Saturday: Romance Lingers in TV Films

ThingAboutHarryValentine’s Day is over but it’s still the theme for a couple of romantic comedies tonight.

The unconventional one is “The Thing About Harry” (Freeform, 8 p.m.). In it, Peter Paige of “Queer as Folk” directs a story of guys nursing a high school grudge played by Jake Borelli and Niko Terho. One is gay, but the other, a jock, may be just coming out of the closet, while on a long road trip to a friend’s engagement party.

Sticking to the same old gender norms is “The Secret Ingredient” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.), in which a town’s Feb. 14 Bake-Off creates more than competition for two participants, played by Erin Cahill and Brendan Penny.

The remade “Shaft” (HBO, 8 p.m.) from last year, with Samuel L. Jackson, makes its premium cable debut. Also on tonight: “Them That Follow” (Showtime, 10 p.m.), about a snake-handling church in Appalachia, with Walter Goggins, Olivia Coleman, Alice Englert and Kaitlyn Dever.

The 3-Point Contest and Skills Challenge are part of the NBA All-Star Saturday Night: From Chicago (TNT, 8 p.m.). It’s follows by an “Inside the NBA” (TNT, 10:30 p.m.) all star roast.

But it’s NHL action that gets a prime time broadcast slot with Hockey’s Los Angeles vs. Colorado (NBC, 8 p.m.). It caps a full day of games that also include Detroit at Boston (NHL, 1 p.m.) and Philadelphia at Tampa Bay (NHL, 4 p.m.).

Kirstie Alley pops up in “You Can’t Take My Daughter” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), a TV thriller about a law student (Lyndsy Fonseca) who is raped but decides to eep the baby, though the father stalks her and sues for custody.

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Friday TV: ‘High Fidelity’ Gender Swap

HighFidelityBecause some of us have such a personal attachment to Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel and subsequent film with John Cusak, with all of its vinyl obsessions, music declarations and top 10 lists, it’s harder than usual to accept a genre-switching remake of “High Fidelity” (Hulu, streaming).

Zoe Kravitz seems an even more morose store-owner than Cusak. Set in the present, she should be happy that vinyl sales (and prices) are on the rise. But she’s old school in her gloom and particularly her musical tastes, which do not seem all that updated to compensate for the 25 intervening years (Fleetwood Mac and Dexy’s are still aces).

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, a standout in “Dolemite is My Name” and “On Being a God in Central Florida,” is a great choice for the Jack Black character. And the episodic nature of the series is fitting for the serial dating the main character goes through. But are we believing that women can be as nerdy obsessive about recorded music as guys have been?

The documentary series “Visible: Out on Television” (Apple TV+, streaming) recounts the coming out process on television, and Ellen DeGeneres plays a big role.

In the new sc-fi series “Utopia Falls” (Hulu, streaming), teens take part in a hip-hop competition in the distant future.

New seasons come for “Cable Girls” (Netflix, streaming), its eighth and final; and a second for “Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings” (Disney +, streaming), the ultimate in corporate synchronicity.

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Thursday TV: Romance Behind Barriers

LoveIsBlind_Netflix has done a lot of things but not a dating show (unless you count “Terrece House”). That changes tonight with “Love is Blind” (Netflix, streaming) in which singles flirt with others without the benefit of seeing them. They talk behind barriers and take notes.

When there’s a match, they even have to propose before seeing their partner for the first time. Then they have to adjust once they do. The caveat undercutting the drama: Nobody’s actually ugly anyway. Nick and Vanessa Lachey host.

Of more traditional interest on the service is the second season of the drug war saga “Narcos: Mexico” (Netflix, streaming) in which Diego Luna’s Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is now head of the Guadalajara cartel.

Reba McEntire guest stars on “Young Sheldon” (CBS, 8 p.m.) as Craig T. Nelson’s ex.

On “Last Man Standing” (Fox, 8 p.m.), Vanessa runs for the state assembly.

A cop ends up dead on the second episode of “Tommy” (CBS, 10 p.m.).

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 10 p.m.) looks into a government worker exchanging green cards for sex.

Downtown Julie Brown looks at “A Year in Music: 1979” (AXS tv, 8:30 p.m.).

“Project Runway” (Bravo, 9 p.m.) designers deal with tie dye.

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Wednesday TV: ‘Survivor’ Marks Its 40th Season

Survivor-40-CastFor its 40th season (in its 20th year), “Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.) begins a two-hour season premiere that gathers a score of past winners to compete again. That means a whole lot more of Boston Rob Mariano (and his wife Amber Brkich) and Sandra Diaz-Twine, who both were on last season, as well as figures who are memorable or have been forgotten, from Parvati Shallow and Yul Kwon to Ethan Zohn. The prize is doubled, too: $2 million.

In the five years since it was last on the air, there certainly has been no shortage of the kind of clips they’d make fun of on “The Soup” (E!, 9 p.m.). And now it returns with a new host, comic Jade Catta-Prata, taking over the role of Joel McHale (and before him Greg Kinnear on “Talk Soup”).

The new movie “To All the Boys: P.S. I Love You” (Netflix, streaming) is a sequel to the one called “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” with Lana Condor and Noah Centineo returning to their old roles.

If you were ending our season after 11 successful seasons, wouldn’t you work in a big trip to Paris first? That’s that the “Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.) crew does tonight.

Adam tries to get a date for a couples’ skate on “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

It’s Valentine’s Day on “Schooled” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.), “Single Parents” (ABC, 9:30 p.m.).and “Good Trouble” (Freeform, 10 p.m.).

But it’s the Ides of March on “Riverdale” (CW, 8 p.m.).

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Tuesday TV: Boxers Among the Fighters

Joe Louis And Max Schmeling In The Ring, New York 1938Cable covers political contests as if they’re fights, so it figures that on the night of covering the New Hampshire Primary there are a couple of documentaries on boxers.

On “American Experience” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings), “The Fight” explores the 1938 heavyweight bout between Max Schmeling and America’s Joe Louis.

At the same time, “Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes” (HBO, 9 p.m.) follows the story of Muhammad Ali through his interaction with talk show host Dick Cavett.

Speaking of the New Hampshire primaries, there are updates tonight on the cable news networks, technology willing. And real time results also make their way into a special episode of “The Connors” (ABC, 8 p.m.), broadcast live.

Sometimes a network presents a new show just so it could get in business with its producer. In the case of “For Life” (ABC, 10 p.m.), that’s Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rapper turned TV maker, whose “Power” just ended its successful run on cable. He brings the difficult to believe story about a man serving a life sentence who is nonetheless let out of jail to try cases. Whatever measure of well-meaning it may have, it’s awfully dull. Nicholas Pinnock and Indira Varma star.

In Ava DuVernay’s new series “Cherish the Day” (OWN, 10 p.m.), a couple’s relationship is chronicled over five years, with each episode representing one day. Among the cast of Alano Miller and Xosha Roquemore is Cicely Tyson.

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Other Things I’ve Written Lately

TwentyHere are some other things I’ve written lately for other outlets:

  • A survey of 20 new exhibits to see in 2020 at various Smithsonian Museums.
  • A dance review of the National Ballet of Canada’s recent visit at the Kennedy Center.
  • A Q&A with Sergio Mendes for The Vinyl District.
  • Alex Trebek holds forth at the TV Critics Association amid the Championship series.
  • A rare look at a Danish masterwork painting about an artists’ colony that had echoes in the U.S., for SmithsonianMagazine.com
  • A review of a Washington Theatre Guild play about a couple that meets on Bloomsday.
  • A report on plans for FX network, from the TV Critics Association winter tour, for TV Worth Watching.
  • Listing the 10 splashiest acquisitions by the Smithsonian Museums in 2019.
  • A review of a South African dance group making its debut at the Kennedy Center, with music from Ravel.
  • Hillary Clinton takes questions at the TV Critics Association press tour, in advance of a Hulu documentary on her life.
  • A review of a two person play at the Taffety Punk theater group about the love letters of Chekhov.
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Monday TV: China’s ‘Leftover Women’

leftoverWomenIt’s not the biggest current problem in China, undergoing a pandemic. But its one child rule, which created demographic havoc (and 30 million more men than women) has put extra pressure on professional unmarried women. They are called  “sheng nu,” or “Leftover Women,” which is the title of a documentary on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) that chronicles three such women, a lawyer, a radio host and a film professor. The documentary by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia won prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival.

A third season begins for “Agatha Raisin” (Acorn TV, streaming) about the colorful detective played by Ashley Jensen.

“The New Pope” (HBO, 9 p.m.) reacts to an act of terrorism in France.

Turns out there are two Jerrys to investigate on “McMillion$” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

Peter may be the worst decision maker since “The Apprentice,” but he travels with the final six women to Lima on a two hour episode of “The Bachelor” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

“America’s Got Talent: The Champions” (NBC, 8 p.m.) reaches the finals.

There’s a brawl at a male strip club in “9-1-1: Lone Star” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

On “All American” (CW, 8 p.m.), Spencer may be pushing himself too hard.

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Sunday TV: ‘Homeland,’ Oscars

806 - Two Minutes“Homeland” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) begins its eigth and final season, with Claire Daines’ Carrie Mathison aching to bet back in the action after incarceration and possible Soviet torture. Once more the action is prescient: Fighting in Afghanistan amid an attempt for a Taliban peace talk. Mandy Patinkin’s moral force as head of national security also returns. And it seems like there will be a lot of action involving Max.

Yes, yes, it’s also The 92nd Academy Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.), and its greatest achievement will likely be the end of awards season. There’s no host, but that doesn’t mean things will zip along. “Joker” leads all films with 11 nominations. Performers include Billie Eilish, Elton John, Idina Menzel and Janelle Monáe. There’s a Red Carpet Pre-Show (ABC, 6:30 p.m.) which is beaten to the punch by E! Live from the Red Carpet (E!, 5 p.m.).

A second season starts for Jim Carrey’s series “Kidding” (Showtime, 10 and 10:30 p.m.), about a children’s TV host undergoing a psychological crisis. It starts with a pair of episodes.

A series finale comes for the popular “Power” (Starz, 8 p.m.), with some answers forthcoming after six seasons, but also a number of planned spinoffs. They are likely discussed on “Power Confidential” (Starz, 9:26 p.m.).

Holly is justifiably worried about presenting her findings on “The Outsider” (HBO, 9 p.m.).

Public theater continues its Sunday night anglophilia with “A Very British Romance with Lucy Worsley” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), which looks at courting traditions back to the Georgian age.

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Saturday TV: Independent Spirit Awards

aubrey_plaza_hosting_2019_film_independent_spirit_awards-getty-h_2019One of the best parts of Oscar weekend is the Saturday event that precedes it. The 35th Independent Spirit Awards (IFC, 5 p.m.) often highlights worthy films the Academy Awards ignores, and this year it is Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” and the Safdie Brothers’ “Uncut Gems” are tied with the most nominations, with five each.

Also nominated for best picture are “Clemency,” “A Hidden Life,” “The Farewell” and “Marriage Story,” the only title that has a crossover nomination at the Oscars. Aubrey Plaza returns to host the loose event at the tent on the beach in Santa Monica. Have a pencil ready to jot down titles of films to track down later.

The latest episode of “Seven Worlds, One Planet” (BBC America, AMC, IFC, Sundance, 9 p.m.) looks at wildlife in Asia, from the Arctic Circle to the equator.

For the first time in nearly two decades the XFL fields some games for its second season. It’s still owned by WWE’s Vince McMahon but the names of the eight teams are different. The inaugural games: Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders (ABC, 2 p.m.) and the Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks (Fox, 5 p.m.).

The feature length documentary “In Memoriam” (Investigation Discovery, 9 p.m.) looks at the spate of mass shootings solely from the effects on the victims, wounded survivors and grieving relatives.

Octavia Spencer stars in the horror film “Ma” (HBO, 8 p.m.) with Juliette Lewis and Diana Silvers, making its premium cable debut.

Former “Sopranos” star Jamie-Lynn Sigler stars as a woman who doesn’t get along with her creepy neighbor, played by Jenn Lyon in the made-for-TV thriller “The Neighbor in the Window” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.)

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Friday TV: Among Video Game Creators

Raven'sQuestA nice little workplace comedy takes a peek inside the world of game development “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” (Apple TV +, streaming) comes from Rob McElhenney and his pals from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and includes a likable cast that includes Danny Pudi, F. Murray Abraham, Charlotte Nicado and Jessie Ennis, as well as McElhenney, who plays the egotistical game creator. It’s already been renewed for a second season.

The latest quirky family film from Disney comes on their streaming service. “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” (Disney +, streaming), based on the children’s books by Stephan Pastis, stars Winslow Fegley as a boy detective in Portland, whose sidekick is a polar bear. It’s the first film from Tom McCarthy since “Spotlight.”

Already a streaming star in “Glow,” Alison Brie stars in the movie “Horse Girl” (Netflix, streaming) playing a craft store employee who is into supernatural crime and horses. Dreams lead her to a surreal existence.

In the new series “Locke & Key” (Netflix, streaming) about three siblings who find keys to magical powers after their father dies. Carleton Cuse of “Lost” is behind it.

One of TV’s most underrated and well-made portraits of life in New York City, “High Maintenance” (HBO, 11 p.m.) returns for its fourth season.

The first of three Democratic Debates (ABC, 8 p.m.) this month occurs tonight in New Hampshire with a familiar cast: Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

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