Saturday TV: Independent Spirit Awards

2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards  - Press RoomThe best part of Oscar weekend for me is the night before, when the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards (IFC, 5 p.m.) occurs in a tent on the Santa Monica Beach. While its nominees are have had overlaps with Oscar winners, this year, the main film that overlaps is “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

“We are Animals” leads with five nominations; “Eighth Grade” and “First Reformed” each got four. Other multiple nominees include “Leave No Trace,” “You Were Never Really Here,” “The Tale” and “Private Life.” And they’ve got something else the Academy Awards doesn’t: a host. It’s Aubrey Plaza, who was in last year’s first feature winner, “Ingrid Goes West.”

If you are rooting for the new remake to win a raft of Oscars, check out the 1937 version of “A Star is Born” (TCM, 8 p.m.), with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, followed by the Judy Garland-James Mason 1954 remake of “A Star is Born” (10 p.m.).

Those hoping for a “Bohemian Rhapsody” Oscar win may want to spend the day amid the revolving slate of Queen specials on AXS TV, with  “Classic Albums: Queen: A Night at the Opera” (noon, 3 and 6 p.m.), “Rock Legends: Queen” (1, 4 and 7 p.m.) and “Queen: Hungarian Rhapsody – Live in Budapest” (1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.).

In the original film “O.G.” (HBO, 10 p.m.), Jeffrey Wright plays a longtime prisoner whose release hits a snag when he helps a new inmate (Thetas Carter). William Fichtner and Mare Winningham are also are featured in the film directed by Madeleine Sackler from inside an actual maximum security prison, the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana.

Sports dominates prime time with Houston at Golden State (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) in the NBA and Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBC, 8 p.m.) in the NHL stadium series, outdoors at Lincoln Financial Field. Earlier games have Washington at Buffalo (NHL, 1 p.m.) and Boston at St. Louis (NHL, 4 p.m.).

“Planet Earth: Dynasties” (BBC America, 9 p.m.) ends with a look at how they shot the episodes.

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The Charley Pride Story on PBS

PrideCharley Pride is a singular story in country music.

Subject of a new black History Month “American Masters” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings), the focus of “Charley Pride; I’m Just Me” is not the first African-American in country music (that would be Grand Ole Opry harmonica cat DeFord Bailey). But he is arguably the first black country superstar, with more than 50 Top 10 country singles, 40 of which went to No. 1. A three-time Grammy winner, he got the lifetime achievement award two years ago.

The song of a sharecropper, he came to music only after a stint in the Negro Leagues and failing to be signed by the majors.

“There was a certain point where things are not for you and I think that was part of it,” he told me of his baseball efforts.

While up playing minor league ball in Montana, he started appearing on stages singing the old country songs he heard on the radio in Mississippi. He recalled a neighbor there who told him: ““Have you ever thought you’re not on this planet to play baseball, you’re on this planet to sing.” So, he said, “after all these years, I finally accepted it.”

Part of his success came in not addressing the color of his skin, which was an issue in parts of the country where country music was possible.

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Also on Friday: Romano, Duplass Flick

PaddletonRay Romano and Mak Duplass star in the new movie “Paddleton” (Netflix, streaming) as a couple of misfit neighbors whose relationship changes when the younger one gets cancer.

Four mothers negotiate the end of maternity leave in the imported Canadian comedy series “Workin’ Moms” (Netflix, streaming).

Kat Penn takes on a big subject and sprinkles it with comic asides in the documentary series “This Giant Beast That is the Global Economy” (Amazon Prime, streaming).

“Tone Bell: Can’t Cancel This” (Showtime, 10 p.m.) is the latest standup comedy special from the comedian (and actor on “Fam”). It was recorded in Dallas.

It’s Holidead vs. Princess Aussie on updated Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,  “WOW – Women of Wrestling” (AXS TV, 9 p.m.). Here’s a little story I wrote about the series for TV Guide Magazine.

A sixth season starts for “Chef’s Table” (Netflix, streaming) with visits to chef’s hometowns.

Noémie Schmidt stars as a young woman who escapes a near-death in a plane crash and looks back on her life in the film “Paris is Us” (Netflix, streaming).

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Remembering Peter Tork, 1942-2019

TorkMuch of what we know about Peter Tork, who died Thursday at 77, is based on the character he was cast for in 1966 on “The Monkees.”

There, he played the dim member, the bassist, with a blissful, childlike look in his eye as the made-for-TV band got into capers each week, even as its songs were overtaking the Beatles at the top of the charts.

But he among the group had been a working musician for years, culled from Greenwich Village folk scene to round out the group in Los Angeles. His background also helped the four as they defied expectations and became a real group of songwriting musicians who forged their own musical direction after the show was dropped after two seasons.

The last time I talked to him, in 2001, he was switching identities between touring in a revived Monkees and heading his own blues band called Shoe Suede Blues, something he’d accomplish with a simple costume change.

“I came out in black pants and shirt, sunglasses and a Panama hat, and some people didn’t know it was me,” he told me. “It’s fun to put on another personality — this Leon Redbone, low-key kind of Tom Waits guy.”

Between playing the Monkees hits and the blues classics, Tork said, “It’s amazing how little they have in common, given they’re both part of the same American music tradition. I suppose it’s as different as John Cage and Kenny G. There’s none of that shuffle in Monkees music, none of those triplets. Even the nominal beat isn’t the same.”

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Thursday TV: ‘Desus & Mero’ to Showtime

DesusTwo funny guys talking about their neighborhood and the world propelled Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez to a podcast, a cable show and now their biggest platform yet, premium cable, with the premiere of the late night “Desus & Mero” (Showtime, 11 p.m.). Besides bringing a new element to the network, it brings a new angle to late night talk, as the two promise to keep it real and step it up.

Accordingly, their first guest is arguably the only bigger current star from the Bronx, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not only does she join them in their new studio, but they visit her in her new D.C. offices.

As Desus Nice told reporters at the TV Critics Association winter press tour last month, “You have four late night shows that are kind of similar, and ours is so radically different that you should just have the option to be, like, “Oh, okay, I want to watch something different. I don’t want to see a person in a suit and tie with a house band.” And that’s where we come in.”

Anna Paquin stars in the brash and fast moving new series “Flack” (Pop, 10 p.m.), about an American publicist in London who must tidy up celebrity misdeeds (and gets into a few herself).

In the Japanese import “The Drug King” (Netflix, streaming) a rookie rises through the ranks of 1970s drug smuggling.

“The Oath” (Crackle, streaming), the action crime drama about police gangs, created by Joe Halpin and executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, returns for a second season with Ryan Kwanten and Katrina Law

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Wednesday TV: ‘Survivor’ Gets Tough

SurvivorThe 38th season of “Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.), subtitled “Edge of Extinction,” brings some of the edge back to the show, in part by partly starving its contestants. While there are 14 new faces involved, there are also four returning players to Fiji — Joe Anglim, Aubry Bracco, Kelley Wentworth and David Wright. And of course one familiar face: longtime host Jeff Probst. The big twist this time is an option upon elimination to re-enter the game through a stint at something called Extinction Island.

The terrific documentary spoof “Documentary Now!” (IFC, 11 p.m.) returns for a third season, freed of having originators Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in every episode. It begins, in fact, with a two part takeoff of the Netflix docuseries “Wild Wild Country” written by Seth Myers, with Owen Wilson as the guru whose cult threatened a small town and Michael Keaton as an FBI cult specialist.

Two are unmasked tonight on “The Masked Singer” (Fox, 9 p.m.), hoping to bring more surprise than the recent unveiled “stars,” the latest of which, LaToya Jackson, was guessed long ago.

Battle rounds begin on “The World’s Best” (CBS, 9 p.m.).

On “You’re the Worst” (FXX, 10 p.m.), Gretchen and Jimmy make new friends.

Jay blends a baby shower with a Super Bowl party on “Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.).

Head of the Highlander Club is up for grabs on “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

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Tuesday TV: Sammy Davis Jr.’s Hard Road

SammyDavisMLKThe all around entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. had an all-around complicated life as well, gaining acceptance in a world and the elite realm of the Rat Pack, even as he was a butt of jokes and embraced the worst of the culture (literally, Richard Nixon). The portrait on “American Masters” (PBS, 9 p.m.), “Sammy Davis Jr.: I Gotta Be Me” is a complete look at his many sides, from the pint-sized tap whiz to adult crooner and foundry-breaker, with commentary from Billy Crystal and Jerry Lewis, but also a lot of Davis telling his story from numerous interview appearances.

The delightful, underrated craft show spoof “At Home with Amy Sedaris” (truTV, 10 p.m.) returns for a new season, with Sedaris in her playhouse as a handful of characters, with a new line of guest stars that includes, in the first episode, Matthew Broderick, as a tweedy author on a new study of teenagers, who seems to have picked up a few of their traits along the way.

A stand-alone episode about Beth’s relationship with her strict and stubborn mother, a high school principal in D.C., is the focus of a stronger than usual episode of “This is Us” (NBC, 9 p.m.).

It’s all about drugs on “Drunk History” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.).

One thing about “My Great Big Live Wedding with David Tutera” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.) is that he’s apparently talked couples into Tuesday night ceremonies.

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Monday TV: Rolling with the Culture

cq5dam.web.1200.675-8I think about the demise of urban skating culture every time I go to my neighborhood grocery store, which was once the National Roller Skating Rink. The importance of skating and skills to the African-American community is beautifully told in Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s documentary “United Skates” (HBO, 8 p.m.), showing how some rinks still discriminate and how rising real estate prices cause more rink closings every year. Amid it all are the joyful expressions on wheels, reflective of different cities and regions.

Of the dozen acts competing in the finale of the international “America’s Got Talent: Champions” (NBC, 8 p.m.), eight are fro the U.S., two from the UK, one from Spain and one from Ukraine. Seven are singers; of them, one is a singing ventriloquist. There’ are two magicians, a knife thrower, a comedian and a “sand artist.” None is a hypnotizing dog.

You’re not in Vietnam anymore: The seven remaining women on “The Bachelor” (ABC, 8 p.m.) are back in the U.S., visiting Colton’s hometown of Denver.

“Manifest” (NBC, 10 p.m.) ends its season quite a distance from solving its mystery or showing it even has one.

Daniel Day Kim, who helped bring “The Good Doctor” (ABC, 10 p.m.) to the U.S. from its Korean origins, guest stars

The Dutch series “The Oldenheim Twelve” (Acorn TV, streaming), about a dozen people from a small village who go missing, becomes available.

Sen. Amy Kloubachar is the latest Democratic presidential candidate to be spotlighted in a Town Hall (CNN, 10 p.m.).

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Sunday TV: A Little Less Modernization

blake-shelton-elvis-presley-tribute-The original 1968 “Elvis” (Amazon, streaming)  comeback special is still such a compelling musical triumph it could easily fill a prime time broadcast slot today. But that isn’t how things work a half century later, so the special gets a salute from an array of available contemporary stars, giving the false impression that Blake Shelton is a modern equivalent only because he fits in his leather jacket.

There are some stirrings in “Elvis: All-Star Tribute Special” (NBC, 9 p.m.) in which modern day names from Adam Lambert to Shawn Mendes and Carrie Underwood perform on a set that looks very much like the one in 1968. But there’s little reason to have Post Malone here; he hardly knows the songs. A gospel medley is stirring but doesn’t include the gospel Elvis sang on his special. J-Lo gets into the sex appeal but not really the song (extending the odd stance she took in her Motown salute at the Grammys). The best part of the “If I Can Dream” finale is the King’s original passion. But if it gets one kid digging out the Sun sessions as a result, it all may be worth it. Here’s a story I wrote about the special for TV Guide magazine.

It had everything you may have wanted in a prestige series, with an Oscar winner J.K. Simmons as a lowly UN employee who learns he has a spy doppleganger. But “Counterpart” (Starz, 8 p.m.) existed in an era of too many good series, so maybe it was hard to find. Anyway it has been canceled, meaning tonight’s season two finale will also be its last and its story isn’t likely to be completed.

The NBA All-Star Game (TBS, TNT, 8:20 p.m.) is the culmination of the weekend from Charlotte.

It’s been way too long since we last saw “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO, 11 p.m.). The top rate topical comedy show has plenty to cover from this week as well as the rest of the new year.

The proliferation of presidential candidates is covered on “The Circus: Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth” (Showtime, 8 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: All About Olivia Newton-John

OliviaAustralian singer and actress Delta Goodrem, who is a also a judge on “The Voice – Australia,” takes the title role in the new bio pic “Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.) about the famous singer and actress (from “Grease”). It’s followed by the fact-checking “Biography Presents: The Olivia Newton-John Story” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.).

The other made-for-TV movie tonight, “Love, Romance & Chocolate” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.), stars Lacey Chabert, Will Kemp and Brittany Bristow, about a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend and goes on their planned getaway to Belgium alone. It’s part of their Countdown to Valentine’s Day series, but maybe they’re already counting down to next year.

The celebrated talk show host interviews Bradley Cooper, Michael B. Jordan, Beto O’Rourke, Lisa Borders and Melinda Gates in Times Square on “Oprah Winfrey: Super Soul Conversations” (TLC, 10 p.m.).

The NBA All Star Saturday Night: From Charlotte (TNT, 8 p.m.) includes the ever-popular slam dunk contest, followed by the three-point competition and skills challenge.

How is “Ransom” (CBS, 9 p.m.) back for a third season? At any rate it is, and the team tries to save a couple.

Back for its 16th season: “House Hunters Renovation” (HGTV, 10 p.m.).

“Planet Earth: Dynasties” (BBC America, AMC, IFC, Sundance, 9 p.m.) winds up its series with a look at a colony of emperor penguins in Antarctica.

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