Wednesday TV: Man and Mountain Lion

Mountain LionMontana wildlife photographer Casey Anderson has seen a lot of animals near his home in Paradise Valley, close to Yellowstone. But he was particularly excited about getting so close to an elusive mountain lion he gave her a name, Mama Mo and began tracking her life with her three cubs, using all the latest high tech cameras. The result is the documentary “The Mountain Lion and Me” (Smithsonian, 8 p.m.).

The filmmaker’s six episode web series also starts today, “Casey Anderson’s Wild Tracks” (

The journey into the past continues on “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX, 10 p.m.) so we see the designer’s beginnings as well as a young Andrew Cunanan.

“Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.) has been doing pretty good in the ratings, for a show in its 36th season.

A new “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.) has a lot of ground to cover.

Benji makes a music video on “Alone Together” (Freeform, 8:30 p.m.).

The INS checks the legitimacy of Stella’s marriage to Wes on “Life Sentence” (The CW, 9 p.m.).

Tecumseh and Lewis & Clark get the spotlight on “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen” (History, 9 p.m.).

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‘Friday Night Lights’ Starts Singing

riseNBC’s new prestige show “Rise” (NBC, 10 p.m.), about the establishment of a musical theater program in a rural Pennsylvania high school, may remind some of a rural “Glee,” but it’s also grounded in the midwest ethos of a previous show by one of its executive producers, Jason Katims, “Friday Night Lights.”

“What I love about this show is as much as it’s about high school theater, it’s also about the football team,” Katims told reporters at the TV Critics Association winter press tour in January. “I love the idea of striking the balance between the two of them.”

Josh Radnor, formerly of “How I Met Your Mother,” stars as a teacher who tries to stage a production of “Spring Awakening” at a steel town’s struggling high school theater department.

Katims said he wanted to do the story, based on the book Drama High by Michael Sokolove, in part because of the connection to “Friday Night Lights” in the way they were “telling the story about this small town and making it feel very authentic.

“And while it had this engine of the musical theater and we got to follow that, we also could go into the lives in this blue collar town in Pennsylvania and follow their relationships and family stories and the story of that community, and I was very drawn to that.”

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Also on Tuesday: Young Legal Drama

SUSANNAH FLOOD, BEN RAPPAPORT, REGE-JEAN PAGE, VONDIE CURTIS-HALLAs a non-Shondaland enthusiast, I was surprised how much I didn’t mind “For the People” (ABC, 10 p.m.), its new legal series. Perhaps because the pilot is the first day of work for the very young prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Southern District of New York Federal Court — and before the procedural settles into a three-cases-a-week routine.

But a lot of these shows, dating back to “Grey’s Anatomy,” are rooted in casting, and this one has a good bunch of fresh faces including Jasmin Savoy Brown (all grown up from “The Leftovers”), Susannah Flood, Britt Robertson, Wesam Keesh and Regé-Jean Page. But there are some formidable ones on the sidelines including Hope Davis, Anna Deavere Smith and Ben Shenkman.

The Madness begins with what used to be called play-in games. Now they’re calling them the First Four: Redford vs. LIU-Brooklyn (truTV, 6:40 p.m.) and St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA (truTV, 9:10 p.m.).

I wish he’d devise a new comedy series, but in the mean time here’s a new standup comedy special, “Ricky Gervais: Humanity” (Netflix, streaming)

There are also two new Japanese imports on the service today: The manga series “Children of the Whales” (Netflix, streaming) and the reality series “Terrace House: Opening New Doors” (Netflix, streaming).

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Monday TV: ‘Jane’ Goodall in the Wild

jane-goodall-documentary-jane-national-geographicJane Goodall was sent to Tanzania to study chimpanzees at 26 in part because she had no scientific background and thus no preconceived notions. She was able to get close to the animals and observe how much closer they were to humans than previously thought (they used tools, she discovered).

Her solitary life in the wild changed when National Geographic send a photographer, Hugo van Hawick, whom she later married and whose found footage provides much of imagery of “Jane” (National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, 8 p.m.), a film by Brett Morgen that is narrated by the naturalist, now an octogenarian and still an activist. The stirring images of Africa are matched by a score by Philip Glass.

A second season starts for “Mary Kills People” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.) with Des rejoining Mary after getting out of prison.

Suddenly, there’s so much singing — two hours of “American Idol” (ABC, 8 p.m.) opposite two hours of “The Voice” (8 p.m.).

Adam attempts to organize a birthday party on “Man With a Plan” (CBS, 8:30 p.m.).

“Living Biblically” (CBS, 9:30 p.m.) considers loving thy neighbor.

The life of a superstar singer is threatened on “Lucifer” (Fox, 8 p.m.).

There’s a disagreement over cancer treatment on “The Resident” (Fox, 9 p.m.). There is also a disagreement on how to proceed on “The Good Doctor” (ABC, 10 p.m.).

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New Judges, Network for ‘American Idol’

IMG_5050In its incessant promos, the rebooted American Idol has already indicated which direction it will be going, when it returns tonight after a two year absence on a new network, ABC.

It’s all those back stories about singers doing it for their family, or taking their last shot, or telling their grandma they’re going to Hollywood.

All these hopes and dreams of young singers, who still think TV talent shows are the road to stardom — though the last several seasons of Idol and just about all of The Voice has failed to produce a chart topper.

The days of dwelling on the truly bad singers or the hair-trigger personalities who cry and curse after being rejected at auditions are gone. None of the judges are sharpening their cruelty to demolish the most misguided, as Simon Cowell famously did, helping bring a whole generation of these types of shows to TV internationally.

In the manner of the final seasons of Idol, these judges are both big names and Very Nice People, who are encouraging cheerleaders who share tears of joy with the young hopefuls.

Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan are filling the seats once held by a line of entertainers who obscured the contestants — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr., Steven Tyler, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey among them, after Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul handled the first hit seasons.

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Also on Sunday Dim New ‘Deception’

imageA particularly dumb caper police drama is the new “Deception” (ABC, 10 p.m.) in which an illusionist volunteers to help solve crimes. Presumably, he’ll cut bad guys in half. The problem premise is compounded by the annoying performance of Jack Cutmore-Scott as the magician (which, come to think of it, may be called for in that profession). His FBI enabler, played by Ilfenesh Hanera is much better, possibly by comparison. But why would she allow him near crime scenes in the first place?

DJ Khaled and Hailey Baldwin host the “iHeartRadio Music Awards” (TBS, TNT, truTV, 8 p.m.) live from the Forum in Los Angeles, with performances from Eminem, Cardi B, Maroon 5, Bon Jovi, Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth and Camila Cabello, among others.

It was 12 years ago when Judith Regan tricked O.J. Simpson into saying he murdered his ex wife for a book and TV project so fraudulent it was never aired (though the eventual book became a brief bestseller). Now the fake news world is such that a special like that, once called TV’s all time low, is perfectly fine for prime time Sunday viewing. So here’s “O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?” (Fox, 8 p.m.) for an exploitive two hours. It’s as if Fox is kissing off “American Idol” (ABC, 8 p.m.) which premieres tonight on what’s being called “America’s network,” with a return to its lowball days as the network of “Celebrity Boxing,” “When Animals Attack” and “The Swan.”

And here’s some fake sports: “American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. the World” (NBC, 7 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: Pre-Madness Championships

champ2The brackets of March Madness have their start in what happens this weekend, on championship week of men’s college basketball.

It all starts early with UMBC vs. Vermont (ESPN2, 11 a.m.) in the America East championship, followed by Cornell vs. Harvard (ESPNU, 12:30 p.m.) and Yale vs. Pennsylvania (ESPN2, 3 p.m.) in the Ivy League semifinals; Memphis vs. Cincinnati (CBS, 1 p.m.) and Wichita State vs. Houston (CBS, 3:30 p.m.) in the AAC semifinals; Alabama vs. Kentucky (ESPN, 1 p.m.) and Tennessee vs. Arkansas (ESPN, 3 p.m.) in the SEC semifinals; Hampton vs. North Carolina Central (ESPN, 1 p.m.) for the MEAC championship; Saint Joseph’s vs. Rhode Island (CBS Sports, 1 p.m.) and St. Bonaventure vs. Davidson (CBS Sports, 3:30 p.m.) in the Atlantic 10 semifinals; San Diego State vs. New Mexico (CBS, 6 p.m.) in the Mountain West championship; Kansas vs. West Virginia (ESPN, 6 p.m.) in the Big 12 championship; Providence vs. Villanova (Fox, 6:30 p.m.) in the Big East championship; Toledo vs. Buffalo (ESPN2, 7 p.m.) for the MAC championship; Montana vs. Eastern Washington (ESPNU, 8 p.m.) for the Big Sky championship; Marshall vs. Western Kentucky (CBS Sports, 8:30 p.m.) for the Conference USA championship; Virginia vs. North Carolina (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) for the ACC championship; Stephen F. Austin vs. SE Louisiana (ESPN2, 9 p.m.) for the Southland championship; Grand Canyon vs. New Mexico State (ESPNU, 10 p.m.) for the WAC championship; USC vs. Arizona (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m.) for the Pac-12 championship; and Cal State Fullerton vs. UC Irvine (ESPN2, midnight) for the Big West championship.

Gary Oldman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the guy, but Brian Cox also played “Churchill” (Starz, 8 p.m.) in a film last year making its premium cable debut.

Also new to cable tonight are “My Cousin Rachel” (HBO, 8 p.m.), a romantic drama with Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, and “Patriots Day” (Showtime, 8 p.m.), the drama about the Boston Marathon bombing starring Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and J.K. Simmons.

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Survey of American Music in Drag

EAG-L-MAC-1.jpgThe Kennedy Center kicked off its multidisciplinary contemporary cultural assault with something thought to embody the approach, Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (1776-2016).”

Had the cabaret history in drag been presented in its original form — a single, 24-hour concert with 246 songs — it certainly would have been the kind of audacious exclamation mark it was intended to be.

Instead, the traveling “abridged” version was just a glimpse – 15 songs over two hours nearly obscured by spectacle.

It began with Mac stomping down the aisle in three-inch platform heels, glittery wings and a Liberty Coin headdress reading “In Goddess We Trust.” (Costumes are by Machine Dazzle, who appeared on stage as well in some sort of pink bondage wear).

In a performance aggressive in its overuse of audience participation, he picked some poor woman out of the audience even before he got up to the stage (she wanted to escape almost immediately, but was prevented from doing so).

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Friday TV: ‘Collateral’ Amid New Streaming

collateralStreaming services dump a whole lot more programming again this Friday. Chief among them is the new four part British import “Collateral” (Netflix, streaming), Carey Mulligan plays a London detective inspector who uncovers a drug conspiracy while investigating the murder of a pizza silvery man. Jeany Spark, John Simm and Haley Squires also star in the drama from David Hare.

Amateur bakers compete on “Nailed It” (Netflix, streaming), a new show hosted by chef Jacques Torres and comedian Nicole Byer.

A different kind of music competition is found on “The Remix” (Amazon, streaming) a South Asian flavored show in which singers and DJs give new spins on Bollywood numbers. Sunidhi Shauhan, Amit Trivedi and Nucleya are judges; Karan Tacker hosts.

Jered Leto stars in a Japanese yakuza film “The Outsider” (Netflix, streaming) about an American POW in Japan who joins organized crime.

Another show that looks good but I haven’t had time for yet is “Sneaky Pete” (Amazon, streaming), which stars Giovanni Ribisi as a con man with an assumed identity, which is already starting its second season, in which Margo Martindale plays a large role.

What I’m really interested in is the third and final season of “Love” (Netflix, streaming) in which Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs’ characters Gus and Mickey figure out whether they can last as a couple.

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Thursday TV: Mindy’s New ‘Champions’

mindy-kaling-championsMindy Kaling isn’t in the new network sitcom she co-created,  “Champions” (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) nearly enough. She appears as an ex of a clueless gym rat played by Anders Holm of “Workaholics,”  bringing the kid they had 15 years earlier for him to raise. Newcomer J.J. Totah plays the gay kid as a mini-Mindy — brimming with cutting asides and pop references, as he tries to settle into a new hyper-male surroundings (and broadcast TV for that matter). Fortune Feimster and Andy Favreau also pop up.

It seems like a long tine since the first season of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix, streaming). Krysten Ritter returns finally in season two today, reviving her dark detective character after season one’s seemingly climactic triumph in a set of episodes entirely directed (and largely written) by women.

International Women’s Day is marked by the documentary “Ladies First” (Netflix, streaming) about a poor rural girl who decided to become one of the world’s great archers as a teenager. Deepika Kumari, now 23, has appeared in two different Olympics so far.

As a rapper of middling fame, Brian Tyree Henry’s Big Boi is at least treated with some respect when he’s robbed on tonight’s episode of “Atlanta” (FX, 10 p.m.).

On the new “Truck Night in America” (History, 10 p.m.), truckers compete on an obstacle course for a cash prize. And then read about history, presumably.

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