Monday TV: Murders in a Swedish Cult

The latest true crime documentary is an import. “Pray, Obey, Kill” (HBO, 9 p.m.) is a five-part series about a pair of 2004 Swedish murders in a rural religious compound that gave a police investigator “a Twin Peaks feeling.” Journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson reinvestigate the case with a lot of original source materials, new interviews with compound members, and they even build a little model of the compound. The first two episodes run tonight. 

The case of Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man killed by a Chinese-American police officer, Peter Lang  at a Brooklyn housing project in 2014 is the basis of Ursula Liang’s documentary “Down a Dark Stairwell,” making its debut on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

It follows “Prince Philip: A Royal Life – A PBS NewsHour Special” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings), put to gather after his death last week at 99. 

The imported Chinese movie “New Gods: Nezha Reborn” (Netflix, streaming), from the studio that made “White Snake,” is an animated fantasy, based on the character from the Ming dynasty, but separate from the 2019 movie about the the same hero. 

The third and final season of the drama “Keeping Faith” (Acorn TV, streaming), begins with a pair of episodes. 

“American Idol” (ABC, 8 p.m.) announces the Top 12 while “The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.) continues battle rounds.

A third baby is a possibility on “Breeders” (FX, 10 p.m.).

“The Talk” (CBS, 2 p.m.) returns with a discussion about race and healing after the ouster Sharon Osbourne. 

There’s car troubles in Russia for a time on the “Race to the Center of the Earth” (National Geographic, 10 p.m). 

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Film: Teen’s Afterlife in ‘My True Fairytale’

There is something that makes you pause about a movie called “My True Fairytale.” The oxymoron of the title is stretched even further when you learn it’s about a teen who “becomes a superhero and saves the world” and yet is “inspired by true events.”

What’s true about Dmitry Gelfand’s first feature is that it was inspired by the death of his own 17-year-old daughter in a car crash while recklessly driving a rural road with her friends. While her two friends are pulled from the wreckage (moved from Albany suburb Guilderland to the similar sounding fictional Florida town of Gardenland) the driver Angie is missing.

Where did she go? In Gelfand’s fantasy (he writes and directs under the name D. MItry), she becomes a kind of spirit helper, appearing and disappearing where people — mostly parents she knows — need help to better connect to their kids. So she gets her mopey dad to dress better and go after his beautiful girlfriend (Taylor Cole); gets another pair of parents to accept their daughter’s Black boyfriend, and helps a third parent understand her daughter’s desire to go to college. 

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Sunday TV: Joss Whedon’s ‘The Nevers’

Joss Whedon is behind the fanciful and imaginative new series “The Nevers” (HBO, 9 p.m.), about a Victorian-era home for women with extraordinary abilities, as caused by a strange celestial event. With a cast that includes Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly, some lavish production values and dialog that’s as absorbing as the action, its debut episode makes an impression. Though that’s the case with a lot of HBO series — where it goes from here is the question. (Whedon has already stepped away from the production after a handful of episodes). 

The durable “Shameless” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) about the shambling Gallagher family comes to an end after 11 seasons with likely a typically raucous series finale. 

Lest a weekend go by without a movie awards show, here’s the 2021 BAFTA Awards (BBC America, 9 p.m.) from London. Hosts are Edith Bowman and Dermot O’Leary. Musical guests include Leslie Odom Jr., Corinne Bailey Rae and Celeste.  

Prince Olav and the Norwegian king plan their escape on “Atlantic Crossing” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). 

A new four part documentary series “The People v. The Klan” (CNN, 9 p.m.) tells the story of a Black mother who took down the KKK in Alabama. 

“On Assignment with Richard Engel” (MSNBC, 10 p.m.) recreates and deconstructs the Capitol insurrection. 

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Saturday TV: First of Seven Deadly Sins

Looking for a new series of films to present, Lifetime settled on Victoria Christopher Murray’s books based on the seven deadly sins. The first one up sounds the most randy: “Lust: A Seven Deadly Sins Story” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.). R&B star Keri Hilson stars as a woman tempted by her fiancé’s best friend (Durrell “Tank” Babbs), just out of prison. Things may not heat up all that much, as Dallas megachurch Bishop T.D. Jakes is producing the series. Next up is “Envy” in a week.

In another made-for-TV movie tonight “As Luck Would Have It” (Hallmark, 9 p.m.) is a romance with JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Allen Leech, shot in Ireland.

Prime time NBA with Lakers at Brooklyn (ABC, 7 p.m.) is the only new thing on broadcast TV.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts the special report “The Truth About Vaccines” (CNN, 9 p.m.). 

Last year’s “The New Mutants” (HBO, 8 p.m.) a Marvel project that stars Anya Taylor-Joy of “The Queen’s Ransom” and Maisie Williams of “Game of Thrones” gets its premium cable debut. Speaking of which, the 10th anniversary of the premiere of “Game of Thrones” (HBO2, 10 a.m.) is celebrated with a marathon of the first season all day through 7:30 p.m.

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The Limits of Low Budget ‘In Action’

Eric Silvera and Sean Kenealy have a nice rapport. Which is a good thing, since it’s just about the only quality they can offer in their feature debut “In Action.” Meant to be a kind of takeoff of action film tropes, it is ultimately hogtied by its extreme budgetary and casting restraints. 

Almost as a dare, they are the only ones who appear in what they proudly proclaim is “The World’s First Two-Person Action Movie.” Even when they’re fighting shadowy enemies, we never see their foes, their wives or even the rats we hear squeaking at their feet. 

Shot on a budget about equal to a new Toyota — a Kickstarter campaign raised $22,730 from 300 backers — they used just two locations. It started to look like an empty-stage one man theater show after a while. Except there were two of them. Bantering back and forth all the time.

There is an idea at the center of all this. Silvera and Kinealy play a couple of former writer partners who bitterly split five years earlier. They meet again at the wedding of  the least talented member of their screenwriting class who nonetheless scored a number of big hits (Needless to say we never see that dude either).

Each one has a different life by now — one is a New York City ad man, the other a stay at home dad in Virginia — so they agree to rekindle their writing efforts via email. Eventually they hit upon a story involving terrorist attack at the wedding of the President’s daughter, since a similar event was in the news.

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Friday TV: New Horror Anthology ‘Them’

Like the 1954 film with the same name (but with an exclamation point), the new series “Them” (Amazon Prime, streaming) is broadly speaking of the horror genre. As such it has such familiar elements as a scary basement, and a weird witch-like visitor. But the true horror of the story of a Black family that moves from North Carolina to Los Angeles all-white East Compton in the 1950s is the racism they face from their white neighbors. It’s got lavish production values and a solid cast and an underlying ugliness to the white supremacy that overwhelms other scare factors. It’s from a creator named Little Marvin and produced by Lena Waithe. 

Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer team up as a pair of superheroes in the comedy “Thunder Force” (Netflix, streaming), a new film that also features Jason Bateman and Bobby Cannavale.

The supernatural Western “Wynonna Earp” (Syfy, 10 p.m.) ends its run after four seasons.

Ken Burns dominated most of public television this week with his Hemingway series; tonight comes his brother Ric Burns look at the bestselling neurologist Oliver Sacks on a new “American Masters” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings).

The South Korean import “Night in Paradise” (Netflix, streaming) about a man fleeing mobsters who ends up on an island where he meets a terminally ill woman.

The latest serial killer to be commemorated in a documentary is “Ed Gein: The Real Psycho” (Discovery+, streaming). It joins such programs as “John Wayne Gacy: The Smell of Death 100 Special” (Oxygen, 8 p.m.), and “The BTK Serial Killer 100 Special” (Oxygen, 9 p.m.). 

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Film: ‘Transference – A Love Story’

At a North London hospital, two nurses hook up. She’s a young and cheerful import from Norway, who is rattled by the sudden death of a patient. He’s an Italian who’s older and broody, his grizzled beard going grey. Full of mystery, he also rides a motorcycle. When she finally accepts a ride with him, he suggests she just keep the helmet he lent her, indicating a future of nocturnal journeys.

There is a naturalism behind the budding workplace romance of Katerina and Nik in the feature “Transference: A Love Story,” but it withholds information just the way the enigmatic suitor does. That’s realistic too; life holds innumerable mysteries. Still, you’d think she’d Google him or otherwise try to find more information about him as their connection deepens.

What she learns of what he didn’t tell her is common as well, probably more common than we think. I think I’ll withhold the information as well to allow you the same mystery and discovery (though the film’s materials and the unnecessarily scientific title are glad to spill — though it’s not clear the title’s psychological term is even the correct diagnosis here).  

The Norwegian actress Emilie Sofie Johannesen is charming and incandescent in the lea role as Katerina, a young woman who journals (and sometimes narrates) and turns theorems of physics through her mind and harbors hopes of travel. Her curiosity and empathetic emotional response are apparent in every expression. I’m not sure what she sees in Nik, though. While being consoling in one scene, he’s otherwise standoffish and initially rebuffs her advances. 

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Thursday TV: Erin Brockovich as a Series

Katey Segal stars in the new series “Rebel” (ABC, 10 p.m.) as a social advocate modeled after the real life Erin Brockovich (whose story of course was already made into a movie). John Corbett, Andy Garcia and James Lesure also star. 

“Exterminate All the Brutes” (HBO, 9 p.m.) concludes with a pair of episodes that touch on war crimes and genocide worldwide. 

A yakuza is domesticated in the new Japanese comedy “The Way of the Househusband” (Netflix, streaming), based on the manga.

In the new series “Chef Boot Camp” (Food, 10 p.m.), chefs from struggling restaurants compete to show they deserve to keep afloat. 

The second season begins the the comedy “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” (Freeform, 10 p.m.) with Josh Thomas. 

The cop comedy “No Activity” (Paramount+, streaming) returns for its fourth season with an all-animated version, using the voices (and likenesses) of cast members Tim Meadows, Patrick Brammall Jason Mantzoukas, Bob Odenkirk and Amy Sedaris for a claymation-like approach.

Mariska Hargitay is still hanging around on the new “Law & Order: Organized Crime” (NBC, 10 p.m.). 

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Wednesday TV: Colonization’s Brutality

The Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck follows up his James Baldwin bio film “I Am Not Your Negro” with a wide-ranging, serious and powerful look at colonialism and slavery in “Exterminate All the Brutes” (HBO, 9 p.m.) that’s quite different from any other filmed history before it. He relies plenty on works by the scholars Sven Lindqvist, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, but also staged reenactments of conflict as well as home movies from his own upbringing. The first two chapters run tonight; the concluding two on Thursday. 

Good to have Topher Grace back in a sitcom. This time it’s “Home Economics” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) when he reunites with a brother and sister at different places economically. Not sure how much mileage they can get from this premise, but seems OK in the meantime. Jimmy Tatro and Caitlin McGee costar. 

The latest new series with a strangely familiar title is “Kung Fu” (CW, 8 p.m.), which stars Nicky Shen as a Chinese-American woman who trains for three years in a Shaolin monastery before returning to San Francisco helping to protect her family and community from a corrupting force. It’s yet another series from Greg Berlanti, but it’s full of action, gives Asian Americans a showcase at a time they need it and ultimately more entertaining than, say, the “Mulan” remake was.  

Taped in the prepandemic days of 2019, “Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute” (Netflix, streaming) features performances from Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, Kacey Musgraves, Shawn Mendes, Brandi Carlile, Katy Perry, Jennifer Nettles, Yolanda Adams, Leon Bridges, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town as well as Dolly herself.

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Tuesday TV: Nasim Pedrad is ‘Chad’

Funny women playing nerdy teenage boys is something of a trend. Following the two woman leading the cast of “Pen15,” here’s Nasim Pedrad as “Chad” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.), a Persian boy in his first year of high school. The talented former “SNL” star also wrote, produced and was showrunner for the new comedy. 

The second two hours of “Hemingway” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) covers his relationship with bullfighting, his third wife Martha Gelhorn (voiced by Meryl Streep), the Spanish Civil War, World War II and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The series concludes Wednesday.

“Soul of a Nation” (ABC, 10 p.m.) ends its brief run. 

Randall seeks out a new kind of support network on “This is Us” (NBC, 9 p.m.).

On “NCIS” (CBS, 9 p.m.), a Covid compliance unit links to a murder case. 

The nine remaining grooming teams on “Pooch Perfect” (ABC, 8 p.m.) turn dogs into geometric shapes, which seems kind of cruel. 

“The Flash” (CW, 8 p.m.) gets stuck in a time loop back in 1998. 

Mom comes to visit “Kenan” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.).

“Supergirl” (CW, 9 p.m.) faces a new challenge.

Alicia buys a new Louis Vuitton bag on “Mixed-ish” (ABC, 9:30 p.m.). 

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