Saturday TV: De Niro Does Madoff

WizardOfLiesAfter Richard Dreyfuss already played Bernie Madoff on a two night mini-series, it hardly seems necessary to hash it out again. But although HBO’s “The Wizard of Lies” (HBO, 8 p.m.) begins dourly as he’s arrested for a $65 billion Ponzi scheme and marquee star Robert De Niro seems as stoic as the swindler, Barry Levinson’s film opens up in a way the earlier film never did, showing key moments with the family, where De Niro’s performance really starts to shine, stacking up as one of his best in years.

As his pained wife, Michelle Pfeiffer turns in a pretty good performance as well,  while the drama of the film turns on the effects or complicity of his sons. There are some beautiful set pieces as time moves forward and back and a kind of tension that matches whatever recent financial crisis film you want to compare it with. It’s good stuff.

The last ever episode of the struggling “Training Day” (CBS, 9 p.m.), which may not have been renewed even if Bill Paxton hadn’t died.

“Doctor Who” (BBC America, 9 p.m.)looks in the Vatican’s secret library.

A meteor shatters space-time and shoots the gang on “Class” (BBC America, 10:05 p.m.) to unknown areas.

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Friday TV: Another Old Crime to Unravel

the-keepers-slice-600x200The brutal, unsolved murder of a nun in Baltimore in 1969 is not something her ex-students, now retired and grandmothers, will let go. So they meet in Facebook groups and continue to collect evidence that is carefully parsed out with music and overhead photography in the latest true crime documentary series, “The Keepers” (Netflix, streaming).

Did the murder of Sister Cathy, and another young woman in the same area a few days later, have to do with charges of sexual abuse against a fellow member of the clergy who died in 2001? And then there are the charges of citywide coverup. Things take a very dark turn in episode two.

On a lighter note, a third season starts for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix, streaming) with Ellie Kemper’s unflappable character off to college. The expanded cast includes not only Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski, but John Hamm and Fred Armisen as well.

A third season starts for “12 Monkeys” (Syfy, 8 p.m.), which begins with the birth of the Witness, who has the power to destroy the world. It’s followed by three more episodes at 8:45, 9:30 and 10:15 p.m. Is it a marathon or binge viewing?

“James Beard: America’s First Foodie” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) kicks off a series of documentaries about famous chefs, who had personality, culinary skills, TV shows and in his case, a food award named after him. It’s followed by someone even more dear to public television, “Julia! America’s Favorite Chef” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

Two new episodes of the 50s sitcom, involving Van Johnson and Harpo Marx, are colorized on “The New I Love Lucy Superstar Special” (CBS, 9 p.m.).

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Upfronts: Four New Ones from The CW

TheCW logoIn a season when old shows from “Roseanne” to “S.W.A.T.” have announced comeback seasons or reboots, The CW network closed a week of network upfront presentations saying it would bring back the old “Dynasty.”

It’s one of four new shows announced by the also-run network, whose only survivor from last year’s crop of new shows was “Riverdale.”

Still, shows at The CW tend to hang on much longer than they would on other networks due to niche targeting.

The new shows for the 2017-2018 season are:

  • “Valor,” a military drama about an elite unit of Army helicopter pilots, with Matt Barr, Christina Ochoa, Charlie Barnett and W. Tre Davis.
  • “Dynasty,” bringing the Carringtons back, with Elizabeth Gillies, Grant Show, Nathalie, Kelley, James Mackay and Alan Dale. From the producers of “Gossip Girl” and “Revenge,” along with the original producers of “Dynasty.”
  • “Black Lightning,” yet another DC comics superhero yarn starring Cress Williams as a man who wants to put his past behind him and run his charter high school. With Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain. From Greg Berlanti, who is behind “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Midseason.
  • “Life Sentence,” starring Lucy Hale as a girl who thought she was dying from cancer but doesn’t. With Dylan also, Gillian Vikman and Elliot Knight. In part from Bill Lawrence. Midseason.

Returning shows on The CW are “The 100,” “Arrow,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “The Flash,” “iZombie,” “Jane the Virgin,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “The Originals,” “Supergirl” and “Supernatural.”

Not returning are “Reign,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Frequency” and, living up to its name, “No Tomorrow.”

 

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Thursday TV: Double Down on Finales

scandal-episode-15season-6-promo-pic-via-flickrcom_1323129It’s just been announced that “Scandal” (ABC, 9 p.m.) will present its final season this fall. So tonight’s season finale, over two hours, sets the stage with preparations for the inauguration of the first female president.

Plenty of shows go for double episodes tonight, from the season finales of “Supernatural” (The CW, 8 p.m.) and “The Blacklist” (CBS, 9 p.m.), both of which will be returning next season, to the season finale  of “MasterChef Junior” (Fox, 8 p.m.), where one kid is named winner.

There are also two hours from “The Amazing Race” (CBS, 9 p.m.) which is on its way to Vietnam.

“Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 8 p.m.), which next season gets an accompanying fire department spin-off, has its season finale in typically dramatic fashion, after a dangerous patient escapes.

“This Old House” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) covers urban farming in Detroit.

The three couples on “Married at First Sight” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.) go house hunting. One of the women on “Married at First Sight: Second Chances” (Lifetime, 10:17 p.m.) reaches a breaking point.

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The Pixies Pummel On at Lincoln Theatre

IMG_3860Conventional wisdom says the road from the Stooges to Nirvana went through the Pixies. And though they never broke through to the degree of some of their emulators, the driving Massachusetts band returned from a long hiatus this century to see just how engrained their songs had become. In ads alone, their anthems got much more play than they did on radio — from “Gigantic” for iPhones to “Where is My Mind?” for both Samsung and Acura.

Following its big reunion tour in 2004 that came with just one new track, the band continues in a slightly different form. Paz Lenchantin may be the first woman not named Kim to play bass for the band, replacing original Kim Deal and Kim Shattuck, who briefly toured in her stead.

In the first of a pair of shows at D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre Tuesday, the Pixies had something more to prove: As much as people loved those first few albums that have become touchstones in rock — and beloved oldies dominated the generous 31-song show — many of the tracks from their unjustly ignored latest album “Head Carrier” from last year deserved to alongside the enshrined classics.

Indeed nine from the new one were played to fine affect — the same number played from the beloved 1989 “Doolittle.” And while their 1988 debut “Surfer Rosa’ and 1987 EP “Come On Pilgrim” were liberally sampled as well, there was just a peep from their somewhat uneven initial comeback album, 2014’s “Indie Cindy.”

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Upfronts: CBS Unveils Eight New Shows

CBS-Logo-e1331750370386The last of the big four broadcast networks to present its plans for the 2017-18 TV season, CBS adds eight new shows, including one that’s a spinoff of its popular “Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon.”

The network of powerful government acronyms continues the tradition with the dramas “SEAL Team” and “S.W.A.T.”

The new dramas include:

  • “SEAL Team,” a military drama with David Boreanaz, Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr., and Jessica Pare. from “Mad Men.”
  • “S.W.A.T.” is inspired by the TV series and the movie, with Shemar Moore as Hondo, with Stephanie Sigman, Alex Russell and Kenny Johnson.
  • “Wisdom of the Crowd” stars Jeremy Piven as a tech mogul who crowd sources solving his daughter’s murder. With Richard T. Jones, Natalia Tena and Blake Lee.
  • “Instinct” stars Alan Cumming as a former CIA operative lured back to his old life to stop a serial killer. Based on an upcoming James patterson novel, the drama also stars Khandi Alexander, Bojana Novakovic and Naveen Andrews. Midseason.

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Wednesday TV: Dog Talks But Don’t Worry

DownwardDogTalking animals don’t usually make for great sitcoms, be they “Mister Ed,” the cat on “Sabrina” or whatever those things were on “Alf” and the now cancelled “Imaginary Mary.”

Against those odds, the needy pooch on “Downward Dog” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) seems tolerable, though the hipster voice of Samm Hodges makes it a bit grating. There are all kinds of other things going for this agreeable comedy, though —mostly its star Allison Tolman, the talented actress from the first season of “Fargo.” Her presence alone, coupled with a lighter touch on the writing, separates this from a lot of network comedy fare and may well be worthy of your attention.

Elsewhere, the life of the actor is celebrated in the documentary “I Am Heath Ledger” (Spike, 10 p.m.). The film by Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray concentrates less on Ledger’s death at 28 in 2008.

A flurry of season finales run tonight on “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.) and “Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.), which both feature graduations, as well as “Blindspot” (NBC, 8 p.m.), “Speechless” (8:30 p.m.), “Designated Survivor” (ABC, 10 p.m.) and “Chicago, P.D.” (NBC, 10 p.m.). All of them are returning next season.

One show that isn’t shows its final episodes ever, the spinoff “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (CBS, 9 and 10 p.m.).

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Upfronts: ABC Has a Dozen New Shows

ABC_logo_2007ABC announced the most new shows of any network so far — 12 — in its 2017-18 upfront presentation.

But many of its series have limited eight-to-10 episode runs, including an eight episode revival of “Roseanne” with Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalfe is also coming for 2018.

Of the five new premiering in the fall, there is one a hospital yarn, two comedies, a Marvel show and a missing child drama with Kyra Sedgwick.

This in addition to the high profile return of “American Idol” on a new network, with Katy Perry the only announced judge so far. Two other of its reality mainstays will also get spinoffs, “The Bachelor Winter Games” and “Dancing with the Stars Junior.”  And there will be its own live musical, “The Little Mermaid Live” as well as a special on the 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine.

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Stage Review: A Rare ‘Timon of Athens’

Timon_613Ian Merrill Peakes begins and ends his role as “Timon of Athens” standing in the center of Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s stage. At the start, he’s basking in his glory as a prosperous master of the universe, happily dispersing his gold; in the end he’s alone, torn down, penniless emotionally, at the mercy of gods, or fate, or something quite different than the riches that once defined him.

Waylaid by the indifference of those who once flocked around him, he’s intent on destroying the world for spite, the ultimate misanthrope.

He’s so extreme, the play has sometimes been interpreted as a satire; some say it eschews the other easy categories for Shakespearian plays – comedy, history, tragedy – and instead is considered one of his “problem plays.”

There are indications that the play may have had a co-author (likely Thomas Middleton), or may even have been unfinished. There is no record of it having been performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime – and only scant productions of it since then, compared to some of his other works that are in constant rotation (the last “Timon” in Washington was about 17 years ago).

We look to places like Folger, however, to examine every one of Bard’s works over time, and this one is the result of deep consideration, terrific stagecraft and strong acting.

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Deep Dive into American Roots Music

AmericanEpicWhen radio threatened the young phonograph record industry in American cities in the 1920s, it sent out talent scouts to rural corners of the country, seeking to find local musicians who’d appeal to regional audiences where there still was no radio.

They’d find local musicians by asking in town newspapers if they’d like to hear what they sounded like on record.

Setting up portable equipment in hotel rooms in Bristol, Tenn., and Memphis, Tenn., the excise also managed to widely disseminate unique music beyond the local holler, but influence American music for decades to come with the discovery of artists from the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers to Charley Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

The blues, old time country, gospel, cajun, jug band music, Mexicali and Native American chants that were recorded in those sessions are the basis of a new four part series on public television, “American Epic” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

It culminates June 6 with “American Epic Sessions,” in which contemporary artists including Jack White, T Bone Burnet, Beck, and Nas get together to sing some of these classic old tunes on a portable 1920s recording machine that was carefully re-assembled for the occasion.

A bunch of recordings accompany the broadcasts, from a 100-song boxed set of archival recordings with surprising new fidelity, just out Friday, to the upcoming “American Epic Sessions” featuring the contributions of Alabama Shakes, Elton John, Los Lobos, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens and Taj Mahal. There is even a duet of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard before the latter’s death.

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