officer will let Sandra avoid prosecution only if she goes out on a date with him.

It’s the blurred thin line between fact and fiction, and the writing, that make this show so popular. Larry Sanders may be gone, but thank goodness for Arliss Michaels.