Friday TV: Going Back to ‘Portlandia,’ Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’

One of the funniest and best-observed comedies on TV, “Portlandia” (IFC, 10 p.m.) returns for a second season at the top of its game.
Fred Armisen is consistently more creative and funnier than he’s allowed to be on “SNL.” And Carrie Brownstein matches him in her amazing turn from rock. The new season opens with a millennial’s protest song that keeps morphing into an electronic dance anthem (it’s by Bot Dylan); there’s a bit of crazy business about renaming a street, but the bulk of it is an epic attempt to round up Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren and Matt Pinfield to take back MTV and return music to a network long since taken over by (literal) children. It’s a great moment.
Speaking of dredging up the 80s, “Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies” makes its public TV debut on “Great Performances” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). The 25th anniversary of the songwriter’s “Graceland” album (which occurred in 2011) causes Simon to revisit a very different South Africa than the one he visited and recorded in in the early 80s, when the UN advised a cultural boycott.
The result brought African music to the world, but it also may have betrayed activists who wished he had asked the local ANC first. Simon discusses the issue in a civilized way with activist Dali Tambo, but there are still bruised feelings all these years later. Fellow musicians including Paul McCartney, David Byrne (who did a bit of his own cross-cultural dabbling) and Vampire Weekend (who freely admit the “Graceland” influence on their sound) provide context.
Plus we learn “Graceland” is Oprah’s favorite album ever. There seems little full performances of the work, though, until the end of what is already a very long film.
A second season begins for “Bering Sea Gold” (Discovery, 10 p.m.) with some money squabbles.
I supposed if they had found enough bold in season one, there wouldn’t have been a season two.
Remember when “Merlin” (Syfy, 10 p.m.) used to be on network TV? Now it lurches on into its fifth and final season. It’s apparently a big hit internationally, or sufficiently enough to let it go his long.
It’s Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (Fox, 8 p.m.) in the Cotton Bowl.
There are still quite a few reruns around but new episodes of “CSI: NY” (CBS, 9 p.m.) and “Blue Bloods” (CBS, 10 p.m.). And the sharks get back to work at the “Shark Tank” (ABC, 9 p.m.).
Four films from the 1950s by sci-fi director Jack Arnold are on Turner Classic Movies: “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (8 p.m.), “Tarantula” (9:30 p.m.), “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (11 p.m.) and “It Came from Outer Space” (12:30 a.m.). They’re followed by a couple of films by Amos Poe, “The Foreigner” (2 a.m.) and “Alphabet City” (3:45 a.m.).
NBA action includes Bulls at Heat (ESPN, 8 p.m.) and Lakers at Clippers (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.).
Men’s college hoops includes Memphis at Tennessee (ESPN2, 8 p.m.) . And in college hockey, just about the only hockey on TV this season, it’s Colorado College at Nebraska-Omaha (NBC, 7:30 p.m.).Daytime Talk
The View: Tyler Perry, Emeril Lagasse, Cee-Lo Green (rerun). The Talk: Naomi Judd, David Myers, Kim Coles. Ellen DeGeneres: Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Hyland, Justin Flom.

Late Talk
David Letterman: Tracy Morgan, Marv Albert, Everest. Jay Leno: Courteney Cox, Joy Behar, Youngblood Hawke. Jimmy Kimmel: Mel Brooks, Jake Tapper, Jason Aldean (rerun). Jimmy Fallon: Bill Cosby , Tempestt Bledsoe, Grace Potter. Craig Ferguson: David Sedaris, Ariel Tweto, the Imagineers (rerun). Carson Daly: Diana Nyad, Samsara, Chairlift (rerun). Tavis Smiley: Matt Damon (rerun). Chelsea Handler: Dita Von Teese, Michael Yo, Jen Kirkman, Josh Wolf (rerun).

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