Saturday TV: SNL’s Cicely Strong in D.C.

cecily-homepageAs funny as her characterizations on “Saturday Night Live” (NBC, 11:30 p.m.) can be, Cicely Strong is not the one you’d think of to deliver stand-up at one of the most high profile political events of the year. Still, the woman with a one year stint as Weekend Update co-anchor will follow the President in the annual self-congratulating event that blends celebrities with government officials.

Mostly, the White House Correspondents Dinner (CSPAN, 7 p.m.) is a deserved moment in the sun for the indispensable, ad-free C-SPAN (usually a target of some ribbing itself). But CNN and other outlets have lately gotten hip to the event such that they are sending their own reporters (that is to say, reporters who aren’t attending the event with some celebrity). Red carpet footage of the wonks and the glamorous, often wondering why they are there, is its own surreal treat at 6.

Crazy timing for the documentary “Everest Avalanche Tragedy” (Discovery 10 p.m.). The chronicle of the April 2014 tragedy that killed 13 guides and left three missing comes a day after an earthquake-triggered avalanche that devastated the base camp, killing at least eight. It’s part of a weekend of mountain programming that begins with “Valley Uprising” (Discovery, 8 p.m.) about rock climbing in Yosemite over the years.

Richard Linklater’s remarkable Oscar bait “Boyhood” (Showtime, 8 p.m.) makes its premium cable debut. It sure beats HBO’s Saturday night offering, last year’s “Godzilla” (HBO, 8 p.m.).

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Playlist 4-24-15

RadioCPRStarted with some Lead Belly, tying in with the big concert saluting his work Saturday at the Kennedy Center. Then came what might be the D.C. radio premiere of Mingering Mike, the legendary local folk artist who created his own line of album sleeves, currently on exhibit at Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, followed by a line of soul.

Then came a stab at vinyl, especially with finds from last weekend’s Record Store Day, though it was only half successful (only one channel seemed to work). Closed out with a bunch of They Might Be Giants who played in town tonight, and a couple from the Replacements.

It all capped an exciting week at the station, when dozens of new DJs started new shows (and explained the odd starting time this week). Here’s what I played on the radio tonight:

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Friday TV: Bruce Jenner’s Interview

BruceJenner_le_150414_16x9_992As tempting it is to entirely ignore every overhyped thing connected with the Kardashians, the anticipated Bruce Jenner interview” with Diane Sawyer on a two hour “20/20″ (ABC, 9 p.m.) could actually be a cultural turning point for how transgender people are seen and presented in the United States, depending how it’s handled (I can see Diane Sawyer’s scrunched face of concern right now). The fact that the transformation of the former Olympian is understood as something that should not be automatic fodder for ridicule is already a huge step.

“America’s Ballroom Challenge” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) returns for a fifth season after a six year hiatus from PBS. It has more in common with network dance shows than the dances of American smooth, American rhythm, international standard and international Latin. It also has former “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Mary Murphy doing commentary, alongside dancer Tony Meredith.

The latest in the series of one-hit musicians starring in reality shows about their new jobs in construction and renovation, “Flipping Ships” (Animal Planet, 10 p.m.) stars Edwin McCain (behind the song “I’ll Be”) restoring old boats to seaworthiness. His first job comes from a colleague, Darius Rucker, who wants his boat souped up for an auction.

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Thursday TV: Remembering Ann Sheridan

george-washington-slept-here-ann-sheridan-1942Ann Sheridan is star on Turner Classic Movies with “George Washington Slept Here” (8 p.m.), “Kings Row” (9:45 p.m.), “Honeymoon for Three” (midnight), “One More Tomorrow” (1:45 a.m.), “Torrid Zone” (3:30 a.m.) and “Little Miss Thoroughbred” (5 a.m.).

“The Vikings” (History, 10 p.m.) reaches a season finale with a push into Paris. And Ragnar has a favor of Bjorn, and it’s not to start a group called Abba.

“The Comedians” (FX, 10 p.m.) reaches its stride as Josh and Billy attempt to make it to a red carpet event, but get delayed at the grocery store.

There’s a great episode, too, of “Louie” (FX, 10:30 p.m.), in which he meets up with an old acquaintance who is now an unstable New York City cop (played by Michael Rapoport).

The city government tries to stop a march on behalf of the accused on “American Crime” (ABC, 10 p.m.).

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Wednesday TV: Unwelcome High Steppers

oxygen-sponsored-vertical-slideA subset of marching drill team moves called J-Set, named after a Jackson State University marching band’s team, made more popular by Beyonce’s routine in “Single Ladies,” has a further subset of gay men who want to don the spangly costumes and move as well.

It’s not that easy for the Prancing Elites of Mobile, Ala. When they try to get into parades down there, they are denied because they are “family-oriented events.” So they dance anyway, because they can’t not, right?

As seen in the unusual new reality series “The Prancing Elites Project” (Oxygen, they get catcalls and dirty looks from the locals, but also a couple of people who praise them and decry their treatment. One, in an emotional moment of the premiere, is a little girl, presumably from a family also.

Such is the stuff of the new series, parts of which seem contrived — as is their meeting with NeNe Leakes, tantamount to meeting the Queen of England. The individual dancers seem sheltered in their own way (one had never heard of provolone). But it is different.

Today is Earth Day. And if the planet is going to be saved, it will be by kids. Or so you will be convinced by seeing the latest in the six part series “Saving My Tomorrow” (HBO, 7:30 p.m.) in which clear-headed 10 year olds and younger take action, raising money, planting trees and inspiring others to take hold of pollution and climate change. There are musical interludes from Pete Seeger and an opening song from They Might Be Giants.

The last of three episodes on animal homes on “Nature” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) look at species who form large colonies, form Icelandic puffins to Ecuadorian spiders to leaf cutter ants in Costa Rica.

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Theatre Review: Another ‘Uncle Vanya’

UNCLE VANYA 1Uncle Vanya is like the relative you used to see every decade or so at family reunions. Suddenly, he’s been coming to every Thanksgiving. And now you might think he’s moved in altogether.

Chekhov’s work is all over local stages this season, mostly in broad variations, from Aaron Posner’s “Life Sucks” at Theatre J, to Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Arena and even a woozy, interactive “Drunkle Vanya” at the Pinch. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company did a more traditional “Uncle Vanya” in Baltimore earlier this spring.

And the straightest version we’ll get of “Uncle Vanya” near D.C. is the one that just opened at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda.

And yet, this adaptation by Annie Baker, working with a literal translation by Margarita Shalina and the original Russian text, has her own particular quirks embedded in it, with characters replying “yep” and talking about the abundance of “creeps” around us. At the same time it restores some Russian references that had been removed from previous translations and somehow they sound funnier.

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Tuesday TV: Intelligence Failures

Frontline1Frontline2The story of American-born David Coleman Headley, who become part of the militant group that staged an assault on Mumbai in 2008 has previously been told on “Frontline” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) as “A Perfect Terrorist.” But a new update of the investigation, done in conjunction with ProPublica, shows how intelligence agencies failed to stop Hedley, though he has often been given as an example of a person justifying the government’s unprecedented domestic spying. The report starts with Headley’s own chilling footage of a bicycle trip in Copehhagen, as he planned an attack on a newspaper there for printing controversial cartoons, and includes information about his undercover work in Pakistani for the DEA.

A third season starts for “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.) with the comedienne at the top of her game — and her influence in the comedy world, seen in the number of names she can attract to her premiere, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Method Man.

It’s a cool open space with more than a whiff of history. So maybe the documentary “The National Mall – America’s Front Yard” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) can tell us why so much of it is closed at any time for turf reconstruction or some such.

Liv’s gaming skills improve dramatically after she chomps the brain of a computer hacker on a new “iZombie” (The CW, 9 p.m.).

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Monday TV: Two from DeGrasse Tyson

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Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” appears briefly on “Star Talk” (National Geographic, 11 p.m.), a new late night science offering, but there isn’t any question that today’s reigning science guy is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who may have even eclipsed Carl Sagan as space’s spokesman.

The new weekly “Star Talk” is less a talk show and more an extension of his podcast. As such, he does most of the talking. And the “live” stuff is built around a taped conversation with George Takei, so the first episode devolves into total “Star Trek” geekdom.

Things are more serious on 25th anniversary salute  “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey” (National Geographic Channel, 10 p.m.) that precedes it. DeGrasse Tyson narrates the troubled path of the telescope, which we learn is bigger and heavier than a school bus, but takes no more power than an electric dryer. First proposed in the 1940s, it was finally delivered in 1985, but had its launch delayed for years by Challenger explosion in 1986. Cutting corners at the last minute meant the thing was out of focus, but a genius fix meant installing a new camera that fixed the problem.

In another documentary with scientific overtones, “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) marks the fifth anniversary today of the huge explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf Coast, which is still having environmental repercussions. Margaret Brown’s film, “The Great Invisible,” is named after the tons of unseen crude oil still at the bottom of the ocean and psychological scars on those in the region.

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Sunday TV: The 50th ACM Awards

49th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - ShowGee it must have been a month since the last country music awards show, so here’s Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton to host “The Academy of Country Music Awards” (CBS, 8 p.m.).

The 50th annual event features performances from Shelton’s wife Miranda Lambert as well as Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line. Top honorees include Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Lambert, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Taylor Swift and Brooks & Dunn. It will be a mammoth event, broadcast live fromthe AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Lambert has the most nominations, with eight; Dierks Bently has seven and Florida Georgia Line Five.

All those characters show didn’t show up during last week’s season premiere, find their way into the second episode of “Game of Thrones” (HBO, 9 p.m.) with Arya arriving in Braavos.

The road to financial backing is paved with profane reverse psychology on “Silicon Valley” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

Selina isn’t quite ready for the visit from the Israeli prime minister on “Veep” (HBO, 10:30 p.m.).

Cromwell helps arrange the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn on the latest episode of “Wolf Hall” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

Peggy and Pete can’t agree on how to handle an account on “Mad Men” (AMC, 10 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: ‘Orphan Black’ is Back

Orphan-Black-Season-3-Preview-650x406If you haven’t seen it before, good luck trying to figure out what is going on in “Orphan Black” (BBC America, AMC, IFC, Sundance and We, 9 p.m.) as the third season begins. Suffice to say there’s a young woman who discovers a whole set of herself, apparently cloned, and she wants to understand it all, even as she has to imitate others to find the clues.

By now, there’s a solid reference point — “The Island of Dr. Marnau” — and Tatiana Maslany is pretty comfortable with some well discerned variations — her original Sarah, but also the wild Ukranian Helena (currently a kidnap victim), the political minded mom Alison and the quirky scientist Cosmina.

Now there is a whole other set of cloned young men, too, most of them unhinged intense types played by Ari Millen. In between, there are creepy scientists with nobody’s best interests at heart. It still has some good intrigue, and seems on better footing than it did at the start of season two. But if Tatiana calls in sick one day to the set, the whole thing’s off. To get the widest possible audience, it’s being shown simultaneously on five sister cable networks.

It’s accompanied — on one network anyway — by “Tatau” (BBC America, 10 p.m.) a murder mystery involving young Londoners in the Cook Islands. But the South Pacific doesn’t take warmly to the group, especially one why with a tattoo that offends them.

Terry Crews hosts the 11th annual TV Land Awards (TV Land, 9 p.m.) which this year honors “The Wonder Years,” “Ally McBeal,” “Parenthood,” “Freaks and Geeks,” Betty White, Donny and Marie Osmond and Joan Rivers, posthumously.

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