Friday TV: The Turbulence of Cary Grant

Becoming-Cary-Grant-620x457He was one of Hollywood’s smoothest stars. Yet that was all a facade, Cary Grant maintains, hiding a turmoil inside that he treated with therapy and eventually repeated doses LSD. Mark Sidel’s film “Becoming Cary Grant” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) forms a more complete picture of the popular actor by using some of the actor’s personal home movies, as well as his personal writings from an unpublished autobiography that are read by Jonathan Pryce.

Taking up after the mayhem that ended season four, the entirety of this season of “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix, streaming) concerns a four day prison riot. It’s an experiment by creator Jenji Cohan that brings more drama than comedy, but one that is particularly well suited for the singular viewing experience of binging. By now, the series is so solid it can withstand such an interesting turn.

Hubbub over the host of “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO, 10 p.m.) offhandedly (and ill-advisedly) dropping the n-word last week meant Sen. Al Franken dropped out of tonight’s show. His replacement: Michael Eric Dyson, as well as David Gregory, Ice Cube, David Jolly and Symone Sanders.

Game 4 of the NBA Finals has Cleveland at Golden State (ABC, 9 p.m.). The Warriors, unbeaten so far this playoff season, could win it all tonight. Before tipoff, “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night” (ABC, 8 p.m.) welcomes Owen Wilson.

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Thursday: Comey and Tragedy

james+comey+fbi+mgnOne thing TV has over most other modern communication is its ability to share history as it occurs. It happened in the Watergate Hearings 44 years ago, and it may happen again today with James Comey’s Testimony Before Congress (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN, Fox News, 10 a.m.). Already the opening statement by the fired FBI Director clearly makes the case for White House obstruction of justice. Still, the way things have been going, the give and take may not go further than that.  At least today’s event will stop CNN from using that darn countdown clock.

A second season starts for another one of those sleeper summer cable series that’s actually pretty good, “Queen of the South” (USA, 10 p.m.), about a tough drug kingpin who is actually a queen.

The new “American Boyband” (Viceland, 10:30 p.m.) follows the first tour of the group Brockhampton produced by hip hop artist Kevin Abstract

The new crime series “Sin City Justice” (Investigation Discovery, 10 p.m.) follows the work of a district attorney in Clark County, Nev.

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Wednesday TV: Deacon Hosts CMT Awards

Miranda-Lambert--2017-CMT-Music-Awards-rehearsals--04-662x875Things get meta on this year’s CMT Music Awards (CMT, 8 p.m.) as its host is Charles Esten, who is known for portraying Deacon on a fictional show about country music, “Nashville,” that runs on the network throwing the event.

Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Brett Eldridge and Thomas Rhett are among the performers. Kelsea Ballerini will sing her new single. and there will be a bunch of collaborations, some — Keith Urban and Carrie Urban — making more sense than others: Lady Antebellum with Earth, Wind & Fire? The Chainsmokers with Florida Georgia Line? Luke Bryan with Jason Derulo? Peter Frampton and the Brothers Osbourne?

Ballerini, Urban and Rhett are tied for the most nominations with four each; Underwood has three.

And there will be a salute to Gregg Allman from Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker and Charles Kelley.

It’s Golden State at Cleveland (ABC, 9 p.m.) for game three of the NBA Finals. Before hand “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Noght” (ABC, 8 p.m.) hosts Will Ferrell.

A second season starts for Ali Wentworth’s series about behind the scenes of a talk show. The reason you may not have seen “Nightcap” (Pop, 8 and 8:30 p.m.) is because they show two episodes at a time and before you know it the season is over. Julianna Marguiles and Alec Baldwin are guests.

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Other Things I’ve Written Lately


  • A story for about the German artist who is finally getting his first U.S. museum showcase in two concurrent shows in D.C.
  • An overview of Donald Sultan’s chilling Disaster Paintings, collected in an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.
  • A review of a play based on the work of Oliver Sacks at Spooky Action Theatre.
  • A centenary look at the life of JFK in a Portrait Gallery photo exhibition for SmithsonianMagazine.
  • A notice about a timely play on the American health care system and its effect on doctors, as staged at Taffety Punk.
  • A story about a home grown rock fest the basement of an Adams Morgan bar.
  • A longer interview with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders that appeared on
  • A thing about artists and their cats for Smithsonian Magazine.
  • A piece about a show of Latin-American photographers in the last few decades titled “Down These Mean Streets.”
  • A story about a National Portrait Gallery exhibit on contemporary soldiers with contributions from a number of artists.
  • Review of the intriguing new play “Forgotten Kingdoms” from the Rorschach Theatre Company.
  • The 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I was cause for Smithsonian American History Museum to bring out Gen. John J. Pershing’s war room. A piece about that.
  • Speaking of WWI, some examples of art in the field, and art by soldiers found underground years later, in an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum.
  • These reviews have appeared here previously, but not with these great pictures by Richie Downs of Vinyl District, shooting Brian Wilson, John Mayer, Aimee Mann, The Pixies, Kiefer Sutherland, Drive-By Truckers and highlights from the Breakin’ Even Fest.
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Tuesday TV: Jack White’s Roots Reunion

american-epicThe coda to the splendid recent overview into the roots of American roots music “American Epic” is “The American Epic Sessions” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) in which Jack White and T Bone Burnett corall a bunch talents including Beck, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, Los Lobos, Nas, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Middens and Taj Mahal to take a stab at both classic songs and the methods they used to directly record onto vinyl.

The sessions also includes contributions from the Avett Brothers, Bettye LaVette, Pokey LaFarge, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

The Australian comic who has already starred in several standup specials and his own FX series now brings his own political perspective to  in a new weekly show “The Jim Jeffries Show” (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.). Jeffries claims he’ll be more international in focus than other late night political comics and he’s got a taste for the absurd. Earlier this week he tweeted “just found out the stage my show is being filmed on is the same stage ‘The Cosby Show’ used. I can’t imagine what happened in my office.”

With the accent and edge, I’m thinking it may come off a little like the old “Brand X with Russell Brand.” It’s biggest boost may come from following the ninth season premiere of “Tosh.0” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.).

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(Sandy) Alex G at the Rock & Roll Hotel

IMG_3979I wanted to see the show by (Sandy) Alex G in part because my daughter called him “the Elliott Smith of my generation.”

This comparison took me aback, partly because I thought of, say, Nick Drake as the Elliott Smith of my generation.

Which means I’m about two generations removed from what’s selling out the Rock & Roll Hotel these days.

There is an interesting back story to the Philadelphia guy once known as Alex Giannascoli, who only added the parenthetical aspect of his name last month. Working in a home studio he turned out a handful of albums that got wide play on Bandcamp, as well as a half dozen other singles and EPs. The grass roots success got him a label deal with Domino and his second release “Rocket” just came out this month along with the ambitious tour that’s already selling out a lot of places.

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Monday TV: The Power of 90 Year Olds

ObitCarl Reiner, at 95, muses about longevity and vitality in his documentary “If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Your Breakfast” (HBO, 8 p.m.). It sounds like something he might have covered with Mel Brooks in “The 2000 Year Old Man,” and clips of that routine are included as well as catching up with fellow nonagenarian. Also weighing in: Norman Lear, Stan Lee, Betty White and three who didn’t make it to the release of the film.

Tony Bennett sings “The Best is Yet to Come” to start the thing and Dick Van Dyke sings “Young at Heart” with his much younger new wife.

Things get frothy on this new scripted show about the women on a fictional daytime talk show. “Daytime Divas” (VH1, 10 p.m.) stars Vanessa Williams, Tichina Arnold and Fiona Gubelman.

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals gets prime time broadcast coverage with Pittsburgh at Nashville (NBC, 8 p.m.).

The dudes on “The Bachelorette” (ABC, 8 p.m.) get to go on something less than a dream date — attending the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial isn’t being televised today, but there is a special scheduled, “Bill Cosby: An American Scandal” (Investigation Discovery, 9 p.m.).

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Sunday TV: Comics Come, ‘Leftovers’ Go

I'mDyingUPHereSeems like the viewing public knows plenty about the life behind the scenes for standup comedy, from “Seinfeld” and “Louie” to “Crashing.”

Now comes one in period costume, from the 70s, almost as if they got a good deal on the wardrobe from “Vinyl.” Produced in part by Jim Carrey (who does not appear) “I’m Dying Up Here” (Showtime, 10 p.m.) stars a bunch of struggling L.A. comics at various levels in their careers. Only a couple of them actually seem fun to watch on stage — Al Madrigal and Erik Griffin. Melissa Leo stands out so much as a tough comedy club owner (obviously based on Mitzi Shore) that she seems like she’s in the wrong series. The stories about the characters played by Clark Duke and Michael Angarano living in a closet seems lifted from “Funny People.” It will be tough to warm to this one.

HBO has a strong streak of memorable series finales, from the “Six Feet Under” fast forward to each character’s death to “The Sopranos” seeming episode interruptus. One to add to that list is tonight’s capper for “The Leftovers” (HBO, 9 p.m.), an episode so well handled and poignant it’s fine for anyone who had dropped out of watching long ago. That it’s titled “The Book of Nora” is a welcome hint it will be good — Carrie Coon, who also happens to be starring this season in “Fargo,” dominates. What won’t make intellectual sense for a series that went well off the rails in season two, will still make a good deal of emotional sense.

That it’s a bit extended means it bumps “Silicon Valley” (HBO, 10:16 p.m.) for an episode in which Richard takes on a patent troll. A “Vice” (HBO, 10:46 p.m.) about the state of Iraq follows, and a new “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO, 11:15 p.m.) itself is a quarter hour late. (And there’s no “Veep” at all; it returns next week).

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Saturday TV: What Led to ‘Jackass’

Jackass-logo-7A8EBCC483-seeklogo.comWhen skateboard culture looked like it was dying off in the 1990s, a new irreverent magazine began, highlighting all kinds of ill-advised stunts they’d think up. It had the kind of name that’s now exclusively used for government heavy-handedness: Big Brother. Its increasingly crazy stunts led to videos that they sent to MTV, which they made into the phenomenon of “Jackass.” Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Steve-O were all there’d they are also part of the subsequent documentary getting its TV debut, “Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine” (Hulu, streaming), directed by Patrick O’Dell.

Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (HBO, 8 p.m.) makes its premium cable debut. It plays opposite his 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Syfy, 6 p.m.) and his 2010 version of “Alice in Wonderland” (Syfy, 8:30 p.m.) — both with Johnny Depp.

Bill and Nardole go on a deadly mission to rescue “Doctor Who” (BBC America, 9 p.m.).

The heroes have to save the Earth on the season one finale of “Class” (BBC America, 10 p.m.).

The newsmagazine spinoff “20/20: In an Instant” (ABC, 9 p.m.) begins with the two hour story of a California family stuck in a blizzard while en route to Idaho, forcing them on a three-day, 20-mile hike.

It runs opposite a two hour repeat of “Dateline” (NBC, 9 p.m.) looks into the disappearance of a Marine’s wife in California.

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Richard Lloyd at the Black Cat

IMG_3973When Tom Verlaine brought his latest version of Television on tour last year, fans savored hearing so much of “Marquee Moon,” their 1977 debut that has only grown in guitar stature over the years. Good as it was, there clearly was a missing link – the guitarist Richard Lloyd, whose intricate guitar interplay (and co-writing “Guiding Light”) helped make that the classic it’s become.

Lloyd joined various Television reunion schemes over the years, but not for the last decade or so. Any  replacement in Television could only hope to replicate Lloyd’s intricate inventiveness, not always successfully.

Seeing Lloyd himself on tour Thursday at the Black Cat in D.C. was an opportunity to get his half of some of those classics — though he was clearly not as “Marquee Moon” dependent as his last band.

Still, the telltale opening licks of things like “Elevation,” which came mid-set, followed by the title song, “Friction” and the one song from the album that Verlaine’s Television didn’t play in D.C. last fall, “See No Evil” got the crowd excited.

Performing with Terry Clouse on bass, Jeff Brakebill on drums and Jason NeSmith on second guitar, Lloyd revved up those tunes on the clubs backstage that was not so different in height and size than the one they inaugurated at C.B.G.B.’s more than 40 years ago.

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