Friday TV: Oscar-Contending ‘Mudbound’

Mudbound - Still 4I’m all for the trend of Netflix buying big movies at film festivals and debuting them online the same day they premiere in theaters. The latest one, a likely Oscar contender, “Mudbound” (Netflix, streaming), is Dee Rees’s drama about two families in rural Mississippi struggling to survive during and after World War II. The singer Mary J. Blige makes a star turn in a cast that also includes Cary Mulligan, Jonathan Banks and Garrett Hedlund.

Also online is the sixth and final season of “Longmire” (Netflix, streaming), the well-regarded modern Western starring Robert Taylor and Sackhoff. The streaming service picked up the series after its initial three ran on A&E; and put out its own three.

The depressingly timely documentary series “Active Shooter” (Showtime, 8 p.m.) wraps up after eight episodes with a look at the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Sadly, there’s already enough material for a second season, should they go that route.

Paula Vogel’s play “Indecent,” about the passion to create theater under difficult circumstances, is presented on “Great Performances” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings), starring Katrina Lenk and Adina Verson, in a production from New York’s Cort Theater earlier this year.

Bill McKibben, Chelsea Handler, Max Brooks, Rebecca Traister and Carl Bernstein (but unfortunately, no Bernie Bernstein) help end the 15th season of “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO, 10 p.m.). It’s been renewed for another three seasons.

Rebecca comes to grips with her new life on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW, 8 p.m.).

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Thursday TV: ‘Better Things’ Ends Season

better-things-season-2It’s been a difficult time for Pamela Adlon of “Better Things” (FX, 10 p.m.) — largely because of what we’ve learned about her mentor and producer Louis C.K. Still, true to the character she plays on TV, she rises above all adversity on the second season finale of her top notch season; it will be back for season three.

Jessica Alba is guest judge for the 16th season Fashion Week finale of “Project Runway” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.).

Once more the insult comic takes his skills to a trouble spot, this time it’s “Jeff Ross Roasts the Border: Live from Brownsville, Texas” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.).

ABC’s entire Thursday night slot have their final episodes before a winter break. On “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 8 p.m.), the computer is hacked; there’s a revelation about Olivia on “Scandal” (ABC, 9 p.m.); and on “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC, 10 p.m.), a revelation about one of Isaac’s patients threatens Annalise’s sobriety.

Not an R-rated version of the musical, “Hot Grease” (Discovery, 9 p.m.) is actually a documentary about uses for kitchen grease.

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Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples at the Anthem

Bob“Forever Young” is not a song Bob Dylan played in his first show at the big new rock club The Anthem in D.C. Tuesday, but it is something he embodied.

Who else has so dominated American music for half a century, requiring one to venture out to see his shows with his band year after year not necessarily to hear new music, but to see how the old ones have evolved even more, even since the last time around.

Dylan at 76 does seems younger – his hair no longer hidden beneath a hat but grown out to a brown ‘fro again; his voice as clear as he wants to make it (its cragginess here and there, we see, is a choice).

Behind a baby grand piano rather than an electric keyboard — and never coming close to touching a guitar, something I’m still not quite adjusting to — he dominated early solos in a setlist that has been substantially the same for much of the last year. Charlie Sexton didn’t seem to weigh in with short, stinging guitar solos until later in the show.

That made the sound of the songs are different, which will happen when your lead instruments are piano and pedal steel and tom tom.

Entering the vast Anthem stage to the sounds of guitarist Stu Kimball, improvising “O Shenandoah,” the band kicked in with “Things Have Changed,” the 2000 song that earned him the Oscar he appears to have on display on an amp.

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Scott Kelly On That Space Station Smell

YearInSpaceLast year’s documentary on astronaut Scott Kelly’s 12-month stay on the International Space Station, seen as a precursor to an eventual trip to Mars, “A Year in Space” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), gets a followup documentary, about his return and adjustment to Earth life with “Beyond a Year in Space” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

I asked Kelly about his experience — and what he mentions as the space station “smell” — when he stopped by the TV Critics Association summer press tour.

“The experience was long, clearly,” Kelly said. “I mean, my previous flight was 159 days, and that felt like a really long time, so this was more than twice as long.

“At the same time,” he continued, “I was never climbing the walls to get out of there. I always felt like I had enough work to do and it was important work and I was being productive and utilizing my time appropriately.

“But it was hard. It’s hard to live in a place where you can’t leave. You go to sleep; you’re at work. You wake up; you’re at work. You’re most of the time with the same people. They come and go occasionally, and even though you like them, you don’t get to experience any other relationships in person with people, so you miss people on Earth. You miss the weather. You miss freedom of choice. There’s a lot of things you give up to do it. Makes it a hard thing to do, a hard place to live.

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Also Wednesday: 2 Chainz’ ‘Expensivest’

2ChainzThe rapper 2 Chainz is half fascinated and half appalled by the excess he’ll sample in his new series “Most Expensivest” (Viceland, 10:30 p.m.). He’s more entertaining than Robin Leach in trying out gold-flaked doughnuts or $10,000 steaks. He’s joined by fellow rapper and Viceland host Action Bronson in trying some of these things tonight, including a $4,900 chicken wings.

Brian Louden and Jon Lung aren’t quite Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. But they are still the new “Mythbusters” (Science, 9 p.m.) and they are starting a new season by trying to figure out whether having your feet up on the dashboard when the airbags go off can be lethal.

In a double episode of “You’re the Worst” (FXX, 10 p.m.) that ends the fourth season, Jimmy and Gretchen try to figure out their relationship again (it’s only been the basis of the comedy since the start.)

The second season finale of the Southern family drama “Queen Sugar” (OWN, 9 p.m.) gets 90 minutes to react to the latest twists. And then producer Oprah Winfrey (who hasn’t appeared on the show in a while) returns to what she does best, hosting an after-show discussion with creator Ava DuVernay about what’s coming next, at 10:30 p.m.

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Tuesday TV: The Dim New ‘Future Man’

Future-ManThe golden age of TV also finds room for something as repellant as “Future Man” (Hulu, streaming) about a slacker who is sought by future warriors based on his modern day video game skills. “That’s the exact pot of ‘The Last Starfighter,” says Josh Hutcherson’s slacker character. But that doesn’t make it less true.

Who has an appetite these days for the kind of misogyny and crude sex jokes that could only come from the creators of “Sausage Party,” Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The cast includes Eliza Coupe as a representative from the future; Ed Begley Jr. and Glenne Headly as his parents.

What makes it more sad is that it comes on the day that, on the same service, the generally witty “The Mindy Project” (Hulu, streaming) comes to an end after six seasons — with its first three on Fox; and the final three online.

Two limited series, “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders” (NBC, 10 p.m.) and “American Horror Story Cult” (FX, 10 p.m.) end their limited seasons.

But it’s the start of a five-part series, “The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer” (History, 10 p.m.).

Lupine Wyong’o, Carmelo Anthony and Ana Navarro go “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings).

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Monday TV: Veterans Day Documentaries

AlmostSunriseTwo bearded, thoughtful Iraq veterans deal with their war memories and deal with their moral injuries by taking a cross country walk from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara, Calif., in which they also raise funds for a veterans’ place in Wisconsin. The trip is chronicled in the film “Almost Sunrise,” by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco, premiering tonight on “POV” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

The other major Veteran’s Day programming is a documentary that can’t go wrong, involving the close ties of soldiers and dogs. Deborah Scranton’s “War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend” (HBO, 8 p.m.) chronicles how their dogs have stood by them.

Chris Geere of “You’re the Worst” also stars in the new comedy series “Ill Behaviour” (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.), in which he plays a guy who insists his friend with cancer get treatment, going so far as to lock him in the basement to get chemo from a nurse, played by Lizzy Caplan of “Masters of Sex.”

I like to think of “Man with a Plan” (CBS, 8:30 p.m.), inexplicably returning for its second season, as exactly the kind of sitcom Matt LeBlanc would have played in the recently-ended “Episodes.” In its late season premiere, a new babysitter upends the family.

One draw in the new competitive game show for kids, “Paradise Run” (Nickelodeon, 7 p.m.) is its setting: Hawaii.

On the new miniseries “Alibi” (Acorn, streaming), Sophie Okonedo plays a waitress who witnesses the honoree of a party (Michael Kitchen), trying to dispose of a body.

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Rock Review: Pere Ubu, Johnny Dowd

IMG_4867Pere Ubu as a band predated the American punk explosion, which nonetheless gave context to its fierce, bare-boned recordings. And though it remained associated with the explosion of bands at that time, Pere Ubu the band always seemed more an extension of the kind of outsider, rough-edged cadre of blues shouters, poets and hipsters that grew from jazz and blues to the Beat poets, with its only remaining figure David Thomas continuing in the tradition of  Lord Buckley, Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, shouting out observation and complaints amid keening choruses done in his unique style.

That Pere Ubu is still around at all by now, nearly 40 years after groundbreaking early albums like The Modern Dance and Dub Housing, is kind of a gift; that it continues to record such consistently strong material, on 2014’s Carnival of Souls and the new 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo, is almost a miracle.

It comes on the weary shoulders of frontman David Thomas, who in his black hat and cane, presents himself as a somewhat menacing figure. At the Hill Country BBQ in Washington Thursday, he could be seen standing outside the restaurant in the rain before the show, scowling like a gargoyle.

Five musicians were already at work when he found his way to the stage slowly, plopping down on a chair and leaning into a well lit music stand holding his lyrics. He’d put on his reading glasses and began, with a voice unlike most in music — the kind of squeal of a wounded animal who’d been prodded too much.

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Sunday TV: Elizabeth Smart Tells Her Story

Elizabeth SmartSpeaking of 14-year-old girls in peril, Elizabeth Smart was famously abducted from her home in Salt Lake City in 2002 and rescued nine months later. The case has been the subject of books, movies, TV specials and speaking tours and now it’s the basis of a two part documentary.

“Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography” (A&E, 9 p.m.) may differ from the others in that it is told in her own, surprisingly calm and articulate voice. She’s 30 now, married, and has two children.

The first season of the online “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All-Access, streaming) comes to an end, just as the time they debut a new online comedy series “No Activity” (CBS All-Access, streaming) starring Tim Meadows and Patrick Brammall as low-level detectives. J.K. Simmons and Jason Mantzoukas round out the cast. Unlike the “Trek,” this one doesn’t have the benefit of a network broadcast premiere.

The latest spinoff for “The Walking Dead” (AMC, 9 p.m.) is a look at its comic book roots in “AMC Visionaries: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics” (AMC, 11 p.m.).

Sunday Night Football has New England at Denver (NBC, 8:20 p.m.). Earlier games include Minnesota at Washington (Fox, 1 p.m.), Houston at Rams (CBS, 4 p.m.) and Dallas at Atlanta (Fox, 4:25 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: Shepard Fairey Documentary

faireydocShepard Fairey, the street artist who plastered the streets with Andre the Giant stencils and helped boost Barack Obama’s candidacy with his famous “Hope” poster, is profiled on the new documentary by James Moll “Obey Giant” (Hulu, streaming). James Franco produced; Dhani Harrison did the music.

Abby Cadabby is featured on the new special “The Magical Wand Chase: A Sesame Street Special” (HBO, 7 p.m.).

The new TV movie “Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.) is a dramatization of the death involving the gold medal Paralympian, portrayed here by Andreas Damm. Toni Garrn plays his late girlfriend Reeve Steenkamp. Already the Pistorius family has threatened a lawsuit against the film whose tagline is “Heart of a Champion, Mind of a Killer.” “Oscar was subjected to a month long psychological evaluation which was insisted upon by the prosecution,” the family said in a statement. “At no stage was Oscar found to have the mind of a killer.”

More common this time of year is the premature holiday film. So here’s “The Sweetest Christmas” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.), in which Lacey Chabert plays a pastry chef who meets an old high school beau (Lea Coco) in a gingerbread contest.

Prime time football includes Notre Dame at Miami (NBC, 8 p.m.) and TCU at Oklahoma (Fox, 8 p.m.).

Chefs Ed Kenney and Andrew Le travel to Hanoi for Pho on “Family Ingredients” (PBS, 10:30 p.m., check local listings).

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