Wednesday: ‘Looming Tower’ Stands Tall

loomingtowerI’m such fan of Alex Gibney’s many documentaries, it’s no surprise that his adaptation of Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower” (Hulu, streaming) would have a similar, immediate impact. It tells the story of the driven FBI special investigator John O’Neill, whose strong gut feeling that Osama bin Laden was behind a string of attacks on U.S. properties and was bent to commit more was blunted at first by the CIA’s unwillingness to share information.

Jeff Daniels plays the role as a bigger than life figure who was also squiring more than one extramarital girlfriend along the way. Peter Sarsgaard is the CIA official who won’t cooperate. Michael Stuhlbarg is just right as NSA counter terrorism head Richard Clarke and Bill Camp (“The Night of”) is one of O’Neill’s agents. With scripts from Dan Futterman (“Capote,” “Foxcatcher”), the pacing is crisp and the budgets allow for convincing restating of, say, the 1988 U.S. embassy bombing in Nairobi. It’s a drama as taut as “Homeland” and bold enough to reflect actions that still effect the U.S. response.

[Here's a longer story I wrote about it for Smithsonian].

It joins two other current miniseries on true events: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX, 10 p.m.) where time moves backward to a birthday party where Andrew Cunanan gathers  three of his future victims in attendance and “Waco” (Paramount, 10 p.m.), where the standoff finally  explodes into a fireball.

“Reversing the curse” is the theme of the new season of “Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.), which premieres with a two hour episode. The 20 new castaways forced to confront the kind of mistakes previous players had made. The season premiere is two hours long.

Laverne Cox hosts the new “Glam Masters” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.) in which beauty bloggers compete by creating trends and such. Also new is “VH1 Beauty Bar” (VH1, 10 p.m.) which concentrates on competing parlors in a Dominican neighborhood in New York City.

The Canadian saga “Heartland” (Up, 9 p.m.) begins a U.S. run.

“Designated Survivor” (ABC, 10 p.m.) resumes its season, picking up ten weeks after the death of the First Lady.

“Corporate” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.) has been picked up for a new season.

The college is under lockdown on “Grown-ish” (Freeform, 8 p.m.) after a shooting.

“Nova” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) looks into math and probability.

Abby investigates a caller’s murder on “9-1-1” (Fox, 9 p.m.) and crazy calls are blamed on a full moon.

Mulder and Scully are threatened by automation and artificial intelligence on “The X-Files” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

A vigilante is killing rapists on “Chicago P.D.” (NBC, 10 p.m.).

Mandy gets a lead on who made the ambush on “SEAL Team” (CBS, 10 p.m.).

Two journalists are kidnapped in Somalia on “Locked Up Abroad” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.).

A shrink has to OK Liz’s reinstatement to the FBI on “The Blacklist” (NBC, 8 p.m.).

The documentary “The Maestro: The Rollie Massimino Story” (Fox Sports 1, 11 p.m.) follows the winning coach’s final season at a small Division II school in Florida before he died of brain cancer in August at 82.

It’s Valentine’s Day on “Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.), only two weeks late.

“Billion Dollar Buyer” (CNBC, 10 p.m.) reaches its third season finale.

An abusive doctor is freed after a mistrial on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 9 p.m.).

Katie competes in Field Day on “American Housewife” (ABC, 9:30 p.m.).

On “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.), Barry joins the football team.

Eliot and Margo’s reign is challenged on “The Magicians” (Syfy, 9 p.m.).

JJ has his 18th birthday on “Speechless” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) feels he is still treated like a child.

Do we need another father-son set of car builders? Here’s “Twin Turbos” (Discovery, 10 p.m.).

Esther faces the Big One on “Alone Together” (Freeform, 8:30 p.m.), though it’s not specified what.

Sky’s behavior in Korea is admonished on “Black Ink Crew” (VH1, 9 p.m.).

Juicy gets on a magazine cover on “Little Women: Atlanta” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.).

“The 685-lb. Teen” (TLC, 10:05 p.m.) outweighs “My 600-lb. Life” (TLC, 11:08 p.m.).

The new “Outrageous Acts of Science” (Science, 10 p.m.) looks at a human-sized chicken, among other things.

Josh Gates looks into the Aquarian Foundation on “Expedition Unknown” (Travel, 8 p.m.).

Jim Parsons and Kristin Cavallari are among the gullible on the third season premiere of “Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry” (E!, 9 p.m.).

Alice confronts her madness on “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” (Syfy, 10 p.m.).

There are more best picture winners and nominees as Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar begins to wind down: “I Am A Fugitive from a Chain Gang” (6 a.m.), “Grand Illusion” (7:45 a.m.), “Broadway Melody of 1936” (9:45 a.m.), “Ninotchka” (11:30 a.m.), “Auntie Mame” (1:30 p.m.), “Mildred Pierce” (4 p.m.), “Father of the Bride” (6 p.m.), “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (8 p.m.), “Patton” (11 p.m.), “From Here to Eternity” (2 a.m.) and “Casablanca” (4:15 a.m.).

NBA action includes Golden State at Washington (ESPN, 8 p.m.) and Houston at Clippers (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.).

Hockey has Detroit at St. Louis (NBC Sports, 8 p.m.).

It’s Baltimore vs. St. Louis (MLB, 1 p.m.) in preseason baseball.

Men’s college basketball includes Providence at Xavier (Fox Sports 1, 6:30 p.m.), Temple at Connecticut (CBS Sports, 7 p.m.), Mississippi at Kentucky (ESPN2, 7 p.m.), Pittsburgh at Notre Dame (ESPNU, 7 p.m.), Villanova at Seton Hall (Fox Sports 1, 8:30 p.m.), Butler at St. John’s (CBS Sports, 9 p.m.), Houston at SMU (ESPN2, 9 p.m.), Florida State at Clemson (ESPNU, 9 p.m.) and Nevada at UNLV (CBS Sports, 11 p.m.).

Daytime Talk

Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest: Dennis Quaid, Maia & Alex Shibutani. The View: Cindy McCain. The Talk: Iyanla Vanzant. Harry Connick: David Duchovny, Laila Ali. Steve Harvey: Shemar Moore, Keyshia Cole. Ellen DeGeneres: Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Scott Foley, Bellamy Young, Jeff Perry, Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes, Guillermo Diaz, Josh Malina, Joe Morton, George Newbern, Cornelius Smith Jr. Wendy Williams: Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, LaTocha Scott, Tamika Scott, Kandi Burruss, Xscape (rerun). The Real: J. August Richards.

Late Talk

Stephen Colbert: Donald Glover, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, IBEYI. Jimmy Kimmel: Saoirse Ronan, Kyle Chandler, Joey Dosik (rerun). Jimmy Fallon: Chadwick Boseman, Marlon Wayans, Mike “Rooster” McConaughey, Butch Gilliam, Devin Dawson. Seth Meyers: Sarah Jessica Parker, Mae Whitman, Tony Rock. James Corden: Elton John, Sharon Stone, Vance Joy. Carson Daly: Garrett Hedlund, Welles, D’Acy Carden, Jameela Jamil (rerun). Trevor Noah: Jorge Ramos. Jordan Klepper: Anthea Butler. Conan O’Brien: Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Anderson, They Might Be Giants.


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