Saturday TV: Correspondents and Not

HasanMinhaj-ffa0c77dThe year’s big night of political satire was pulled when the president said he wouldn’t play along, particularly on the 100th day of his term. So The White House Correspondents Dinner (CSPAN, CNN, MSNBC, 9:30 p.m.) goes back to scholarship awards and a set from Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” — and no keynote from the White House for the first time in 36 years.

There is furious counter-programming, though, primarily at Samantha Bee’s ambitious “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” (TBS, 10 p.m.) starring another “Daily Show” vet. The event from the host of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is in front of a larger audience at the DAR Constitution Hall.

The President himself tries to upstage these things with a Speech in Harrisburg (CSPAN, 7:30 p.m.) meant to take away from headlines garnered not from the correspondents dinner variations, but People’s Climate March (CSPAN, 3 p.m.) – the oversized protest of the week in the streets of D.C.

It’s just a coincidence that amid all of these political events is the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (HBO, 8 p.m.) from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, taped earlier this month. It’s a lowly class this year, with ELO, Yes and Journey all getting in, as well as Tupac Shakur, Joan Baez and Pearl Jam. All will perform, though Steve Perry still won’t be with Journey, and Tupac’s portion will be performed by Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys. Nile Rodgers is finally getting in, but almost on a technicality. David Letterman comes out of hiding to induct Pearl Jam, who play Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” And the number of posthumous salutes piles up, with both Chuck Berry and Prince.

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Friday TV: ‘Dear White People,’ the Series

dear-white-people.w710.h473Justin Simien’s adaptation of his own movie of the same name, “Dear White People” (Netflix, streaming) is a 10-episode series about a group of students at a fictional Ivy League university negotiating the supposedly post-racial society, political correctness, woke-ness and the rest. It does so with wit and insight and has a strong cast that includes Logan Browning, Antoinette Robertson, Brandon P. Bell and Ashley Blain Featherson. Like a junior version of “Insecure” with a wider intended net.

It seemed like the TV season started with a spate of Jon Benet rehashes on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of her death. The latest one, “Casting JonBenet” (Netflix, streaming)  takes a completely different angle by throwing a fake casting call for townspeople, getting their take on the mystery at the same time. Clearly some people are bringing issues with them into the sessions and the exercise serves as a kind of group therapy for them. Fascinating.

There ended up being more movies about the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots. John Ridley’s version “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992” (ABC, 9 p.m.)  gets a broadcast showcase. His take is that racial strife between the L.A. police and the community had been building for years, but we learned that last year in “O.J.: Made in America.”

A third season starts for the romantic comedy “Catastrophe” (Amazon Prime, streaming) starring Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, who also write their characters, now deep into their marriage and right in the middle of a rift. Will there be a Brexit?

The 10th season of “Marriage Boot Camp” (We, 9 p.m.) is a family edition with the family of Chad Ochocinco of “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch; Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino of “Jersey Shore” Kenda Wilkinson of “Kendra On Top” and Farrah Abraham of “Teen Mom” — and their families.

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‘The Sopranos’ Return for One Night

IMG_3799Ten years after it went off the air, “The Sopranos” briefly returned Wednesday in Washington, as its creator and a half dozen of its cast members were on hand as the HBO classic became the first show to be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

For a moment there they all were again — Paulie Walnuts, Silvio Dante, Carmelo Soprano and her kids Meadow and Anthony — still looking largely the same but not saying a word at the 20th induction ceremony of the Denver-based Cable Center.

And while those actors — Edie Falco, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Jamie Lynn-Sigler and Robert Iler — all all posed for pictures, it was the creator David Chase, who spoke at the event in a ballroom deep inside the Washington Grand Hyatt.

“It makes us all feel so gratified to be the first cable television show to be recognized in this way,” Chase said. “We’re a little bit surprised because you had the chance to honor a lot of other shows. But it really is a treat for us, and we feel great.”

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Thursday TV: ‘The President Show’

anthony-atamanuik-as-president-trump-on-the-president-show-20170403The White House Correspondent’s Dinner and its alternatives Saturday are upstaged two days early with “The President Show” (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m.), in which Anthony Atamanuik channels the bizarre cadences and flights of fancy of the odd White House occupant. Judging from his appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.), earlier this week, he’s already better than Alec Baldwin. Comedy Central has tried presidential-themed shows before; but the last one, “That’s My Bush!” came in 2001.

“Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf presents the documentary series “Inside the FBI: New York” (USA, 10 p.m.), gaining access to the actual agency.

Six men go to “Fire Island” (Logo, 8 p.m.) for a summer share in this new series, which kicks of with a pair of episodes.

There’s a final elimination challenge before a winner is named on the first season finale of “Kicking & Screaming” (Fox, 9 p.m.).

It’s wedding night for the couples “Married at First Sight” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.).

Then those who didn’t work out last season speed date on the spin-off “Married at First Sight: Second Chance” (Lifetime, 10:17 p.m.).

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The Jayhawks at the Birchmere

IMG_3798The latest recordings from The Jayhawks come as backing band on the new Ray Davies album “Americana,” which came out the same weekend the venerable Twin Cities band played the Birchmere.

The band hasn’t exactly become the Kinks in the meantime; the Jayhawks’ latest release, “Paging Mr. Proust” has many of the same tuneful, expressive songs they’ve been producing for more than three decades.

They didn’t play any Davies stuff in the show; but it reminded music lovers that dreamy songs like “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Waiting for a Rainy Day” are right in the sunny ballpark with “Waterloo Sunset.”

It’s been a bit of a struggle for the band that began with two chief songwriters. By now, the band seems to have solidified with largely one – lead singer Gary Louris, after Mark Olson’s departure and brief return didn’t work out.

The generous show demonstrated though that drummer Tim O’Reagan not only fills in most often as harmonizer with Louris these days, he’s also been contributing a few of his own songs, including “Tampa to Tulsa” and “Bottomless Cup.”

With touring guitarist Jeff “Chet” Lyster off the tour and on the mend following surgery, the second guitar spot is being filled by John Jackson, who also happens to be the the A&R guy who hooked up the Davies connection.

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Happening Now

elisabeth-moss-as-offredThere are certain shows that require one to break down and get the streaming service subscription:  “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” on Netflix; “Transparent” on Amazon Prime. Now, it’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu, streaming) on Hulu.

What was once a site for mainly NBC reruns is now something worth putting in your entertainment budget. They’ve had a few decent original shows to date, but nothing like the new adaptation starting today of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 work about a future U.S. where the few numbers of fertile young women are corralled in a repressive society and do the bidding of rich couples unable to conceive.

Though there’s been other visual versions of the compelling story, there hasn’t been a series — especially one so well done, from its exacting and troubling writing, masterful directing, luxuriant look and the number of terrific performances within.

Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men” fame hasn’t been in anything terrible in her admirable career and here she shines as a woman caught in the repression who finds her own way to survive. She’s newly assigned to a dour couple comprised of Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski. Fellow handmaids, forced to give religious greetings to one another include Alexis Bledel of “Gilmore Girls,” doing some of her best work, and Samira Wiley. Their stern overseer is Ann Dowd, who specializes in these things following her haunting role as a cult leader in “The Leftovers.”

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The Colors of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

handmaid2Primary colors make their point in the beautifully shot “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu, streaming), starting today with a trio of episodes.

Director Reed Morano is a former cinematographer, true (“Vinyl,” “Looking” but also Beyonce’s “Lemonade”). But she told reporters at the TV Critics Association press tour earlier this year that color was important in interpreting Margaret Atwood’s iconic novel.

“It’s a world of color segregation, and there were even more differences that we didn’t follow in the show,” she said. “Basically were trying to stay true to all of that.”

Also, she said she learned from the earlier film version of “The Handmaid’s Tale,”the 1990 version with Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway. And working with digital cameras,  ”I knew that there were certain shades of red and certain shades of blue that just don’t work very well in digital color space.”

On the other hand, she said, “there’s also shades of blue and red that complement each other very well and make an image or make an image more rich and more painterly and almost maybe echo a different time. ”

In her version, the handmaids wear read and the wives wear ” kind of like a peacock blue,” Morano says. “That choice was very purposeful because those two colors are basically the predominant colors in Technicolor. If you look back at any of those old movies, the blues look like that, and the reds look like that.

“So we were trying to echo that and also kind of it’s just very pleasing to the eye when the colors complement that way, and so we had that opportunity. And then we add the Marthas and green, and, you know, we had the Aunts brown. It really creates an opportunity for very graphic images.

“One of the things we all wanted to do is make a show that wasn’t just it’s exciting from subject standpoint, and performance standpoint but also make something that feels like you haven’t seen it before and really play with composition and graphic colors and try to make it a visual feast because, you know, Margaret gave us permission to do that.”

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Also on Wednesday: More of ‘Gomorrah’

gomorrah_s02_stillNever saw the first season of “Gomorrah” (Sundance, 10 p.m.), but here’s season two. Italy’s most popular series is about a Neapolitan crime organization whose members are fighting for control.

The new “Reasonable Doubt” (Investigation Discovery, 10 p.m.) takes a look at old murder cases to see whether there should be appeals.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 9 p.m.) didn’t have to look far to get a story about a news anchor accusing a boss of sexual assault.

Rashida Jones, Anna Deavere Smith and Daveed Diggs all guest star on a new “Blackish” (ABC, 9 p.m.). A second episodes follows at 9:30.

There’s a lot to clean up on “Fargo” (FX, 10 p.m.) and Vargas begins to show what he intends to do in the parking lot business.

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Tuesday TV: New ‘Genius,’ ‘Great News’

GeniusGeoffrey Rush seems just the right guy to play the elder Albert Einstein in the new 10-episode miniseries “Genius” (National Geographic, 9 p.m.); impetuous and mercurial, he looks like he’ll stick his tongue out at any moment. But in telling the story, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who gave Nat Geo it’s last big budget scripted drama, “Mars,” have to flash back to young Einstein, played with similar verve by Johnny Flynn. While staying true to its biographical intent, it has glossy look of a Hollywood attempt.

On the new sitcom “Great News” (NBC, 9 and 9:30 p.m.), Briga Heelan plays a cable news producer looking for a break, but is shocked that the network has hired her own meddling, well-meaning mother as an intern. That the actress playing the mom is finally getting her sitcom co-starring role may be the bigger news – Andrea Martin of “SCTV” fame has been worthy of it for decades. It’s mildly amusing enough as it begins, though you’d expect something sharper from “30 Rock” writer Tracey Winfield. Her “30 Rock” colleagues Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are executive producers, but the show has lest of their rapid-fire feel. The cast includes John Michael Higgins, Nicole Richie and Horatio Sanz.

I can tell you it’s better than “Imaginary Mary” (ABC, 9:30 p.m.).

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Drive-By Truckers Split It Up at 9:30

IMG_3788The Drive-By Truckers tried something bold with their 10th studio album last fall, “American Band.” Though the title makes it sound like a reprise of the Grand Funk hit, it was actually a collection of its most pointed political commentaries to date, challenging its Southern rock fans with issues of prevalent gun violence, racial injustice and government censorship.

It raged against Trump’s America even before he got elected from rage from the very state that helped elect him.

And while the ratcheted-up tracks from American Band were prominent in the first of two packed nights at the 9:30 Club in D.C., they hardly challenged district politics (any more than, say, “Ronnie and Neil” did), let alone rattle the current resident on Pennsylvania Avenue less than a couple of miles away.

On Friday, Cooley played “the most science based song we’ve ever written,” in honor of Saturday’s big Science March in his “Gravity’s Gone.”

In Saturday’s show, they backloaded his “Once They Banned Imagine,” about the time when Clear Channel put John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a list of don’t-play songs after 9/11, with their own cover of Lennon’s “Just Gimme Some Truth” and the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” a couple of covers they’ve been doing on the current tour.

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