Previewing ‘West Side Story,’ Holiday Movies (and a Parody), COVID’s ‘First Wave,’ ‘Dead’ Finales, ‘Succession’ Goes to Italy
Go behind the scenes of Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, one of the year’s most anticipated feature films. A deluge of holiday movies includes a parody on Comedy Central. A new documentary follows doctors on the frontlines of treatment during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear the Walking Dead takes a midseason break, while the World Beyond spinoff closes shop for good. Another standout episode of Succession sends the family to Italy for a wedding and too many recriminations to count.
SUNDAY: Yes, this is hype, but for a good cause: Steven Spielberg’s thrilling and more authentic film remake of the Broadway and Oscar-winning musical classic, with a fleshed-out screenplay by Tony Kushner. The special goes behind the scenes of production, interviewing Spielberg, Rita Moreno—who won an Oscar for the original film and deserves at least a nomination for her role as the sympathetic shopkeeper—other actors and crew about this adaptation, which features more Puerto Rican representation in the cast. When the movie premieres Friday (Dec. 10), expect much Oscar buzz, including for ethereal stars Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort as the star-crossed Maria and Tony.
A Clüsterfünke Christmas
SATURDAY: Saturday Night Live veterans Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer wrote and star in this fetching send-up of the formula holiday movie. They’re spinsters who own a quaint town’s inn, which an ambitious real-estate type from the Big City (played by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s marvelously droll Vella Lovell) wants to buy and turn into a trendy resort. But that may all change once she meets the ladies’ hunky lumberjack nephew (Broadway vet and Call Me Kat regular, Cheyenne Jackson).
The First Wave
SUNDAY: Director Matthew Heineman’s acclaimed documentary revisits the first four months of the pandemic in 2020, following health-care workers at New York’s Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in Queens, when the metropolis was at the epicenter of the crisis. With a verité approach, Heineman embeds with these doctors, nurses and patients, reminding us why so many of us spent months applauding their efforts out of our windows each night. They still deserve our gratitude.
Fear the Walking Dead
SUNDAY: Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) asks Morgan (Lennie James) to help her find a new home for her people as the post-apocalyptic seventh season takes its midseason hiatus. On the series finale of the young-adult The Walking Dead: World Beyond spinoff (10/9c), the group faces enemies, alive and not-so-much, as they battle to save the future.
SUNDAY: It’s always awkward when the entire Roy family gathers, given the many layers of dissension and betrayal in their ranks. In yet another outstanding episode of the darkly hilarious drama, they’re all off to sunny Tuscany in Italy, which has never looked more beautiful as a backdrop for dysfunction as they attend the wedding of the sibs’ mother, the waspish Lady Caroline (a martini-dry Harriet Walter). Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is still persona non grata, but the family tensions take a back seat to Waystar RoyCo’s pending deal with quixotic tech mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), whose playfully enigmatic tweets have everyone—especially dark-horse son Roman (Kieran Culkin)—on edge.
- Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas (Saturday, Lifetime, 8/7c): Gospel great Kirk Franklin appears and provides music for a movie about a newly promoted young pastor (Demetria McKinney) who’s only got a month before Christmas to adjust to her new church and get the choir ready for a Winter Jamboree. Lifetime sticks with the musical theme in Sunday’s My Favorite Christmas Melody (8/7c), starring Mya as a struggling singer-songwriter enlisted to help her hometown high school save the arts program, finding her own voice along the way.
- A Very Merry Bridesmaid (Saturday, 8/7c, Hallmark Channel): Emily Osment is Leah, turning 30 on Christmas Eve, when her brother’s getting married. On Sunday, Hallmark’s Sister Swap: A Hometown Holiday (8/7c) features real-life sibs Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Ashley Williams as sisters who reunite in Salt Lake City so one can go home to charming Hazelwood and revive their late uncle’s (Kevin Nealon) crumbling movie theater.
- Our Christmas Journey (Saturday, 10/9c, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries): Holly Robinson Peete is a single mom learning to give her autistic son some independence.
- The Christmas Thief (Sunday, 8/7c, ION): An offbeat caper stars Hawaii Five-0’s Michelle Borth as a private eye who heads home for the holidays, hoping to bolster her career by solving some local burglaries. One hitch: The main suspect is Santa Claus.
- The National Christmas Tree Lighting (Sunday, 8:30/7:30c, 8/PT, CBS): Filmed earlier this week on the Ellipse in President’s Park in Washington, D.C., the annual ceremony is hosted by LL Cool J, with performances by Tony and Emmy winners Billy Porter and Kristin Chenoweth, plus Chris Stapleton, H.E.R., Juanes, Keb’ Mo’, Maren Morris and Patti LaBelle singing holiday favorites.
- 23rd Annual A Home for the Holidays at the Grove (Sunday, 9:30/8:30c, 9/PT, CBS): The inspirational showcase for stories about adoption from foster care, this year filmed in and around L.A.’s Grove complex, features performances from Justin Bieber, Kane Brown (introducing a family for a live adoption), Alessia Cara and Darren Criss.
Inside Weekend TV:
- Frankie Drake Mysteries (Saturday, 7/6c, Ovation): In the series finale of the light 1920s mystery from Canada, private detective Frankie (Lauren Lee Smith) bids farewell to partner Trudy (Chantel Riley), who’s got a new job. But she says hello to her father, Ned (Geraint Wyn Davies), who she thought was dead.
- Holmes Family Rescue (Saturday, 8/7c, HGTV): In a new series, Mike Holmes and his kids save homeowners from shoddy jobs done by shady contractors. In the opener, they come to the rescue of a couple whose basement was left with an unfortunate trench.
- Drew Michael: red blue green (Saturday, 10/9c, HBO): There’s critical buzz around this Chicago native’s second HBO stand-up comedy special, reflecting his unusually personal confessional style.
- White Power on Trial: Charlottesville (Sunday, 9/8c, CNN): Correspondent Elle Reeve heads to the Virginia town to report on the landmark trial in response to the violent events during a 2017 white-supremacy rally.
- Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records (Sunday, 10/9c, Epix): A two-part documentary (concluding Dec. 12) celebrates the partnership and friendship of musician Herb Alpert and record exec Jerry Moss, who founded the iconic A&M label in a garage in 1962. With a focus on the artist, A&M rose to great heights through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, with Carole King, Cat Stevens and The Carpenters among their stars.
- Yellowjackets (Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime): The wild melodrama stages a shooting contest among the teenage survivors, triggering memories of Natalie’s (Sophie Thatcher/Juliette Lewis) violent upbringing. In the present day, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) walks on the wild side with her new friend, Adam (Peter Gadiot).