TV’s Ever-Changing Sitcoms, HBO’s ‘White Lotus,’ CW’s Hilarious ‘Wellington Paranormal,’ Nicola Walker in ‘Unforgotten,’ ‘Animal Kingdom’ Returns, ‘Shark Week’
It’s a busy weekend for high-profile premieres. CNN tracks the evolution of the sitcom in an eight-part series. HBO welcomes entitled vacationers to Hawaii in the satirical The White Lotus. A hilarious spinoff of What We Do in the Shadows follows clueless New Zealand cops dealing with the supernatural in Wellington Paranormal. PBS delivers a double dose of British mystery with the fourth season of Unforgotten and the new Professor T. After a long break, TNT’s Animal Kingdom returns, minus Smurf. Discovery launches its 33rd annual Shark Week.
History of the Sitcom
SUNDAY: Remember when married couples in sitcoms slept in separate beds? So does this brisk and entertaining eight-part survey of the sitcom genre, which is at its best when focusing on those moments when TV comedy got real—Norman Lear’s groundbreaking All in the Family, or Ellen’s coming-out moment—as the format changed with the times. (See the full review.)
The White Lotus
SUNDAY: There’s trouble in paradise in Mike White’s (Enlightened) satirical six-part drama, set at an expensive Hawaiian resort where self-absorbed vacationers (including Connie Britton, Steve Zahn and Jennifer Coolidge) unsettle the staff. And someone’s not making it out alive. (See the full review.)
SUNDAY: Using a Cops-style mock-doc format, this hilarious spinoff of the original What We Do in the Shadows follows two clueless police officers (Karen O’Leary and Mike Minogue) as they encounter a body-swapping demon, plantlike aliens, zombie cops, partying ghosts, a she-wolf and, yes, a vampire—all part of a day’s (and often night’s) work in Wellington PD’s top-secret paranormal unit. Sample dialogue: “So a dog spoke to you?” “Yes, and it was very rude.” And funny. (See the full review.)
SUNDAY: Nicola Walker, a top star of British TV from MI-5 to Last Tango in Halifax and beyond, has one of her best roles as Cassie Walker, a weary cold-case detective who’s counting the days to retirement in Season 4 of this compelling Masterpiece Mystery! Forced to remain on the job another three months to collect her pension, she and partner Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) tackle a 30-year-old murder that hits close to home for the police department that’s doing Cassie wrong. Followed by the series premiere of Professor T. (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), an adaptation of a Belgian and German series, starring Bridgerton’s Ben Miller as a Cambridge criminology professor who helps a former student, now a detective, track a serial rapist.
SUNDAY: Off the air for nearly two years, the family crime drama returns for a fifth season, with the Cody clan still reeling from the loss of queenpin Smurf (Ellen Barkin), killed when shot by grandson J (Finn Cole)—who finds himself at the center of a power struggle for control. Will he emerge on top, or maybe one of his uncles: Pop (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) or Deran (Jake Weary)? Adding to the intrigue is the mystery surrounding Pamela Johnson (Charlayne Woodard), whom Smurf named the beneficiary of her estate.
SUNDAY: Kicking off Discovery’s 33rd annual Shark Week is the franchise’s first reality series, a competition taking the form of a six-week crash course aboard a research vessel, where eight shark enthusiasts vie for a berth on scientist Dr. Riley Elliott’s next shark-diving expedition. On Discovery’s linear channel, opening-night highlights include Crikey! It’s Shark Week (Sunday, 8/7c), where Robert Irwin comes face to face with a Great White, followed by the more comedic Tiffany Haddish Does Shark Week (Sunday, 9/8c) and a Jackass Shark Week special (Sunday, 10/9c).
SATURDAY: Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) hosts a celebration of good sports and humanitarian heroes, staged in New York City’s Seaport from The Rooftop at Pier 17. Among the special honors: Robin Roberts presents the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to WNBA star Maya Moore on what would have been Ashe’s 78th birthday; Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon, receives the Jimmy V Award to Perseverance; and the Pat Tillman Award for Service goes to Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford, who raised millions to feed the hungry during the pandemic.
Inside Weekend TV:
- Wimbledon Finals (Saturday and Sunday, 9 am/ET, ESPN): Gather ye breakfast strawberries and settle in to see who takes home the women’s (Saturday) and men’s (Sunday) Grand Slam title from Centre Court of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.
- Crashing Through the Snow (Saturday, 9/8c, Hallmark Channel): It’s never too early to celebrate Christmas with Hallmark. Person of Interest’s Amy Acker stars in a holiday romance as a single mom who heads to Aspen to spend Christmas with her two daughters, her ex (Kristian Bruun) and his new girlfriend (Brooke Nevin). Awkward? Not so much, once she begins to fall for the girlfriend’s brother (Warren Christie).
- Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty (Saturday, 8/7c, BBC America): In the midseason finale, Sencha is hoping for mercy after being evicted from the tribe, but finds new promise for a better life with a rover named Lilac. New episodes return on Labor Day weekend.
- From the true-crime blotter: Oxygen’s Cold Justice (Saturday, 8/7c) is back for a sixth season, with ex-prosecutor Kelly Siegler and her team investigating cold cases in small towns. Followed by Florida Man Murders (Saturday, 9/8c), rehashing some of the state’s most outrageous mysteries, starting with a headless body in the Everglades; A special Saturday Dateline NBC (10/9c) features Josh Mankiewicz’s report on the murder of a mother in her suburban Cleveland home; HLN’s Forensic Files II (Sunday, 10/9c) returns with new investigations in back-to-back episodes.
- Battle of the Beach (Sunday, 9/8c, HGTV): Ty Pennington, Windy City Rehab’s Alison Victoria and Food Network’s Taniya Nayak play mentor to three teams of house flippers in a competition series where contestants work their magic on identical 1,500-square-foot seaside properties in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Mike Holmes and Mina Starsiak Hawk are the judges, with a $50,000 cash prize at stake.