Saturday TV: Reliving a Different Time

ObamaPartyIn a weekend with the former First Couple back in the news, it’s a good time to relive the past with “BET Presents Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration” (BET, 10 p.m.), which first aired in a much different world, just two years ago. Recorded on the White House South Lawn on Oct. 26, 2016,  it features Jill Scott, Common, Usher, Bell Biv DeVoe, The Roots, Janelle Monaé, De La Soul, Yolanda Adams, Michelle Williams, Kierra Sheard and Leslie Odom Jr. Terrence J and Regina Hall host. Speakers include Angela Bassett, Bradley Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie Williams.

College football clogs prime time again for Saturday night with Florida State at Notre Dame (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), Texas at Texas Tech (Fox, 7:30 p.m.) and Clemson at Boston College (ABC, 8 p.m.).

Greg Berlanti’s feature “Love, Simon” (HBO, 8 p.m.), with Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford and Jennifer Garner, makes its premium cable debut.

The latest way-too-early Yule film at least has a cute title: “It’s Christmas, Eve” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) in which LeAnn Rimes stars as a school superintendent who meets a widower music teacher (Tyler Hynes) and his daughter.

Other too early fare includes “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (Freeform, 7:35 p.m.) and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (9:15 p.m.).

You’re probably wondering what “Truck Night in America” (History, 8 p.m.) has to do with history. “Truck Hunters” (History, 9 p.m.) may find out. But at least “Born Tough: Inside the Ford Factory” (History, 10 p.m.) has the whif of documentary history.

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Friday TV: Welcome Return for ‘Patriot’

patriot-season-2-Some TV series come with enough reset in new seasons to allow new viewers. That is not the case with “Patriot” (Amazon, streaming), the sly and engaging spy series set in Milwaukee, Luxembourg and now, Paris, with enough quirky characters to populate a Wes Anderson film.

It’s was one of my favorite unsung series of the past couple of years for its single season in 2016, but it returns for season two today precisely where it left off, on the same unfinished caper, which involves a missing bag of 11 million Euros in the possession most recently of a wayward police detective (Alienate Opheim) en route to France.

It’s up to the reluctant agent and terrible pipe representative John Lakeman to get it back, egged on by his CIA dad, played by Terry O’Quinn, the most familiar face in the caper (at least until Debra Winger shows up). But Lakeman, dubbed the Sad Man by the little girl mixed up in all of this, would rather be a folk singer (and one of his flaws is that he spills details of his cases in such songs). Music for the show this season is again highlighted by gems from the Kinks and Françios Hardy — and the theme song is the Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot.” But, sorry to say, in order to get on this very entertaining train, you’ll have to start with season one.

It accompanies another series of intrigue set in Europe, the German import “Beat” (Amazon, streaming), a techno-infused crime drama about the Berlin club scene, from filmmaker Marco Kreuzpainter.

Chris Pine plays 14th Century Scottish king Robert the Bruce in “Outlaw King” (Netflix, streaming), a new film recounting the First War of Scottish Independence also features Florence Pugh. David Mackenzie directs.

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Thursday TV: Healing PTSD with Poetry

cq5dam.web.1200.675-5Veteran’s Day weekend kicks off early with the documentary “We Are Not Done Yet” (HBO, 8 p.m.) about the process of a poetry workshop among 10 veterans struggling with PTSD. Its eventual performances are directed by “Westworld” actor Jeffrey Wright, who also produced the film, directed by Sareen Hairabedian.

Another documentary, “Give Us This Day” (DirecTV, 10 p.m.) looks at a year in the city with the nation’s highest murder rate, East St. Louis, Ill.

The rise of women in Congress has yet to be matched by women in comedy, but it’s rising with the third season premiere of the Canadian import “Baroneess Von Sketch Show” (IFC, 9 p.m.), featuring a quartet of talented women.

Turner Classic Movies’ focus on early women filmmakers winds up with the 100-year-old films “Broadway Love” (8 p.m.) from director Ida May Park and “The Dream Lady” (9:15 p.m.) from Elsie Jane Wilson. They are followed by Nell Shipman’s 1920 “Something New” (10:15 p.m.), the stylish 1923  “Salome” (midnight), co-written (with Oscar Wilde) by Natacha Rambova, and produced by its star Alla Nazimova. Lita Lawrence’s 1928 “Motherhood: Life’s Greatest Miracle” (1:30 a.m.) is perhaps the earliest surviving feature film directed by an African-American woman. Things weren’t completely enlightened, though — for the 1929 “Linda” (2:45 a.m.), the director is listed as “Mrs. Wallace Reid.”

Jenna Coleman doffs the queenly crown to star as a young mother who has lost her baby in the four-part thriller “The Cry” (Sundance Now, streaming), that also stars Ewen Leslie and is based on Helen FitzGerald’s novel.

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Wednesday TV: British Import ‘Clique’

clique-Aisling Franciosi, who played Lyanna Stark in “Game of Thrones,” stars in a new six-part thriller “Clique” (Pop, 8 p.m.) as a college student who with her friend (Synnove Karlsen) start interning at a hard-partying, corrupt and ultimately mysterious corporation run by their economics professor. From the creators of “Skins,” the six-episode British import looks like an intriguing and succinct diversion.

Discover the world’s longest mountain chain on the new “The Wild Andes: Patagonia Untamed” (Smithsonian, 8 p.m.).

The merge finally occurs on “Survivor” (CBS,8 p.m.).

A special “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.) looks at election results.

The gang on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FXX, 10 p.m.) tries to get into the Gay Pride Parade on the season finale.

Cam wants a chicken on “Modern Family” (ABC, 9 p.m.).

“Nova” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) looks for a B-24 bomber that had been crashed into the Adriatic Sea.

Adam’s obsession with toys is concerning on “The Goldbergs” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

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Another Final Show of ‘Pet Sounds’

IMG_6337It’s been two years since Brian Wilson’s 50th anniversary tour of the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” started doing their “final performances” across the states and around the world. But the masterpiece of rock expression has never worn out its welcome.

Another one of the so-called “final performances” came Monday at the Kennedy Center, this one not only enhanced by the acoustics and decor of the Concert Hall, but with added strings and horns from the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra (the ones who weren’t being used next door at “Anastasia” presumably).

It gave another dimension to parts of the work, which had already been pretty well handled by the 10 piece band who had figured out ways to perform all of the xylophones, bass harmonicas, flutes, clarinets, banjos, theremin and electric guitar that the endlessly innovative work required.

Violins added an extra emotional tug to “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder),” the horns amping up an additional urgency in “Here Today.” Both pushed the existing, somewhat surprising emotional wallop further.

It wasn’t just the nostalgia of the sweet hopeful naiveté of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” it was hearing Wilson, at 76, starting these songs in his own voice with lines that maybe ring more true for him at the end of his life than they did at the beginning, singing “I know perfectly well I’m not where I should be” in “You Still Believe in Me” (whose title, on the part of the audience, was also still true). Or mournfully singing, “I keep looking for a place to fit in” at the start of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.”

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Tuesday TV: Election Results, Lots of Them

ELECTION SETBesides helping set the direction for the country, your vote today will be counted on in the myriad of election result programming planned tonight.

While in the past midterms generally only got an hour of prime time coverage, if that, all three networks are going wall to wall tonight with three hours of returns and reporting.  “Campaign 2018” (CBS, 8 p.m.) is helmed by Norah O’Donnell, Jeff Glor and Gayle King; “The Vote: America’s Future” (NBC, 8 p.m.) has Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd. And “2018 Midterm Election” (ABC, 8 p.m.), will be anchored by George Stephanopoulos, David Mure and Martha Raddatz. In addition, NBC is already pre-empting “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” to report late returns into the wee hours.

“NewsHour Election Night Coverage 2018” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), with Judy Woodruff, David Shields and David Brooks, is going straight to midnight — with no commercials. Of course, there will be constant coverage on cable news network, with dedicated results shows starting as early as 5 p.m. on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and John King at the big board. At 6 p.m. on Fox News, it’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, with Bill Hemmer at its big board. Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams anchor the coverage on MSNBC at 6 with the over-caffeinated Steve Kornacki at his big board. CSPAN coverage begins at 8 p.m.

Later, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.) goes live with a half hour special called “Democalypse 2018: Let’s Try This Again America.”

Having nothing to do with the elections (directly) is the first season finale of “The Purge” (USA, 10 p.m.). Late today, it was renewed for a second season.

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Elvis Costello Does DAR Constitution Hall

IMG_6329Normally super-prolific, Elvis Costello went five years between new albums recently, going so far as to tour an old album, “Imperial Bedroom” last year rather than release a new set of songs.

But a memoir, a health scare and that tour with the Imposters reminded how much he liked performing with the snap of Pete Thomas’ drums, the baroque inventiveness of keyboardist Steve Nieve and the bounce of Davey Faragher. He released the new “Look Now,” his first album with the Imposters in 10 years, last month, and was kicking off his tour to support the album last weekend, with his third stop at the staid DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Sunday.

The Imposters are pretty much the Attractions with a switch in bassists from Bruce Thomas to Faragher, so there was a great opportunity to play the snarling tracks of his early years along with the quieter, generally more pop approach of his new work.

He pointed to each Imposter as the bracing opening song featured each of them in turn – drums to bass to organ on “This Year’s Girl,” a song that felt utterly contemporary, in part because it’s been the theme song to this season’s “The Deuce” on HBO (which coincidentally was having its finale that night).

Looking sharp in black suit, tie and shirt and brandishing his electric guitar, the four were accompanied by the background singers from the last tour, Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee, who were left to mostly go-go dance in knee high boots to the oldest songs since they largely featured no background parts.

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Monday TV: Truth, Reconciliation in Maine

DawnlandThe forced separation of Native American children from their families in the 20th century led to an attempt at healing in a government run truth and reconciliation commission in Maine set up to investigate the state’s child welfare system for Native Americans. It’s chronicled in the documentary “Dawnland” on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

Another documentary tonight, Daniel McCabe’s “This is Congo” (Starz, 9 p.m.) looks at the Democratic Republic of Congo through the eyes of four citizens.

At a time when racism in political ads and immigration frenzy has reached its heights here’s “John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons” (Netflix, streaming), a filmed version of his Tony-nominated one man show.

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.) runs on a special night this week, in order to encourage voting on Tuesday (another new show surveys the results Wednesday).

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‘Anastasia’ Musical at the Kennedy Center

ANastasiaSo many Romanovs these days!

There’s Matthew Weiner’s Amazon series in which various supposed survivors of the doomed royal line emerges in modern day, with a new episode every Friday. And now there’s “Anastasia,” the popular musical that was just installed for a month-long run at the Kennedy Center.

It’s based on the 1997 animated feature and particularly its score that included an Oscar nominated song. The feature represented the high water point of Bluth Animation, the studio behind “An American Tail” and “The Land Before Time” but followed the Disney code so closely that many people still think it’s a Disney film (even the show’s logo is in a Disney-familiar typeface and has most of the letters of “Fantasia”).

At any rate, the project certainly followed the Disney repurposing model in that it turned an animated feature into a stage musical (its plot had already been the basis of a 1955 stage play and the 1956 film with Ingrid Bergman and Helen Hayes). “Anastasia” involves the wholly fictional story of an amnesiac who was youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II in Russia, who supposedly escaped the famous family slaughter of 1918 and as an amnesiac a decade later, seeks out her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess in Paris, encouraged by a couple of con men who are seeking the vast inheritance reward.

The link between grandmother and granddaughter is a music box she gives the little one before the dowager goes off to Paris. Its haunting melody and subsequent song “Once Upon a December,” infiltrates the musical the same way it did in the cartoon. And its melody keeps coming back and back and back, even when there are 16 new songs in addition to a half dozen from the original. It comes back even when they’re at the ballet otherwise doing the briefest bit of Tchaikovsky’s “Black Swan.”

It’s a long night and a long story. But as presented by the national touring company in Washington, it moves along mostly on changing sets and canny projections by Aaron Rhyne — the one aspect of the musical that won Tony Awards in the show’s Broadway run last year. There’s not just the smoke rising from the St. Petersburg setting, but moving landscapes from the train, a high hilltop revealing Paris at the end of act one. Even the falling snow in mother Russia which would ordinarily be theatrical flakes are quite naturally done on the projections.

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Sunday TV: Mickey Mouse, Nonagenarian

MICKEY MOUSEI’m quite sure they’re going to mess up “Mickey’s 90th Spectacular” (ABC, 8 p.m.), bringing in a bunch of no-name current celebs from Meghan Trainor and Zac Brown and Tori Kelly to send their wishes from various red carpets, and an indistinct theme park puppet waving back, removing the image of the spirited rodent of yore, when he was a carefree rogue and not a staid corporate figurehead.

Speaking of which “Our Cartoon President” (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.) has an election eve special.

“Outlander” (Starz, 8 p.m.) returns for its fourth season, with Claire and Jamie finding a home in Colonial America.

A solid season of “The Deuce” (HBO, 9 p.m.) comes to an end with the premiere of Candy’s “Red Hot.”

With reports that its nightly newscast from Vice may be on the outs, here’s another venture with an online news organization, “Axios” (HBO, 6:30 p.m.), a limited four-episode series meant to make sense of individual stories. It begins with an interview with President in which he floats the idea of undoing birthright citizenship. At least there is some push back from the interviewers.

Andrew Lincoln’s Rick walks away from “The Walking Dead” (AMC, 9 p.m.), a moment canonized on “Talking Dead” (AMC, 10 p.m.).

Hailee Stanfeld hosts the 2018 MTV European Music Awards (MTV, 7 p.m.) from Bilbao, Spain. Janet Jackson gets its Global Icon Award. Also set to appear: Nicki Minaj, Halsey and Rosalia.

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