Wednesday TV: No Denial for the Nile

RiversOfLifeThe new three-part series “Rivers of Life” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) looks at the wildlife, people and scenery alongside three major waterways in the world, starting with the Nile. Next up: the Mississippi and the Amazon.

And do you think sidewalks are slow now? What about “When Whales Walked” (Smithsonian, PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings)? The two hour special, subtitled “Journeys in Deep Time” has an unusual public TV/cable double premiere.

In the new coming-of-age film “Beats” (Netflix, streaming), Anthony Anderson plays a Chicago high school security guard who tries to start a musical project with a student (Khalil Everage). Uno Aruba and Emayatzy Corinealdi also star.

The new documentary “The Edge of Democracy” (Netflix, streaming) looks at political turmoil in Brazil, including interviews with at least two past presidents.

Need another “NCIS” spinoff? The latest spinoff, “NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget” (CBS, 9 p.m.) looks at actual cases that have been  investigated by the agency, hosted by an actor from the fictional series, Rocky Carroll.

The modern-day Western “Yellowstone” (Paramount, 10 p.m.) returns for its second season, with Kevin Costner’s cowboy-hatted rancher giving over the operation to his son (Luke Grimes).

“Basketball Wives” (VH1, 8 p.m.) returns for an eighth season, while Tami Roman has her own spinoff special, “Tami Ever After” (VH1, 9 p.m.), as she prepares for her wedding to Reggie Youngblood.

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Tuesday TV: A Pair of Pride Documentaries

lavender scareThe largely untold story of how tens of thousands of gay federal workers were fired or denied employment in the 1950s is told in Josh Howard’s documentary “The Lavender Scare” (PBS, 9 p.m. check local listings). Protests in the wake of Eisenhower’s declaration that gay men and lesbians were a threat to the country’s security helped spark the gay rights movement.

Based on the book of the same name by David K. Johnson, the hour-long documentary is narrated by Glenn Close and uses the voices of Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight and David Hyde Pierce.

Other Pride month programming include the documentary “Wig” (HBO, 10 p.m.) about the annual celebration of Wigstock in New York City. Chris Moukabel’s film includes interviews with Lady Bunny, Flotilla DeBarge and Neil Patrick Harris.

A standout cast member of “Broad City,” Arturo Castro steps out on his own in his new series “Alternatio with Arturo Castro” (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.).

It’s opposite the fourth season of the broad “The Detour” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.) with a search for their runaway daughter.

Robin Givens and Essence Atkins portray competitive lawyers in Atlanta in the new series from Will Packer, “Ambitions” (OWN, 10 p.m.).

“The Fosters” spinoff “Good Trouble” (Freeform, 8 p.m.) begins a second season.

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Monday TV: ‘Grand Hotel’ Check-In Time

GrandHotelThe thing I like about the new summer series “Grand Hotel” (ABC, 10 p.m.) is that it mostly knows what it is: frothy, light, colorful and exaggerated in the style of the telenovelas it emulates. While it has nothing to do with the 1932 classic of the same name, it concerns the ins and out of a big Miami Beach hotel and its controlling family. And aside from the beautiful cast bickering about inheritance there is Demián Bichir (so good in “The Bridge”) as the patriarch. Producer Eva Longoria will only be glimpsed.

It will seem all the more substantive after another two hour edition of “The Bachelorette” (ABC, 8 p.m.), on which Luke won’t leave and they all go to Latvia. And it will probably be able to be watched the same way — you can leave the room for minutes at a time and not miss anything.

Zachary Levi hosts the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards (MTV, 9 p.m.), a show as much about promoting upcoming movies as praising past ones. And it’s not even live any more; it was taped Saturday night. Lizzo and Bazzi are scheduled to perform, and special awards will go to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jada Pinkett Smith.

A new German TV series “Das Boot” (Hulu, streaming) takes up where the well-regarded World War II submarine film left off, concentrating on the French resistance as well as the German U-boat U-612. The large cast includes a few recognizable Americans, including Lizzy Caplan and Vincent Kartheiser. The eight-episode first season is directed by Andreas Prochaska.

The third season of “The Missing” (Netflix, streaming) moves to the online service (as “Designated Survivor” (Netflix, streaming) did earlier this month. This series, which was once on Starz, and is a co production with the BBC, concentrated on a boy who goes missing during vacation. A subsequent season was about a missing girl in Germany. Both relied on Tchéky Karyo as the French detective on both cases. She returns in the third, which also features Tom Hollander and Anastasia Hille.

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Sunday TV: New ‘Euphoria,’ ‘City on a Hill’

euphoria-As if to ensure Nettlix doesn’t have the corner on especially edgy turning-of-age teen dramas, here’s “Euphoria” (HBO, 10 p.m.), an adaptation of an Israeli series that plunges former Disney Channel star Zendaya into a story of drugs and more drugs, sex and relationships. Expect disapproving response from parents. Hunter Schaefer, Maude Apatow, Sydney Sweeney and Nika King are in the cast; the hip hop star Drake is one of the producers. It’s grim as can be, but probably more realistic than most such show.

In the sturdy new “City on a Hill” (Showtime, 9 p.m.), Kevin Bacon goes full character actor as a broken down FBI agent who agrees to help the new assistant district attorney (Aldis Hodge) go after racism and corruption in Boston in the 1990s. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are executive producers; Michael O’Keefe, Jill Hennessy and Gloria Reuben are part of the cast. It’s got a flinty energy

An historical drama about women struggling in the early American colony must have slipped by me, but here’s season three of “Jamestown” (PBS, 10:30 pm., check local listings), starring Sophie Rundle, Naomi Battrick and Niamh Walsh, and from the makers of “Downton Abbey.”

It follows a sixth-season start to the popular British prequel “Endeavour” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

At last, CBS decides to fill the summer schedule by sharing one of its best offerings from its streaming-only service, in “The Good Fight” (CBS, 9 p.m.), the online sequel to its fondly-remembered “The Good Wife.”

Emma considers alternative sources of income on the first of two new episodes of “Vida” (Starz, 9 p.m.).

On “American Princess” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.), Amanda has surprised visitors at the Renaissance Festival.

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TV Eye Takes a Little Break

please_stand_byIt’s not too often that this column takes a break but it will be doing so this month for a couple of weeks.

It comes at a time when summer TV frankly isn’t that stellar anyway. But there are a few things coming that you should keep an eye out for in the coming days, starting with a new batch of “Black Mirror” (Netflix, streaming) on June 5 alongside the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu, streaming).

Armistead Maupin’s novel gets a third adaptation with Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney returning to their roles in “Tales of the City” (Netflix, Friday), which they also played in the 1993 and 1998 versions.

The most hype seems to be around the second season of “Big Little Lies” (HBO, Sunday), but they spend most their time talking about what happened in season one. Aside from the amusing addition of Meryl Streep, there’s little motivation to hang around with these unpleasant women.

Further on, one of my favorite shows, “Baskets” (FX, June 13), returns for a new season, and there’s a premiere of Fred Armisen’s Spanish language (but subtitled) comedy “Los Espookys” (HBO, June 14), a charming series about some friends who start a business in which they install special effects that scare people on demand.

I’ve heard a lot of people who are excited about the rebooted old game shows “Card Sharks” and “Press Your Luck” (both ABC, June 12). But when I get back, I’ll be most excited to see “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” (Netflix, June 12).

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Other Things I’ve Written Lately

IMG_6597Here are some other things I’ve written elsewhere recently:

  • About the “Motown 60″ Grammy Special for TV Guide magazine, an event I actually got to attend.
  • A review of a not very good musical about a Motown star, Marvin Gaye, that got its world premiere in D.C.
  • A walk around the Smithsonian Gardens’ first campus-wide exhibition, for Smithsonian
  • Reviewing a new world premiere play about the meeting between writers James Baldwin and Richard Wright.
  • A story about a new exhibit about African blacksmith art for Smithsonian
  • An opera review of “Tosca” at the Kennedy Center.
  • A notice about a production of “God of Carnage” at the Keegan Theatre.
  • Review of a new musical at Arena Stage, “Jubilee,” about the historic singers from Fisk University.
  • Puppets take on nuclear fallout in Phantom Limb Theatre Company’s “Falling Out” at the Kennedy Center that I reviewed.
  • A review of a Constellation Theatre’s adaptation of the “White Snake” myth.
  • A revival of the blues musical history “Black Pearl Sings” gets a review.
  • A notice about Taffety Punk’s adaptation of a pair of Greek classics in their own way.
  • These music reviews appeared here, but not with the quality photos that accompanied them in Vinyl District for Ex Hex and Maren Morris.
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Tuesday TV: Another Bossy Parent Arrives

The Radkes - Season 1Who are “The Radkes” (USA, 11 p.m.)? It’s a family led by former backup singer Melissa Radke, right, a self-described “big, loud Southern mom” and author of “Eat Cake, Be Brave,” She also appears to be an annoying parent to her adopted children in the manner of  “Chrisley Knows Best” (USA, 10 p.m.), which precedes it.

A winner is named on the two hour, seventh season finale of “MasterChef Junior” (Fox, 8 p.m.), but other kids are enlisted to dance and be yelled at on a three hour season premiere of “Dance Moms” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), with Abby coming out of her cancer treatments to do so.

Auditions continue on “America’s Got Talent” (NBC, 8 p.m.) trolls “Songland” (NBC, 10 p.m.) for a new Black Eyed Peas hit.

Kat doubts herself on the eve of her election on “The Bold Type” (Freeform, 8 p.m.).

They’re fishing near the Russian line on “Deadliest Catch” (Discovery, 9 p.m.).

On “Games People Play” (BET, 9 p.m.), Marcus and Vanessa are placed at the scene of the crime.

Kyle plans a girls’ trips to Provence on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (Bravo, 9 p.m.).

On “Blood & Treasure” (CBS, 10 p.m.), Danny and Lexi seek Cleopatra’s sarcophagus in an Austrian castle.

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Monday TV: Classic Movies with Good Hair

Louise BrooksTurner Classic Movies spends Mondays this month on movies that feature notable hair, starting with Louise Brooks’ black lacquered bob in the 1929 silent “Pandora’s Box” (8 p.m.). It’s followed by the curls of Shirley Temple in “The Little Princess” (10:30 p.m.), James Dean’s pompadour in “Rebel Without a Cause” (12:15 a.m.), Rita Hayworth’s famous hair flip in “Gilda” (2:15 a.m.) and Jean Seberg’s short hair in Godard’s “Breathless” (4:15 a.m.).

Earlier, divorce is the topic of 1930s dramas all day on TCM, with “Repent at Leisure” (6 a.m.), “Housewife” (7:15 a.m.), “Let’s Try Again” (8:30 a.m.), “Their Own Desire” (9:45 a.m.), “Age of Indiscretion” (11 a.m.), “Man on Fire” (12:30 p.m.), “Wednesday’s Child” (2:15 p.m.), “Divorce in the Family” (3:30 p.m.), “Child of Divorce” (5 p.m.) and “One is a Lonely Number” (6:15 p.m.).

The grim, five-episode miniseries “Chernobyl” (HBO, 9 p.m.) concludes with an effort to get the truth out.

The 16th season of “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox, 9 p.m.) starts off with Los Angeles auditions. Cat Deeley returns to host and Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy head the judges table, which will otherwise employ a revolving cast of experts.

A fourth season starts for “Below Deck Mediterranean” (Bravo, 9 p.m.), with another new set of crew members joining returnees Captain Sandy and head stew Hannah.

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Don’t Miss Terrific ‘Perpetual Grace LTD’

Perpetual-Grace-LTD-TV-Series-Epix-2019Whenever people ask for a TV recommendation, I have always offered “The Patriot” (Amazon Prime, streaming), Steve Conrad’s quirky, low key but effective European spy thriller that has had a couple of seasons (still online, go to it!) and is awaiting a green light for a third.

In the meantime, Conrad takes his same sensibilities, which are footed in deep philosophic considerations, non-conventional plot turns and swell music into a new series I highly recommend, “Perpetual Grace LTD” (Epix, 10 p.m.).

Yes, it has a terrible title (as did “Patriot”), and it was switched from the even worse “Our Lady LTD.” But its cast list is remarkable, even in an era of quality TV. Jimmi Simpson, memorable from whatever he’s been in, from “Westworld” and “House of Cards” to particularly tasty episodes of “Black Mirror,” stars as a somewhat dazed drifter, a former fireman still haunted by his last big mistake.

He runs into a guy who offers a quick buck, ripping off his own parents who themselves are ripping off parishioners in a church scam, and takes him up on it. Like that other rip-off-the-parents thriller “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead,” it all goes wrong, in part because the parents are so formidable.

Sir Ben Kingsley seems at first miscast as a rural U.S. preacher, but he represents the kind of outsider the West attracts. Alongside him is Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Together they are more resourceful than expected.

The supporting cast is full of delights, not the least of which is Luis Guzmán as a Mexican lawman, who goes along with the plot so he can go away with his mistress.

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Also on Sunday: Elba’s ‘Luther’ is Back

luther-idris-elba-wunmi-mosaku-1545406227Idris Elba returns, after a four year break, to his role as rules-bending London detective John “Luther” (BBC America, 8 p.m.) for a fifth season that again is full of high tension and a weird mask-wearing serial killer, with more than a few twists and surprises along the way. There’s little need for commitment – the season is only four episodes long.

Zachary Quinto stars as an immortal ghoul who feeds on the souls of children and deposits the remains into his own twisted Christmasland in the dark new series “NOS4A2” (AMC, 10 p.m.) – Nosferatu as a vanity plate!  Stephen King’s son Joe Hill adapts his own 2013 novel into the series which also star Ashleigh Cummings as a young artist on a motorbike who may be the one person able to stop him. It comes after the fifth season premiere of the spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” (AMC, 9 p.m.), now in a new locale.

For those addicted to “The Daily,” the New York Times’ daily podcast, will soon find out that the new TV series from the Times, “The Weekly” (FX, 10 p.m.) is instead a half-hour documentary approach to some of the stories it’s already covering (I can’t imagine how cumbersome it must be for reporters already trying to uncover touchy stories to drag along a fancy documentary crew while they’re at it). Some are stories that have already been in the paper — such as the NYC taxi medallion malady. Tonight’s is about a Louisiana school that schemed to get its students into Ivy League college. Glossy and slick, it frankly looks like some of the reports on “Vice.”

How many new shows can get lost in the mix? The new “American Princess” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.) stars Georgia Flood as a New York socialite who joins a Renaissance Fair when her wedding plans fail. It’s from comedian Jamie Denbo (“Terriers”) and its producers include Jenji Kohan (“Weeds,” “Orange is the New Black”).

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