Less Political Leno at Kennedy Center

jay-lenoWhat would have happened if Jay Leno were still hosting “The Tonight Show” today?

The longest monologue in late night would probably have been Trump heavy, with every day’s twist ripe for the same kind of sharpened commentary it gets nightly from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Conan O’Brien and Trevor Noah, as well as weekly lashings from Samantha Bee, John Oliver and Bill Maher.

But still on the road, as he was even while he was on the “Tonight” show from 1992 to 2010, Leno at 66 almost seems relieved to be free of daily political grind.

In a return trip Friday to the Kennedy Center, where he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2014, it was nearly an hour into the set before he ever mentioned the T-word, relying on tried and true gags that have been staples of his stand-up set for years.

Leno has been at this so very long that it’s easy for him to turn out 90 minutes of fairly rapid fire gags even without the cue cards that guided him through his TV years.

Singers tour for years doing their old hits, so why not comics too?

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Monday TV: Mr. T and Charo Dance

dancing-with-the-stars-charo-mr-t.imgcache.rev11aa0bded0ce94b2619eb15829d8c656The 400th episode of “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC, 8 p.m.) is also the 24th season start for the competition that this time features Mr. T, Charo, Chris Kattan, Olympian Simone Biles and the guy you thought you were rid of last week, “Bachelor” Nick Viall.

Speaking of which, two of the worst contestants on “The Bachelor” have been tapped for their own reality series, Haley and Emily Ferguson in “The Twins: Happily Ever After” (Freeform, 9 p.m.).

Three even lesser known people are followed in the new reality series “Sweet Home Oklahoma” (Bravo, 10 p.m.), about three blonde divorcees who consider themselves more glam than their conservative surroundings.

Three students look at their year at an at-risk school in California’s Mojave Desert in “The Bad Kids,” a documentary by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

The seven-episode second season of “Humans” (AMC, 10 p.m.) ends, with the synths’ plans revealed.

Money’s effect is explored on “Origins: The Journey of Humankind” (National Geographic, 9 p.m.).

As battle rounds begin, “The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.) brings in this season’s mentors: Celine Dion, John Legend, DJ Khaled and Luke Bryan.

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Remembering Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

ChuckBerryOther than Elvis, the number of rock ’n’ roll pioneers that have been still among us all these years is pretty impressive, with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino still drawing breath.

That ended Saturday for the man to whom rock ’n’ roll is closest linked when Chuck Berry,  died at 90.

The flamboyant guitarist, lyrics and showman never claimed to invent rock ’n’ roll.

When John Lennon declared “If you had to give rock ’n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry,” he was reading it off a cue card on “The Mike Douglas Show” the week he was co-hosting in 1972.

Instead, Berry always credited big band leaders, particularly Louis Jordan, whose songs were filled with the same kind of sly wordplay, and whose guitarist Carl D. Hogan originated the riff was used to introduce “Johnny B. Goode.”

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Sunday TV: ‘The Circus’ All Around Us

Circus“The Circus: Inside the Biggest Story on Earth” (Showtime, 8 p.m.) was meant to refer to the election season, but now clearly the circus conveys its results. So here’s season two, eight weeks into the new administration and Mark Halperin aboard Air Force One. It repeats at 8:30 p.m.

A couple of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (Bravo, 8 p.m.) consider shedding their real husbands.

Homer opens a trophy store on “The Simpsons” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

On “Big Little Lies” (HBO, 9 p.m.), Nicole Kidman’s character tells her therapist her home life might not be safe.

Even Max is going undercover on “Homeland” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

Pete lets his parents know about his situation on “Crashing” (HBO, 10:30 p.m.).

It’s China that threatens to back out of a global peace treaty on “Madam Secretary” (CBS, 9 p.m.).

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Dan Baird, Eric Ambel at Hill Country

BairdIt wasn’t just the overhyped blizzard that bedeviled gigs along the Eastern Seaboard last week. There were also more mundane barriers, like the missing drain plug in the oil tank of Eric Ambel’s Suburban  that drained it just before he was to drive from New York for a gig at D.C.’s Hill Country BBQ Thursday.

It put a big delay in travel plans, and caused the headlining half of the bill, Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, to go on early instead and play a few songs until Ambel and his band got there after 10.

it worked out comfortably enough. The two have toured together before, and were even bandmates in the short-lived Yayhoos a decade ago.

So when the late coming openers got there, it was a very quick matter of plugging into the Homemade Sin equipment and sitting down at their drum set (which also proved that switchovers between bands need not be more than a few minutes).

The two rockers are also pursuing the same riff-fueled dirt road too with revved-up Chuck Berry riffs and a kind of raucous Faces mindset making way for the kind of rock soloing that is increasingly now only heard in classic rock stations.

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Saluting Late TCM Host Robert Osborne

RobertOsborneTurner Classic Movies pays homage to its longtime host Robert Osborne, who died this month at 84, with two days of some of what he did best — longform interviews with stars and Hollywood creative types.

It starts with Alec Baldwin’s revealing 2014 interview of him, “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne” (6 a.m., 1:30 and 8 p.m., 12:45 a.m.), replayed four times. It continues with a 2007 exchange with the director in “Private Screenings: Norman Jewison” (7:30 a.m., 2:15 a.m.) and the “Robert Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute” (9 a.m., 4:15 p.m., 4:45 a.m.) from 2015.

He also hosts “Alan Arkin: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival” (10:15 a.m.) from 2015; the 101-year-old actress  “Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival” (11:30 a.m.) in 2011; the 2014 “Eva Marie Saint: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival” (3 p.m.); “Peter O’Toole: Live from the TCM Film Festival” (5:30 p.m.) from 2012; and “Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival” (6:45 p.m.) from 2013.

Plus there are his editions of “Private Screenings: Liza Minnelli” (12:15 and 11:45 p.m.) from 2010; “Private Screenings: Debbie Reynolds” (9:30 p.m.) from 2002; “Private Screenings: Betty Hutton” (10:30 p.m.) from 2000; and “Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine” (3:30 a.m.) from 2009. Many of these shows also replay on Sunday.

At 8 p.m., he can be seen doing his first-ever movie introduction for the network 23 years ago, for “Gone with the Wind.”

 

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Also On Saturday: Campfires and Cheese

campfirekiss-0095-cbWe sit around TV sets, they say, the way ancient man sat around campfires. Campfires play a role in two of the cheesy made-for-TV movies tonight.

Danica McKeller stars as a single mom who bonds a single dad (Paul Greene) while on a winter camping trip with their kids in the romance “Campfire Kiss” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.). Barbara Niven also stars.

A campfire also figures in another made for TV premiering tonight, “Mommy’s Little Boy” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), in which a little boy seeks solace with his baseball coach after his mom drops into depression after the drowning death of his 10-year-old brother. Bree Williamson, Peter DaCunha and Paul Popowich star. It’s part of a “Mommy Madness Marathon” with “Double Mommy” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.) in which a student is pregnant with twins by two men, one by rape, and he wants it all to end. Morgan Obenreder, Mark Grossman and Megan Gallaher star.

Last year’s “Ice Age: Collision Course” (HBO, 8 p.m.) makes its premium cable debut.

A death on Valentine’s Day 2006 involving a former football player is examined on “48 Hours” (CBS, 10 p.m.).

Other non-basketball programming on prime time includes the 2011 Vin Diesel movie “Fast Five” (NBC, 8 p.m.) and the Monster Energy Supercross (Fox, 7 p.m.) from Indianapolis.

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Friday TV: Netflix Tries Out ‘Iron Fist’

IronFistTAMaybe it’s time to step back from the proliferating Marvel superheroes. While those themes can still be excitingly done, as is currently the case on “Legion,” the new “Iron Fist” (Netflix, streaming) looks to be a martial arts saga featuring a guy with a glowing fist when needed. Finn Jones stars as the curly haired billionaire Danny Rand, who is returning after having been missing for several years.

A better bet on line may be the Irish drama “Striking Out” (Acorn, streaming) about a woman who calls off her wedding and starts a law practice.

In the new “Julie’s Greenroom” (Netflix, streaming), the former Mary Poppins returns with a children’s focused entertainment show that features Henson puppets and guests like Carol Burnett, Idina Menzel, Alec Baldwin and David Hyde Pierce.

A double murder in Omaha is the focus of a new “Dateline” (NBC, 9 p.m.). At that same hour, a Powerball winner wants to buy a dream home in Nebraska on “My Lottery Dream Home” (HGTV, 9 p.m.).

“Truth and Lies: The Family Manson” (ABC, 9 p.m.) is a two hour documentary on Charlie Manson and his cult, with some updated interviews.

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Thursday TV: Oh, the Madness

Josh HartThe Madness begins in earnest, with much of its interest amplified by the fact so many people are betting on it. There’s no way around it, though, as it eats up one broadcast network’s day and prime time schedule and forces others to finally determine how to find truTV is on the dial.

The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament begins shortly after noon with Notre Dame vs. Princeton (CBS, 12:15 p.m.), Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington (truTV, 12:40 p.m.), Butler vs. Winthrop (TNT, 1:30 p.m.), Gonzaga vs. South Dakota State (TBS, 2 p.m.), West Virginia vs. Bucknell (CBS, 2:45 p.m.), Florida vs. East Tennessee State (truTV, 3:10 p.m.), Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee State (TNT, 4 p.m.), Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt (TBS, 4:30 p.m.), Maryland vs. Xavier (TNT, 6:50 p.m.), Villanova vs. Mount St. Mary’s (CBS, 7:10 p.m.), VCU vs. Saint Mary’s (Calif.) (TBS, 7:20 p.m.), Purdue vs. Vermont (truTV, 7:27 p.m.), Florida State vs. Florida Gulf Coast (TNT, 9:20 p.m.), Virginia Tech vs. Wisconsin (CBS, 9:40 p.m.), Arizona vs. North Dakota (TBS, 9:50 p.m.), Iowa State vs. Nevada (truTV, 9:57 p.m.).

The MTV Woodies (MTV, 11 p.m.) is held once more at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival. Rick Ross hosts, with performances from Desiigner, D.R.A.M., Lil Yachty, Jidenna, Khalid and Starley. And they give some awards away.

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Wednesday TV: ‘Hap and Leonard’ Return

HapAndLeonard“Greenleaf” (OWN, 10 p.m.), the Oprah Winfrey produced soap about a big church family in Memphis,   in which she sometimes appears as a  bartender, returns for a second season. But when it comes to sophomore seasons, I’m much more interested in the return of the bayou bedlam on “Hap and Leonard” (Sundance, 10 p.m.), the underrated series that’s fueled by the personality of its stars James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams. Based on characters from Joe R. Lansdale’s books, season two takes up (and is subtitled after) his second novel Mucho Mojo. Brian Dennehy is part of the case, as are Irma P. Hall, Dohn Norwood, Tiffany Mack and Cranston Johnson. Sadly gone, though: Christina Hendricks’ Trudy.

Another milestone tonight is the last episode ever of “Workaholics” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.). The longest running live action scripted series for the network wraps up after seven seasons and making stars out of Adam Devine if not his compatriots Anders Holm and Blake Anderson. Accordingly, for their final episode, they become party legends when an energy drink company hires them to throw big ragers.

Ending its first season with no where near the success of “Empire,” is “Star” (Fox, 9 p.m.).

But the TV adaptation of “Lethal Weapon” (Fox, 8 p.m.) ends its first season as one of the network’s few success stories.

David goes back to where it all started on “Legion” (FX, 10 p.m.).

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.) looks deeply into the deep state.

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