Sunday TV: ‘True Detective’ Finally Returns

truedetective2Nic Pizzolatto’s “True Detective” (HBO, 9 p.m.) brought with it a grim foreboding, a visual splendor and a kind of philosophic approach to dogged criminal investigation of lurid crime, using indelibly linked pairs. The first season five years ago, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was a classic (they linger on as named executive producers). The reactions to the second season were generally unfair; it was still one of the best shows on TV.

Now comes season three, fully three and a half years since the last new episode was aired. The completely new story echoes the first season in many ways – a grisly crime, two brooding guys with their own problems becoming obsessed with it, oddball rural totems, a Southern landscape (this time in Arkansas).

Where the first season had a detective looking back, this one has two time flips – from the original action in 1980, a reopening of the case in the 90s, and a true crime interview in the present day, with the memory of the lead character questioned because of Alzheimer’s.

Because that actor is Mashershala Ali, it’s a remarkable tour de force, keeping three balls in the air at once, in three eras, adjusting his performance in each one, based on what he’s learned since. Stephen Dorff is his partner; Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff and Mamie Gummer all turn in remarkable performances.

The early days of the internet may have been explored before, but “Valley of the Boom” (National Geographic, 9 p.m.) looks specifically at the war between the first web browsers. Matthew Carnahan (“House of Lies”) does some wild work here with a cast that includes Bradley Whitford and Stephen Dorff, but also (and maybe confusingly), documentary interviews with some of the principals. It’s a genre the network is cultivating – mixing dramatization with nonfiction commentary, as they do in the series “Mars.”

“Victoria” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) returns for its third season, opening in 1848, with revolution sweeping Europe and Jenna Coleman’s queen having relationship problems. re It’s followed by a recreation of “Victoria & Albert: The Wedding” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) .

Taye Diggs hosts The 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards (CW, 7 p.m.) live from Santa Monica, honoring performances in film and TV. Actress Claire Foy and  producer Chuck Lorre will receive special honors. Amid TV categories “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and “Escape at Dannemora” lead all nominations with five each.

A new documentary “American Style” (CNN, 9 p.m.) looks at shifting trends in the country’s fashions over the decades, stating with pants for women in the 1940s and then shifting to the late 60s in a second episode at 10.

“Ray Donovan” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) winds up its New York season.

NFL Playoffs continue with Chargers at New England (CBS, 1 p.m.) and Philadelphia at New Orleans (Fox, 4:30 p.m.).

For its season finale, Nat takes a vision board on “Rel” (Fox, 9:30 p.m.).

A new series looks at “Disasters at Sea” (Smithsonian, 9 p.m.).

The made for TV “Best Friend’s Betrayal” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.) is a thriller about a woman who gets protective when her girlfriend starts dating a crime writer.

“Total Bellas” (E!, 9 p.m.) returns for its fourth season.

“Married to Medicine” (Bravo, 9 p.m.) wraps up its reunion episodes.

Turner Classic Movies has two films about female athletes, “A League of their Own” (8 p.m.) and “Pat and Mike” (10:30 p.m.), and then a silent about a movie star, “The Extra Girl” (12:30 a.m.), followed by two from Jean-Luc Godard, “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” (2 a.m.) and “Masculin Feminine” (4 a.m.).

Basketball includes Cleveland at Lakers (NBA, 9:30 p.m.).

Hockey has Rangers at Columbus (NHL, 6 p.m.).

Men’s college basketball includes Butler at Xavier (CBS Sports, noon), Villanova at Creighton (Fox, noon), Massachusetts at Dayton (NBC Sports, 3:30 p.m.), East Carolina at Central Florida (ESPNU, 4 p.m.), Michigan State at Penn State (CBS, 4:30 p.m.), George Mason at Rhode Island (NBC Sports, 5:30 p.m.), Memphis at Tulane (ESPNU, 6 p.m.), Southern California at Oregon (ESPNU, 8 p.m.) and UCLA at Oregon State (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m.).

Women’s games include Cincinnati at Central Florida (ESPNU, noon), South Florida at Connecticut (ESPN, 1 p.m.), Providence at Seton Hall (Fox Sports 2, 1 p.m.), Duquesne at George Mason (CBS Sports, 2 p.m.), Alabama at Texas A&M (ESPNU, 2 p.m.), Tennessee at Georgia (ESPN, 3 p.m.) and Fordham at Saint Louis (CBS Sports, 4 p.m.).

Tennis has the first rounds of the Australian Open (ESPN2, 7 p.m., 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.).

Bowling has the PBA Oklahoma Open (Fox Sports 1, 11 a.m.).

Sunday Talk

ABC: Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Steve Scalise, Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney. CBS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. NBC: Sens. Tim Kaine and Ted Cruz. CNN: Sens. Mark Warner and Ron Johnson. Fox News: Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chris Coons.

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