Monday TV: The Man Behind the Wizard

More than 80 years after its release, the musical “The Wizard of Oz” is a well-worn source of metaphors for just about everything. That impulse works overtime in a biography of the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” L. Frank Baum. The two hour film “American Oz” on “American Experience” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) combs through the author’s past before he writes the 1900 classic children’s book about half way in. Time spent in the Dakotas and Kansas led to his bleak outlook of the midwest; a desire to get home from his traveling salesman job is supposedly behind the “no place is home” mantra (that was in the movie; “Take me home to Aunt Em!” was as close as Baum got in the book).

Anyway, once Oz popularity fires up, there are a lot of interesting tidbits about the stage version that really made him rich, early silent movies that didn’t do as well, and the sequels he just kept writing. There are an awful lot of historians and talking heads in the documentary, each probably inspired by that popular movie, and a lot of modern talk about his empowered Dorothy and some of his more racist writings.

The new six-part Australian miniseries “The Secrets She Keeps” (AMC, 10 p.m.) stars Laura Carmichael as a pregnant supermarket stocker in the Sydney suburbs who envies a customer (Jessica De Gouw). Adapted from the thriller by Michael Robotham,it also stars Michael Sheasby, Jenni Baird and Ryan Corr. 

Couples from the various “Love & Hip Hop” shows work on their relationships on “VH1 Couples Retreat” (VH1, 9 p.m.). 

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Kate Winslet Becomes ‘Mare of Easttown’

The kind of classy procedural detective drama that HBO does very well is enhanced all the more by the starring performance of Kate Winslet in “Mare of Easttown” (HBO, 10 p.m.) that premieres tonight.

The English actress becomes a kind of scruffy detective in the Philadelphia outskirts, where she was once the town basketball hero and is now subsumed in all kinds of personal and professional problems, made all the worse by seemingly being related to just about everybody in the town, if not having a long history with them. 

What compelled her to take this jump into such a complicated character (with such a specific regional accent)?

She told an online press session last month, “it was like one of the biggest challenges I think I’ve ever been slapped with.”

“I just had never done anything like this, was excited to read something that just gripped me right away,” Winslet said.  “I really felt the sense of not just who she was, but the world that she lives in, where she comes from, that sense of community, being so entrenched in a society that you sort of forget who you are from time to time, and the sense of responsibility/burdens that Mare carries — for lots of reasons to do with her backstory — really, really intrigued me.  But the story has such a heart to it and it’s rooted in so much truth, and it just really resonated with me.”

But the accent? “Tt drove me crazy,” she said. “Because there are really varying degrees of it… lots of different ways of saying [words]. And the thing that was hardest for me, of course, was to do it well enough that you kind of shouldn’t hear the act of doing it.” 

Jean Smart, Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson and Guy Pearce are part of the large cast of the seven-part limited series. 

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‘Couples Therapy’ Begins New Season

A second season begins tonight for the thoroughly absorbing “Couples Therapy” (Showtime, 10 p.m.), a simple depiction of actual therapy sessions that is made more complicated this time around by the coronavirus, as patients have to meet the therapist Dr. Orna Guralnik through video calls by the third episode.

It’s still compelling though, thanks to the work of Guralnik, who shows her talent in cutting through to the issue, being tough, but empathetic in almost each new case. 

When it came time for my own video session with the doctor, I asked of showing her talents led to an uptick in the demand for her work. 

“Well, yeah, I do get a lot of people asking to be treated,” she said, adding she had been in demand for a while anyway. “In my life outside the show, other than seeing couples, I’m an analyst. So, I see people for many, many years, and so my practice doesn’t really move much.  but, yes, I do get a lot of people reaching out.”

Her talents are so obvious, I asked the show’s producers whether they decided to do a show about therapy and went to find the right doctor, or did they find her first and decide to build a show around her?

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Also on Sunday: Nashville’s ACM Awards

Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton host The 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards (CBS, 8 p.m.) from Nashville, Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton lead all nominees with six each. Miranda Lambert has five; Ashley McBryde and Thomas Rhett have four each. Performers include Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, the Brothers Osbourne, Luke Combs, Elle King and Kelsea Ballerini.

President Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama, Billy Crystal, Michelle Obama, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Hudson and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among the celebrities taking part in the vaccine-encouraging “Roll Up Your Sleeves” (NBC, 7 p.m.), hosted by Russell Wilson and Ciara. There will be actors who play doctors, including Ellen Pompeo, Eric Dane, Jane Seymour and Ryan Eggold, and a real doctor we all know, Anthony Fauci.

“Godfather of Harlem” (Epix, 9 p.m.) begins its second season with Forest Whitaker as Bumpy Johnson and Nigei Thatch as Malcolm X. 

A niche movie awards show honors the best in horror film and TV on the 2021 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards (Shudder, 8 p.m., streaming).

The fifth anniversary of Willie Geist Stint on “Sunday Morning” (CBS, 9 a.m.) is marked with a prime time special, “Sunday Today with Willie Geist” (NBC, 8 p.m.) in which he replays his interviews with Chadwick Boseman, Jerry Seinfeld and Jennifer Lopez.

Kristin Scott Thomas recalls her family’s history in World War II on “My Grandparents’ War” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings). 

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Saturday TV: The Funeral of Prince Philip

It’s a major event in the life of the Royals, but because of the pandemic, The Funeral of Prince Phillip (BBC World News, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, 10 a.m.) will be closed to the public. Television will follow the procession from Windsor Castle to St. George’s Chapel, which has a capacity of 800, but will allow only about 30 attendees. Prince Harry will attend; but his wife Duchess Meghan will stay in California because she is pregnant. Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II for more than 70 years, died April 9 at the age of 99.

Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Branford Marsalis, Spike Lee and Phylicia Rashad are among those who gather to sing the praises of the late actor in the special “Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist” (Netflix, streaming), The tribute to the nominee for “Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom” will be available for 30 days. 

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (and former Presidential candidate) John Kerry appears on the hour long Earth Day special, “Nick News: Kids and the Impact of Climate Change” (Nickelodeon, 9 a.m.). 

A second film in the series “Envy: A Seven Deadly Sins Story” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), Serayah plays a woman who discovers her half sister and covets her life. Kandi Burruss, Gregory Alan Williams and Da Brat also star. 

Janel Parrish and Marco Grazzini star in the new romance “Right in Front of Me” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.) about a woman who relies on a friend to help her impress a college crush.

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Friday TV: John Stamos Stars in ‘Big Shot’

John Stamos stars as a hothead college coach who is fired only to become coach of a high school girls’ team in the new series “Big Shot” (Disney+, streaming). He doesn’t want to be there at first (and Stamos looks like he feels the same way). Yvette Nicole Brown and Jessalyn Gilsig co-star in the production co-created by David E. Kelley. But it’s no “Ted Lasso.”

Impending Earth Day means a lot of nature specials on streaming services. Among them is “Earth Moods” (Disney+, streaming) which presents sights and sounds of different climates that are meant to set a tone. 

Elsewhere, a year of lockdown wasn’t so bad for whales in Glacier Bay or capybara in South America according to the new documentary “The Year Earth Changed” (Apple TV+, streaming), narrated by David Attenborough.

Tom Hiddleston narrates a half dozen new episodes of the natural history series “Earth at Night in Color” (Apple TV+, streaming), while Paul Rudd returns to host a second season of his nature series about teeny creatures, “Tiny World” (Apple TV+, streaming).

Brian Gleeson of “Peaky Blinders” stars as “Frank of Ireland” (Amazon Prime, streaming), a new comedy about a man trying to get his life together in Dublin.

From Australia comes the comedy “Why Are You Like This” (Netflix, streaming), centering on millennials in Melbourne. 

“The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs” (Shudder, AMC+, streaming) brings another double feature with key commentary. 

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Thursday TV: Final Season of ‘Younger’

Now in its seventh season, “Younger” (Paramount+, streaming) isn’t getting any younger. Still, the comedy starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar begins its final season online, with episodes premiering on TV Land later this year. Four episodes some today, with eight additional episodes premiering on Thursdays.

“Wahl Street” (HBO Max, streaming) is a new six-episode documentary series following the life of Mark Wahlberg as he goes about his days, which includes a clothing line, a gym and the restaurant chain Wahlburgers. 

Dominic Cooper plays an English spy circa 1961 in the new Cold War drama “Spy City” (AMC+, streaming). 

The animated “Infinity Train” (HBO Max, streaming) begins its fourth and final season.

From Japan comes the psychological thriller “Ride or Die” (Netflix, streaming) based on the manga series “Gunjo.”

The newest spin-off from “Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta” spotlights Joseline Hernandez and her efforts to create a cabaret in Miami, in “Joseline’s Cabaret: Miami” (WEtv, 10 p.m.).

“Fear Thy Neighbor” (Investigation Discovery, 10 p.m.) returns for a seventh season of paranoia.

An ice rink has a burn call to “Station 19” (ABC, 9 p.m.).

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Wednesday TV: New Jamie Foxx Sitcom

Jamie Foxx stars in a new sitcom “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” (Netflix, streaming), playing a bachelor who is a sudden father to a teenage daughter played by Kayla-Drew. David Alan Grier and Porsche Coleman round out the cast.

The reality competition best suited to the lockdown started and ended its first season last year before the pandemic really hit. Contrived of people stuck in their rooms and unable to interact through anything but social media, “The Circle” (Netflix, streaming) is back at last for season two. The first four episodes premiere today, with four additional episodes coming the next two Wednesdays. The finale is set May 5. Michelle Buteau returns to host. 

Nicky tries to find her place back at home in the new “Kung Fu” (CW, 8 p.m.). 

“Tough as Nails” (CBS, 8 p.m.) someone wins $200,000 and a new truck in the first season finale. 

Beverly meddles in everybody’s relationships on “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.). 

“The Big Interview with Dan Rather” (AXS TV, 8 p.m.) begins its ninth season talking to the country band Lady A. 

Orca, Robopine, Seashell and the Russian dolls perform on “The Masked Singer” (Fox, 8 p.m.), where last week held another groan-inducing gimmick: host Nick Cannon returning to the show after being unmasked as Bulldog. 

“Nature” (PBS, 8 p.m.) follows a leopard family in Africa. 

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From Charlottesville to the Insurrection

A new “Frontline” (PBS, 10 p.m.), presented in partnership with ProPublica, issues its report on the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, which came while reporter A.C. Thompson, who had previously investigated right wing violence in Charlottesville and infiltrated American Nazi groups, was already looking into groups from the Proud Boys to the Boogaloo Boys, when the insurrection exploded. 

On a PBS press call, I asked him if he worries about the danger of being among such groups, and how he manages to earn their trust for them to get on camera. 

“Yeah, it is a danger to me all the time, honestly,” Thompson said. “And it is a danger to all the journalists covering this phase, frankly. We have been targets in what these movements view as full-spectrum warfare for the last four years. And that’s just the truth of the matter. When you go to these events and protests, we are wearing body armor and helmets, and all the other journalists are, too.  So, yeah, it is a difficult beat to be on.”

But as much hatred as they show for the media, he adds, “they have an attraction to it and they want to use us to get out their message.  And at the same time, we want to know what is motivating them and what their intentions are and are they really going to carry out the crazy ideas that they are posting online about kidnapping people and taking hostages and overthrowing the government. 

“So, it is a dance that we have to do to make sure that we are not getting played and to be careful about not giving a platform to people to espouse insane, horrible, and racist things, but also to use those interviews to show the public, these people are serious, this is actually what they believe and these are their intentions, what they would like to carry out.  So, it is sort of a difficult editorial process to find that balance.”

Tonight’s report, “American Insurrection” is the first in a series of “Frontline” reports about the rise of extremism worldwide. 

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Also on Tuesday: Surveying ‘Our Towns’

James and Deborah Fallows books on small American hamlets, came with a book tour visiting many of the same places, chronicled in a documentary with the same name as the book, “Our Towns” (HBO, 9 p.m.), featuring more drone shots of sunsets than you thought was possible. The couple looks at cities that are working, from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Eastport, Maine; Charleston, W. Va.; and Bend, Ore. Their summation: The health of a town can be measured by the number of breweries it has. 

“Big Sky” (ABC, 9 p.m.) is back with two new episodes before you entirely forget what happened earlier in its first  season. 

Kevin visits Randall in Philadelphia on “This is Us” (NBC, 9 p.m.). 

On “Chad” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.), a gift from his estranged father goes awry at school. 

“New Amsterdam” (NBC, 10 p.m.) begins a new policy, offering free care to HIV patients. 

Frost is framed on “The Flash” (CW, 8 p.m.). 

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