Sunday TV: Oscars and Surrounding Hype

JIMMY KIMMELThe practically unflappable Jimmy Kimmel hosts The 89th Academy Awards (ABC 8:30 p.m.) and he’ll probably do a pretty good job. “La La Land” leads all films with 14 nominations, tying a record But “Moonlight” has been coming on strong, especially at the Independent Spirit Award Saturday. Among those singing the best song nominations will be John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Sting, Auli’i Carvalho and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

A countdown begins seven hours earlier on E! followed by actual coverage “Live from the Red Carpet” (E!, 5:30 p.m.) just three hours before the event, with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic. The network’s official “Oscar Opening Ceremony: Live from the Red Carpet” (ABC, 7 p.m.) is 90 minutes long, with Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan and Lara Spencer.

Normally, Kimmel would host his own late night special, but “Live from Hollywood: The After Party” (ABC, 12:05 a.m.) is hosted by Anthony Anderson, snagging winners from the event and luring them across the street from the Dolby Theatre to the El Capitan Entertainment Center. E! returns with after party coverage starting at 11:30 p.m.

Elsewhere, “Girls” (HBO, 10 p.m.) turns in a strong two-character episode about mentors with allegations of sexual abuse, with Matthew Rhys turning in a remarkable performance opposite Lena Dunham.

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Saturday TV: Independent Spirit Awards

IndependentFilmAwardsThe best thing about Oscar weekend for true film buffs is the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards (IFC, 5 p.m.), shining a line on less well known films of the year, (“American Honey,” which got six nominations) although some of them have turned up amid Academy Awards nominees as well (“Moonlight” also got six). Other nominated films include “Manchester by the Sea” up for five awards, “Other People” and “Jackie” each got four.

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, in and out of their “Oh Hello” personas, host the afternoon event on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif.

It’s practically all sports on prime time network TV. The rarest is prime time network hockey, which in this case is Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (NBC, 8 p.m.) in what looks to be an unseasonably warm NHL Winter Classic.  It’s on opposite NBA action with Chicago at Cleveland (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) and Denotay Wilder vs. gerald Washington in a heavyweight boxing (FOX, 8 p.m.) from Birmingham.

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The Last Playlist? 2/24/17

RadioCPR2Friday Night Rock coincided with the last moments of Radio CPR — in its current location.

Forced out of the place that has been its studio for many years, the station is still in the middle of finding its next home. Optimistic that will happen, I tried not to dwell on the goodbye forever theme. Instead, a salute to the great drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who died last Saturday at 73. His drum break from “Funky Drummer” may be the most sampled piece of music around. Our examples came from Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and L.L. Cool J.

A bigger chunk of the show was dedicated to the birthday of pianist Nicky Hopkins, who was featured on so many great records, from the Stones to the Kinks to Quicksilver Messenger Service to the Jayhawks. Closed by shaking a handkerchief in a Mardi Gras celebration. Hope to be back on the air soon.

Here’s what I played tonight:

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Friday TV: Quirky New ‘Patriot’

6de285b0-33a6-4e15-acb3-888bbbd2eb58The appealing new “Patriot” (Amazon, streaming) takes a quirky road to spy thriller as an intelligence officer played by Michael Dorman goes undercover, just barely makes his assignment to pose as an employee in a Milwaukee pipe company in order to stop Iranian nuke building. One of his weaknesses seems to be in confessing all of his thoughts through folk songs on open mic nights.

Terry O’Quinn, who plays his high level government dad, joins him in a Townes Van Zandt song. Michael Churnus plays his his congressman brother. Kirkwood Smith is his demanding boss. Like TV’s “Fargo,” it blends odd character and near-miss tension in what quickly becomes an absorbing tale.

Also online, Terry Crews hosts the pointless international competition series on an “American Ninja Warrior” type obstacle course called  “Ultimate Beastmaster” (Netflix, streaming).

The other ballet slipper drops on “Great Performances” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) as the New York Ballet perform the other two George Balanchine works at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris that they didn’t do last week: “Sonatine” and “Symphony in C.”

Perhaps you’d rather not spend further TV time with the odd mother on “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” but here she is on a dating show, following what Khloe Kardashian would call a revenge makeover, “Mama June: From Not to Hot” (WE, 10 p.m.).

One investment on “Shark Tank” (ABC, 9 p.m.) goes over the $100 million mark. Then the sharks are the subject of “20/20” (ABC, 10 p.m.).

The host of “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO, 10 p.m.) is taking credit for the professional decline of the offensive Milo Yianoppolis this week. But his interview with the racist right wing provocateur was a little chummy. This week’s guests are Sen. Angus King, Rep. Darrel Issa, Seth MacFarlane, Asra Nomani and Fran Lebowitz.

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Thursday TV: ‘Sun Records’ Gets a Spin

sun_records_promo_1I was the worst audience for the hit musical “Million Dollar Quartet” despite my love for the music, because I had serious issues with all its changed details about the rise of rock ’n’ roll in Memphis. But the spin-off TV series “Sun Records” (CMT, 10 p.m.) has plenty of time to sort out those details — and the guy to do it, music journalist Colin Escott, even as it includes some tasty musical bits in telling the tales of the rise of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and the stars of the fabled recording studio.

It seems like they got teenagers who play the main roles and I had problems with the casting of Chad Michael Murray as label founder Sam Phillips (blonde?). but he shows some credible passion for the music he records. Jerry Lee Lewis isn’t even in the mix yet, and B.B. King arrives next week. And while the marital infidelity subplot seems unnecessary, it seems like the series has a lot going for it.

It follows a key episode of the transplanted “Nashville” (CMT, 9 p.m.) in which the fate of Connie Britton’s Rayna James may be determined after a big accident last week. Together, it makes a night of music-oriented, Tennessee-centered drama on the network.

Famke Janssen takes up the role of Scottie Hargrave of a private military intelligence firm, introduced on “The Blacklist” (NBC, 9 p.m.) last season, for her own stand alone spin-off, “The Blacklist: Redemption” (NBC, 10 p.m.). As in the original show, she has a mysterious connection to the spy played by Ryan Eggold.

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John Doe Stands Alone at Jammin Java

JohnDoeWindyHairIt’s a long road from the throbbing epicenter of Los Angeles punk origins to an acoustic Tuesday night gig at a suburban Northern Virginia strip mall.

But John Doe has made that road work for him, turning his fame in the occasionally revived X to a solid solo career of dusty, windswept Americana.

Those songs usually served up with a wallop and a twang, with a band behind him. But he returned to Jammin Java in Vienna, Va., carrying only a guitar or two.

He’s a big enough personality to carry it off, bringing a passion and hard-won skill on the nylon strings to create a driving sound, even when he pulled up a few from the X songbook.

Playing solo gave him a certain versatility as well and once he opened the door to requests, he played some old songs he hadn’t done in some time — some of them perfect for the barroom setting, like the swaggering “Dyin’ to Get Home” from his first solo album, “Meet John Doe.”

Asking for requests is a Pandora’s box — he may have strayed from any intent to feature songs from his latest collection, last year’s “The Westerner.”

But being back in the Middle Atlantic put him in mind of the days the Illinois native spent in Baltimore, before he moved to Los Angeles and helped start the punk scene he writes of in “Under the Black Sun” (whose audio book version was up for a Grammy this month).

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Wednesday TV: Black Film, BRIT Awards

QueenLatifahNever mind that #OscarsSoWhite is slightly less so this year. But before that all gets on display Sunday, here’s the 2017 American Black Film Honors (BET, Centric, 8 p.m.) taped last weekend from Los Angeles. Regina Hall hosts the event, which will present special awards to Denzel Washington, Issa Rae, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard and producer F. Gary Gray. Maxwell and Dionne Farris perform. The event replaces the BET Honors, which is usually held Februarys in Washington.

The DiMeos have an Oscar party, meanwhile, on “Speechless” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.).

And if it’s a music awards show you’re after, there is The BRIT Awards (BBC America, 10 p.m.), hosted by Emma Willis and Dermot O’Leary, with performances from Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Robbie Williams, The 1975 and Emili Sande. Up for the most awards: Little Mix and Rihanna.

Elsewhere, David is looking for answers on “Legion” (FX, 10 p.m.) but frankly so are we all.

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Tuesday TV: Maya Angelou’s Long Life

MayaAngelouMore than a year after it premiered at Sundance, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” gets a Black History Month showcase on “American Masters” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings). The two hour film by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack includes Angelou’s work as a calypso singer of some note, her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many successes as writer and poet, ultimately following her around for speaking engagements late in life, shortly before she died in 2014 at 86. Commentary comes from Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Louis Gossett Jr., and John Singleton, among others.

It’s followed by a new “Frontline” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) that looks at Guantanamo Bay from two angles. One is about the last “indefinite detainees” released there before the change in administration and the second about the history of the military base.

On the new “Needles & Pins” (Viceland, 10 p.m.), British tattoo artist Grace Neutral leads a tour through the tattoo scene in various cities, starting with Las Vegas.

The “Daily Show” host does a standup special online, “Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark” (Netflix, streaming).

An episode of “This is Us” (NBC, 9 p.m.) concentrates on a road trip Randall and William take to Memphis.

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Review: Lee Fields & the Expressions

LeeFieldsRound about showtime Saturday night, as the backing band the Expressions were churning out the cool and lightly funky sounds of the past, the way serious students from Greenpoint, Brooklyn could do, in their matching paisley tux jackets, out came the front man in his sparkly blue tux jacket.

Lee Fields was taking that long walk down the hall from the Rock and Roll Hotel’s green room to its modest stage, but it might have been a longer walk still, back to the Stax era chitlin circuit. Bringing with him the grit of a lifetime in rhythm and soul, the yearnings of its heartbreak songs, the insistence of its endurance.

It’s a long road, but Fields, at 65 or so, is the standard-bearer of a kind of soul that was swept away by disco and dance records, or was otherwise relegated to the oldies bin.

Like Charles Bradley or the late Sharon Jones, he’s found his niche with an ace bunch of enablers, the six piece Expressions who frame his songs and keep it going as he extends the tunes, extolls the audience to clap along, or breaks it down.

The soul man is an endangered species, and Fields keeps it going, not wth a lot of amped-up funkified flash, but with a smoother mid-tempo, accommodating aching ballads or promises of fidelity.

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Monday TV: ‘The Talk’ and ‘The Breaks’

The TalkMost black and Latino parents have to, at some point, sit down their children, especially their sons, and have “the talk.” That is to say, how to behave when stopped by the police. The sensitivity and importance of this conversation is the basis of the two hour documentary “The Talk — Race in America” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). Parents and police from a dozen communities are interviewed in the film that also features “Blackish” producer Kenya Barris, Rosie Perez, director John Singleton, columnist Charles Blow and Nas.

Not meant to have absolute historical accuracy, the new series “The Breaks” (VH1, 9 p.m.) is another ambitious TV effort to chronicle the early days of hip-hop. Based on Dan Charnas’ book “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop,” it stars Afton Williamson, David Call, Mack Wilds, Evan Handler, Wood Harris and an actual rapper, Method Man.

“Unlocking the Cage” (HBO, 8 p.m.), a documentary by D.A. Pennebakbr and Chris Hegedus, follows the work of animal-rights lawyer Steven Wise, arguing that chimpanzees shouldn’t be caged as pets.

Nat Geo Wild begins its seventh annual Big Cat Week with a look at lions in Botswana, “Battle for the Pride” (Nat Geo Wild, 9 p.m.), as young cubs struggle to survive.  Similarly, the documentary “Growing Up Wild” (Netflix, streaming) follows young animals growing up in the wilderness. It’s narrated by Daveed Diggs.

“Bates Motel” (A&E, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, 10 p.m.) returns for its fifth and final season, jumping time to begin two years after the death of Vera Farmiga’s Norma — who still lives inside the troubled Norman (Freddie Highmore). Rihanna joins the cast this season. A refresher course is offered at 9:30 p.m., on all three channels.

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