Monday TV: Women Surviving Misery

stolen-daughters-1920One of the most harrowing stories of the decade happened in Nigeria, where 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped and taken into the forest by terrorist extremists in 2014. Fewer than half were released after a government deal years later. Living together in rehabilitation, they were advised not to relive those days for a documentary “Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram” (HBO, 8 p.m.). But there have been thousands of women kidnapped since then, and some have returned to tell their stories.

Women’s misery from 70 years ago is explored in “The Apology,” in which three of the estimated 200,000 “comfort women” kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II give their accounts on “POV” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) — and band together to demand an apology from the government.

Gender inequality in Hollywood is the subject of Amy Adrion’s documentary “Half the Picture” (Starz, 9 p.m.).

Not a documentary at all is “A President Show Documentary: The Fall of Donald Trump” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.), in which a range of stars — including Kathy Griffin as Kellyanne Conway, Adam Pally as Donald Trump Jr., and Stephanie March as Ivanka Trump — look back at the end of the administration, from the vantage point of 2030. It stars the current best imitator of the big cheese from the now canceled “The President Show,” Anthony Atamanuik.

The time-traveling “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” (CW, 9 p.m.) returns for its fourth season, in the hippie world of Woodstock.

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Bottle Rockets Share With Sarah Borges

IMG_6266The Bottle Rockets have always had a flinty, no-nonsense way of expressing the very concrete things of everyday life that sets it apart from most bands.

There’s a hard-won Midwestern honesty to their hard-charging songs about defining the limitations of life and accepting them (or at least naming them clearly). And when Brian Henneman and crew have a new set of songs to present, by gum, they’re going to do them, playing everything from a new album because they’re just as proud of every song on it, and letting an audience know what exactly to expect.

At a previous headlining show at Gypsy Sally’s in D.C., they played the entirety of their 2015 South Broadway Athletic Club in order, one after another before going onto their older favorites. In a satisfying show Thursday opened by Sarah Borges, they played the songs from their new Bit Logic in order as well. And though they refused to take requests from fans during the main set, they at least did throw in some old favorites in between the new ones to allow a taste of the familiar.

But the charm of the band is that everything they write about is already familiar, from the frustration of a non-moving Interstate (even in Missouri) on “Highway 70 Blues” to the pleasures of tinny radios in “Lo-Fi.” He may dismiss the digital culture on the album’s title track, but he admitted in the show that crowd-sourcing encouragement online led to writing another song, “Maybe Tomorrow.”

There is pleasure in being alone in “Knotty Pine,” or “Saxophone.” But there’s a real sincerity in the rare love song, “Silver Ring” that tops off the new set. Even when the band finds itself in the seemingly comfortable satellite radio niche of Outlaw Country, there is also the matter of paying bills in “Bad Time to Be an Outlaw.” Read More »

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Death Cab for Cutie Rolls In

IMG_6261Despite its jokey name, lifted from a Bonzo Dog Band song title, Death Cab for Cutie have been releasing intriguing, largely wistful albums for 20 years now. Their latest, Thank You For Today, its ninth, continues the traditions of complex, brainy lyrics often reflecting loss and heartache, in catchy little melodies.

The band’s big show at the Anthem in Washington, D.C., began like the album, with the neo-electro approach of “I Dreamt We Spoke Again,” a haunting vision wrapped in a precision dancefloor sound.

As the first tour and album following the departure of guitarist Chris Walla, you might think they’d all gone to keyboards considering the single guitar approach. But Dave Depper and Zac Ray switch back and forth between keyboards and guitars, as the songs require.

Death Cab is all still entirely the showcase for Ben Gibbard, the singer and songwriter who began the band as a solo project. The songs and show swirl around his singular vocals and the kind of word arrangement that not only stick in the minds of fans, but cause them to shout them out.

As in “Title and Registration,” as Gibbard begins a soliloquy about the glove compartment: “Inaccurately named … cause behind its door there’s nothing to keep my fingers warm.” There he finds an old photo that reminds how “our love did surely fade.”

Gibbard, like his band mates, switched between instruments as well, from the guitar on most songs, to an upright piano situated at the rear of the stage, to songs like “60 & Punk,” in which he berates an unnamed former hero for current drunken behavior, which he just sang into a microphone.

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Sunday TV: ‘The Woman in White’

WOmaninWHitePublic TV looked at its Sunday night schedule and said: More British drama! So here’s a new five-part adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s 19th century mystery that “Masterpiece Theatre” has tackled before. This time, the handsomely-photographed  “The Woman in White” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) with Ben Hardy and Olivia Vinall, gets a distinctly feminist retelling.

It’s up to “Treehouse of Horror XXIX” on “The Simpsons” (Fox, 8 p.m.), the longest running series of Halloween episodes on TV. Among the parodies are “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and a “Jurassic Park” update for seniors.

It’s more straightforward Halloween on “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox, 8:30 p.m.), except that candy bags are disappearing.

Sunday Night Football has Cincinnati at Kansas City (NBC, 8:20 p.m.). Earlier games include the morning game of Chargers vs. Tennessee (CBS, 9:30 a.m.) from Wembley Stadium, New England at Chicago (CBS, 1 p.m.), Carolina at Philadelphia (Fox, 1 p.m.), New Orleans at Baltimore (Fox, 4 p.m.) and Dallas at Washington (CBS, 4:25 p.m.).

The new “Doctor Who” (BBC America, 8 p.m.) travels to the Deep South of America and meets Rosa Parks.

Debbie helps Fiona pick up the pieces on “Shameless” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

“Madam Secretary” (CBS, 10:30 p.m.) confronts the Chinese Foreign Minister at Milan Fashion Week over sweatshop issues.

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Saturday TV: Small Shoes to Fill

my-dinner-with-herve“Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage spent several years helping turn an expansive, pre-suicide interview with the French actor Hervé Villechaize by journalist Sacha Gervasi into a screenplay, which makes its debut as the original film “My Dinner with Hervé” (HBO, 8 p.m.), written and directed by Gervasi.

There was more to the actor with dwarfism, who was an artist before he became an actor who made his splash in “The Man with the Golden Gun.” He became best known and forever typecast as Tattoo, yelling about “De plane!” in ion TV’s “Fantasy Island” and had difficulty dealing with fame before he died in Los Angeles in 1993 at age 50. Affectingly portrayed by Dinklage (who looks very little like him), the cast also includes Jamie Dorman, Andy Garcia (as Ricardo Montalbán), Mireille Enos, David Strathairn and Oona Chaplin.

A “Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash” (Freeform, 8:15 p.m.) is held in the middle of two screenings of the perennial “Hocus Pocus” (Freeform, 6:05 and 10:15 p.m.).

Almost forgot about this weird animated special that premiered last year, “Michael Jackson’s Halloween” (CBS, 8 p.m.) that includes the voices of Brad Garrett, Lucas Till, Lucy Liu and Jim Parsons, and more than a dozen Jackson songs including, of course, “Thriller.”

College football dominates broadcast prime time with Ohio State at Purdue (ABC, 7:30 p.m.) and Oregon at Washington State (Fox, 7:30 p.m.).

But the deciding game in the National League Championship Series will have higher stakes with Game 7 of Dodgers at Milwaukee (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m.).

In the special “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer” (Oxygen, 8 p.m.) former FBI special agent John Douglas looks into the workings of co-ed serial killer Ed Kemper, just as a fictionalized version of Douglas, played by Jonathan Groff, did with partner Robert Ressler in season one of the popular “Mindhunter” (Netflix, streaming)

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Friday TV: More ‘Making a Murderer’

Murderer2The sheer success of the series that helped kickstart a true crime TV blitz three years ago, demanded a second season of “Making a Murderer” (Netflix, streaming), if not the appeals process of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who have been convicted and given life sentences while providing  insight into the workings of rural Wisconsin justice system. The new season begins with the reaction to season one and the involvement of a new high-powered Chicago lawyer.

In the imported British series “Wanderlust” (Netflix, streaming), Toni Collette stars as a woman who tries open marriage. It’s from “Constellations” playwright Nick Payne and co-stars Steven Mackintosh as the husband.

Congratulations abound on the “Real Time with Bill Maher: Anniversary Special” (HBO, 10 p.m.), mostly from former guests on 15 years of his HBO show. His canceled “Politically Incorrect” goes back a decade before that. New rules: Be more humble.

On the new “Haunted” (Netflix, streaming), ordinary people talk about their spookiest experiences, which are lavishly recreated. Not so much a “Haunting of Hill House” (Netflix, streaming), which premiered last week, it’s more along the lines of endless cable shows like It joins a crowded cable field that includes “Haunted Live” (Travel, 10 p.m.).

Romola Garai takes a timely look at the startling speeches in “Measure for Measure” on “Shakespeare Uncovered” (PBS, 9 p.m.). Then Brian Cox explores “Julius Caesar” at 10 p.m.).

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Thursday TV: You Get a Rock

pumpkinIt’s not often that a whole new religion is presented in a half hour special – let alone a family cartoon — but that’s what “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (ABC, 8 p.m.) does, and has been doing for more than half a century.

Only the third “Peanuts” special, first aired in 1966, when it pre-empted “My Three Sons” (It was also on CBS through the 20th century). Charlie Brown gets to say “I got a rock.” And we get to hear “Linus and Lucy,” the universal “Peanuts” dance party song.

Once paired with things like “You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown,” the cartoon gets a good companion in the the 2013 “Toy Story of Terror!” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) which uses the favorite characters from the series for a story in a haunted motel, where the manger tries to steal the toys and sell them online.

Another sign of fall: Game 5 of the ALCS, with Boston at Houston (TBS, 8 p.m.).

The live exploration “Autumnwatch New England” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) has its second night.

“Murphy Brown” (CBS, 9:30 p.m.) is offered the first interview from a former White House advisor who has written a book.

Thursday Night Football has Denver at Arizona (Fox, 8 p.m.).

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‘How I Learned to Drive’ in the #MeToo Era

HowILearned2DriveWhat was it like 21 years ago when Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive” premiered off Broadway?

It was more shocking, maybe; probably more balanced with laughs; and perhaps challenging in presenting audiences with a story of ongoing, predatory pedophilia from a family member.

The D.C.-born playwright had developed it with another D.C. theater legend the director Molly Smith, in Juneau and it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Next month, Vogel, one of America’s most heralded contemporary playwrights, will have works open both at Arena Stage, offering a regional premiere of her Tony-nominated “Indecent,” and at 1st Stage with “A civil Way christmas.” Her play “The Baltimore Waltz” comes to the Keegan Theatre in January. But the season starts with a revival of Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive” at Round House Theatre in Bethesda.

In some ways, it’s perfectly suited there, recalling a Maryland “before the malls took over,” when there were farmhouses and endless byways on which to learn driving, but also to forget one’s problems; where historic Eastern Coastal inns are out-of-the way places to seduce a niece. And there are the expanse of parking lots at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center where one could learn to drive — or meet a randy uncle once a week.

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Wednesday TV: Leaf Peeping, Live!

AutumnWatchI’m a sucker for live nature events and the latest one, after “Big Blue Live” and “Wild Alaska Wild” Is “Autumnwatch-New England” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), celebrating good, culture, science and wildlife in the region, but mostly fall foliage. The live stuff will be best (though dark this time of year), but there will also be prepped segments on moose, sharks, wild turkeys, cranberry bogs, pumpkin carving and fall festivals. New Hampshire’s Samantha Brown hosts the three-night event, alongside wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole and the BBC’s Chris Packam.

It’s followed by a look at addiction on “NOVA” (PBS, 9 p.m.).

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Hillary Scott and Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman are among the all-female “CMT Artists of the Year 2018” (CMT, TVLand, 8 p.m.).  Loretta Lynn gets a special award

“Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.) switches up the tribes.

Game 4 of the ALCS has Boston at Houston (TBS, 8:30 p.m.) follows NLCS Game 5 of Milwaukee at Dodgers (Fox Sports 1, 5 p.m.).

In the first of the two-part “Neanderthal” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) the scientist and part time comic Ella Al-Shamahi gets motion capture star Andy Serkis to create a 3D working avatar of the ancient man.

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Tuesday TV: ‘Roseanne’ Without Roseanne

THECONNERSWhen Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet got her fired from her own sitcom, there was some thought of keeping the rest of the writers and cast to try doing the show without her. The resulting “The Conners” (ABC, 8 p.m.) premieres tonight. If the rebooted “Roseanne” began with the resurrected Dan, this one starts with the presumably deceased Ms. Conner.

That it leaves such powerhouses as John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf means they can do something with the unexpected new direction.

It all but upstages the other big premiere tonight, Nathan Fillion as a 45 year old newcomer to a police department treated like he’s an elderly man on “The Rookie” (ABC, 10 p.m.). It’s not anything you haven’t seen a number of times before.

The new “The Kids are Alright” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) is a sweet little sitcom, a period piece about a large Catholic family in the early 70s where half the jokes are about how the kids’ lives are both more regulated and infinitely more free than they are these days. Mary McCormack stands out as the tough mom.

Nazis got the idea for the Master Race from Eugenics experiments and sterilizations going on in the U.S., according to the fascinating and frightening report “The Eugenics Crusade” on “American Experience” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

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