Wednesday TV: Another ‘Survivor’ Finale

survivor-recap-episode-12-ghost-island-season-36-featured-1It’s been an interesting season of “Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.) if not a great one. Using “Ghost Island,” they’ve been bringing back artifacts from the previous 35 seasons, some of them memorable, many of them not. I’m surprised Dominick is still part of the mix at this point, he put a target on himself in the first moments and has been fighting to change his image ever since. He and Wendell make a good team. But there are other staring competitors including Laurel, Sebastian, Angela and Donathan(?).

Tonight’s finale two hour finale involves a huge maze and a fire-making challenge. A winner is expected shortly after 10 p.m., when the reunion show starts.

The 19th season finale of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 9 p.m.) a young woman takes a man hostage at gunpoint and Benson tries to defuse the incident.

Lucious has to choose between his company and his family in the fourth season finale of “Empire” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

On the second to last ever episode of “The Americans” (FX, 10 p.m.), Elizabeth deals with competing loyalties.

Seg tries to save the city in the first season finale of “Krypton” (Syfy, 10 p.m.).

Take 3’s future as a group is in jeopardy in the second season finale of “Star” (Fox, 9 p.m.).

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Remembering Philip Roth, 1933-2018

RothSad to hear of the passing of one of America’s greatest writers, Philip Roth, who died Tuesday at 85. He was certainly one of my favorites and it was great honor when I had an opportunity five years ago to ask him a couple of questions.

He was doing some promotion, oddly enough, for a PBS profile on him and by then had discovered the joys of retirement at 80.

“Yeah, it’s great so far,” he said. “I get up in the morning. I go to the kitchen. I get a large glass of orange juice, and I go back to bed and read for an hour and a half. I never have done that in my entire life. So I’m doing fine without writing. Someone should have told me about this earlier.”

At that point in his life, he noted in the documentary, ”In the coming years, I have two great calamities to face — death and biography. Let’s hope the first comes first.”

Roth got his wish; Blake Bailey is still working on the official biography.

I asked him why he decided to participate in the documentary

“Well, time is running out, you know,” he said. “And if I didn’t do it now, when would I do it?”

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Okkervil River Rolls Again

IMG_5731On the inaugural night of the new Okkervil River tour Sunday at D.C.’s Black Cat, frontman Will Sheff kept saying what a joy it was there to be there and perform.

He brought up that word joy more than once, possibly because he has been accused of being a Gloomy Gus in recent years, sending out sad song after song for a band that itself imploded a couple of albums ago.

But he recruited the road band he hastily assembled for his last tour as his new permanent band, with which he recorded the new “In the Rainbow Rain” album that came out last month on Ato Records. It also contains a number of contemplative songs, but one by one, each one seems to fight to become anthemic by the time they are over. That, mixed in with favorite songs from five of the band’s earlier eight albums, made the night seem absolutely upbeat.

With long hair, wire framed glasses and bushy beard, Sheff was the spitting image of “Give Peace a Chance” era John Lennon, and his ambition wasn’t far from that with his personal, expansive and poetic songs from throughout his career, with lyrics fans in the audience were seen to sublimely sing along to all night.

The most simplified of the new songs seemed to work best live, from the loping and catchy opening advisory, “Don’t Move Back to LA” to probably the only song to ever focus on “Famous Tracheotomies.”

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Review: Liam Gallagher in One Hour Flat

IMG_5725Seems like all of England was at the Royal Wedding Saturday, but rocking native son Liam Gallagher, so highly esteemed in his home country, was in Washington, D.C., to make up a show he canceled last year. And looking as if he wanted to leave as soon as possible.

Other than fulfilling an implied contract with the audience, there was other sense of closure for the show that capped a quick week of U.S. shows: here was the second of the two brothers from Oasis performing in town within three months. Noel Gallagher played a big show at the Anthem in February; Liam’s gig at the Lincoln Theater was the other rock ’n’ roll shoe dropping.

The success of both shows were based on both brothers’ greater reliance on Oasis songs that made them stars. Indeed, more than half of Liam’s set were Oasis anthems, with the five others from his recent solo album (He decided to skip over the two albums of his first post-Oasis project, Beady Eye).

The sellout crowd that leaned toward nostalgia appreciated that ratio, but the total number of songs is what made this show notable: Ten in the main set, two encores, 12 total. Because Richard Ashcroft had to ditch the tour early, there was no opener. So this was the rare rock show in which the headliner began an 8 o’clock show at 7:59, ended the main set at 8:44 and was out of there by 8:54.

Did he have to catch a plane? He was set to open the big Rolling Stones show Tuesday in London Stadium, so maybe he had his mind on other things.

Gallagher has played slightly longer shows on this U.S. run (by one song), but not at a D.C. show that needed it.

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Tuesday TV: Remembering What Books Are

GreatAmericanReadA new summer series has an uphill challenge: Trying to convince people to turn off their TV to read. But as a way to get people get excited about what they’re calling “The Great American Read” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) is by having a big countdown, where the public will be voting on their favorite novel, with the ultimate choice deemed “America’s Best-Loved Novel” (which sounds a little bit too much like “You You Think You Can Dance” title of “America’s Favorite Dancer.”

Voters already chose the Top 100 from which it will be chosen – the list includes expected lit class stars like “Moby Dick,” “War and Peace” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” but also things like “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and even “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

As voting continues over 15 weeks, many celebs will weigh in, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Margaret Atwood, Gabrielle Union, Morgan Freeman, George R.R. Martin. Meredith Vieira hosts.

Among the many finales tonight, “The Middle” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) ends its nine season run with a one hour episode that has the family taking a road trip to Denver, where Axl will start a new job.

“The Flash” (The CW, 8 p.m.) ends its fourth season with the battle against DeVoe.

The 15th season of “NCIS” (CBS, 8 p.m.) ends with Sloane insisting that a man who held her hostage is Afghanistan alive and in D.C.

“Roseanne” (ABC, 8 p.m.) ends its successful first rebooted season with Darlene going back tottery a career in writing.

“The Voice” (NBC, 9 p.m.) names a 14th season winner between Kayla Jade, Spensha Baker, britton Buchanan and Brynn Cartelli. A recap of Monday’s performances are on at 8 p.m.

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Monday TV: The Past Before It Was Undone

the-final-year-review.w710.h473There’s no evidence anybody was dispatching spies to the Republican campaign, but there was a lot to be done in the final year of the Obama administration as captured in Greg Barker’s film “The Final Year” (HBO, 8 p.m.) which follows the foreign policy team setting up many policies regarding Cuba to Iran to Syria (most of which have been recently been dismantled by the incoming Trump team).

Right wingers also fought to dismantle the community organizing group ACORN using misleading tapes. A new film on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) looks at the incident that upended the good intentions in “ACORN and the Firestorm.”

A winner is named for the first season of “American Idol” (ABC, 9 p.m.) on a new network, where two of he three finalists, Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe, have each previously been on “The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.) where judges declined to turn their chairs around or them. Gabby Barrett is the third finalist.

“The Voice” begins its own finals, with a quartet of contenders — Britton Buchanan, Brynn Cartelli, Spensha Baker and Kyla Jade.

Naming a winner tonight after a shortened, four episode season of an athletes-only edition is “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC, 8 p.m.), where Tonya Harding is a finalist against another figure skater, Adam Rippon, and NFL cornerback Josh Norman. As usual, the rest of the contestants return for the occasion.

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Sunday TV: Billboard Music Awards

JanetJanet Jackson performs and gets the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards (NBC, 8 p.m.) live from Las Vegas, where other performers include Ariana Grande, Macklemore & Kesha, Shawn Mendes,  Dua Lipa, Salt-N-Pepa with En Vogue, Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello with Pharrell, Christina Aguilera with Demi Lovato, John Legend, Maren Morris, and Kelly Clarkson, who hosts. Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar each have 15 nominations.

The final three perform on “American Idol” (ABC, 8 p.m.), gabby Barrett, Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe.

On the new “Lost in Transition” (TLC, 10 p.m.), four different couples deal with the man’s decision to transition to a woman.

The situation in Moscow escalates on “Killing Eve” (BBC America, 8 p.m.).

The two part “Little Women” on “Masterpiece” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) reads its conclusion.

On the season 29 finale of “The Simpsons” (Fox, 8 p.m.), Bart is struck by lightning. Similarly, “Family Guy” (Fox, 9 p.m.) ends its season with Peter in a coma.

Before he got into the Chewbacca suit, Joonas Suotamo was Penn State basketball forward from Finland. “E:60” (ESPN, 9 p.m.) tells the tale.

“Madam Secretary” (CBS, 10 p.m.) ends its fourth season with the presiden’t’s preparation for a retaliatory nuclear attack.

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Saturday TV: Cord, Tish and Royals

CordAndTishIf you’re going to wade into the royal wedding at all, my preference hands down is “The Royal Wedding Live with Cord and Tish” (HBO, 7:30 a.m. and 9:45 p.m.) in which Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Rattigan join forces once again to put their stamp on a big event. The the two characters created by Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon first emerged calling the Rose Bowl Parade for Amazon Prime and brought new life into the proceedings.

They had running bits, interrupted the action (to yell at dignitaries the way Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf yelled exuberantly at Santa) and perfectly lampooned the goofy anchors who thought they were doing it straight. Their corny patter was no worse than the regular corny patter, in other words and almost always more entertaining. I’m expecting the same in London, unless they get kicked out.

More conventional live coverage starts way too early – 4 a.m. on CBS, PBS and CNN; 4:30 a.m. on NBC; 5 a.m. on ABC and E!; Fox News at 6 a.m.

But is there even any need to get up for it so early? A lot of the coverage will be repackaged and run tonight in prime time including “Royal Romance: The Marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle” (CBS, 8 p.m.), “The Royal Wedding: Harry and Meghan” (BBC America, 8 p.m.), “Harry & Meghan: The Royal Wedding” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.) “TLC’s Royal Wedding Revealed” (TLC, 10:07 p.m.) a special report on “20/20” (ABC, 10 p.m.),

There is also an original movie whose title might throw you, “Royally After All” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.). But this one involves a couple named Danny and Sara. Fiona Gubelmann and Torrance Coombs star.

Oscar nominee Michael Shannon is pretty good at playing the tough guy, and he does so again tonight on a new version of “Fahrenheit 451” (HBO, 8 p.m.) opposite Michael B. Jordan of “Black Panther” as a fellow fireman who is beginning to lose interest in what they do: causing fire, burning book according to the dystopian picture painted in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel (which gets burned too). It may be hard to make young audiences feel the loss when books are eliminated, so they throw in computers as well. Some of Ramin Bahrani’s film is so dull, though, it may leave you wanting to read a book instead.

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Friday: Hedy Lamarr’s Secret Science Life

ZIEGFELD GIRL, Hedy Lamarr, 1941Hedy Lamarr fled Austria and her arms dealing husband to become a big Hollywood star. She tired of being the most beautiful woman on the screen and turned to invention, working with Howard Hughes to make faster planes, and later developing a radio signals from jamming torpedoes, a type of technology that led to Bluetooth. Also, she invented Fizzes.

Because she never spoke publicly about such work, nobody thought she actually accomplished such things. It’s all told in Alexandra Dean’s “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” makes its TV debut on “American Masters” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

The controversial series “13 Reasons Why” (Netflix, streaming), built around the suicide of a high school student, begins a second season. Based on a book, the original source material was exhausted by the first season and its 13 reasons delivered individually to different people explaining the suicide. This year’s action centers on the student’s mother, suing the school for preventing the bullying that led to the death.

There’s no avoiding the royal stuff now. (In fact, you may want to stay up to watch the start of things, which begins at 4 a.m. Saturday). If not, there’s always “Prince Harry: Wild No More” (TLC, 8 p.m.), “Harry and Meghan: A Love Story” (The CW, 8 p.m.), “The Royal Wedding” (BBC America, 8 and 8:30 p.m.), “Meghan Markle: A Royal Love Story” (TLC, 9 p.m.), “Harry and Meghan: A Very Modern Romance” (BBC America, 9 p.m.), “A Royal Match: Meghan and Harry” (CNN, 9 p.m.), “Secrets of the Royal Wedding” (TLC, 10 p.m.), “Prince Harry’s Story: Four Royal Weddings” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.), “Royal Wedding Watch” (PBS, 10:30 p.m., check local listings) and a special report on “20/20” (ABC, 10 p.m.). And he’ll be performing at the wedding so there’s a replay of “Elton John: I’m Still Standing – A Grammy Salute” (Pop, 8 p.m.).

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The CW Closes Upfronts, Adds a Day

TheCW logoThe CW ended a week of upfronts with something the other networks couldn’t offer — an extra night of shows.

Since it began 12 years ago as a merger of the old UPN and WB networks, The CW only offered five nights of programs, leaving the weekends for local programming.

Beginning this fall, it adds Sunday nights, making room for more new shows than usual — five in all, and four in the fall. And in the style of other networks, a couple of those shows are reboots- of the witch sisterhood “Charmed” and the aliens in the Southwest saga “Roswell.”

The new shows are:

  • “Charmed” – A reboot of the series that ran from 1998-2006 about three sisters with special powers gets an additional feminist touch — their adviser runs the women’s studies department. With Melonie Diaz, Sarah Jeffery and Madeleine Mantock. Sundays this fall.
  • “All American” — A high school series about a football player from Compton recruited to play for Beverly Hills and all the problems that entails. Another series in part from Greg Berlanti, it stars Daniel Ezra, Taye Diggs and Samantha Logan. Wednesdays this fall.
  • “Legacies” – A spin-off of “The Vampire Diaries” (now gone) and “The Originals” (still around), this series looks at the next generation of witches, werewolves and vampires at a special academy. With Jenny Boyd, Kaylee Bryant and Quincy Fouse. Thursdays this fall.
  • “In the Dark” – A blind twenty something strives to find out what happened to a drug-dealing friend. Stars Perry Mattfield, Brooke Markham and Keston John. Produced in part by Ben Stiller and Michael Showalter.
  • “Roswell, New Mexico” – The show that ran from 1999-2002 (on the WB and then on UPN) is revisited when one of its former residents a daughter of undocumented immigrants returns to town to find her teenage crush, now a police officer, is extraterrestrial. With Jeanine Mason, Nathan Parsons and Lily Cowles. Midseason.

Returning shows include “Arrow,” “Black Lightning,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Dynasty,” “The Flash,” “iZombie,” “Jane the Virgin” (for its fifth and final season), “Legends of Tomorrow,” “The 100,” “Riverdale,” “Supergirl” and “Supernatural.”

Not returning to the schedule are “Life Sentence,” “The Originals” and “Valor.”

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