HBO’s ‘Gilded Age,’ ABC’s ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Snowpiercer’ Returns, ‘Secrets of Playboy’
Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes recreates the gilded age of 19th-century New York in a dazzling drama with a blue-chip cast. ABC’s new prime-time soap about a Latino wine-growing dynasty also shines light on the immigrant experience. TNT’s Snowpiercer is back for a third season, with two trains heading for a collision course in a possibly warming world. An A&E docuseries goes inside the world of the late Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire.
The Gilded Age
From Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes comes another instantly addictive and enjoyable period drama about a rapidly changing society: 1880s New York, where an old guard epitomized by widowed Agnes van Rhijn (the marvelous Christine Baranski) and spinster sister Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon) shudder at the arrival across Fifth Avenue of “new money” arrivistes George and Bertha Russell (Morgan Spector and the terrific Carrie Coon) with their railroad fortune and social ambitions. An A-list of Broadway-seasoned talent plays the high born—including Tony winner Donna Murphy as the imperious Mrs. Astor, whose approval everyone seeks—and servant class in a series that astonishes with its opulence and entertains with its depiction of class warfare in corsets. (See the full review.)
A colorful new prime-time soap immediately reveals fault lines within the successful Sandoval wine-growing family, where patriarch Joe Sandoval (John Ortiz) rules over a fractious clan and a vineyard full of secrets. His greatest rival may be his ex, Margaret Honeycroft (Bellamy Young, a scenery-chewing veteran of Scandal and Prodigal Son), who plots to take back her family’s land. A parallel storyline gives the series an unusually topical subtext as it follows the journey of young undocumented arrivals to this promised land.
The third season of the futuristic post-apocalyptic thriller jumps ahead six months, with rebellious Layton (Daveed Diggs) and his pirate train continuing their search for the warming oasis of a “new Eden” promised by MIA Melanie (Jennifer Connolly). Back on Snowpiercer, Ruth (Alison Wright) leads an underground resistance against her former boss Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean), who’s still wielding his cruel power as all anxiously await Layton’s return.
Secrets of Playboy
A provocative 10-part docuseries takes a deep dive inside the late Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire, with former Playmates, girlfriends and employees revealing a darker side to the glittery façade that epitomized the 20h century’s sexual revolution. Allegations of sexual assault, drug abuse, exploitation and prostitution, even suicide and murder, lurk within this testimony of a sordid anything-goes culture.
If Cheer whetted your appetite for reality-based drama within competitive college institutions, this docuseries about a Texas HBCU’s renowned marching band may hit all the right notes. March goes inside the members and staff, numbering over 300, of Prairie View A&M University’s prestigious Marching Storm band. In between rehearsals and performances, the members must maintain a high grand-point average and a tough academic schedule. (I gave up my trombone playing after high school, so have only respect for these student musicians.)
Inside Monday TV:
- Friends: The Ultimate Trivia Challenge (10/9c, Nick at Nite): Each night this week, in two-hour programming blocks, classic episodes of the beloved sitcom will be peppered with in-show trivia questions that fans will have 20 seconds to answer on their devices. (To pre-register, go to www.NickatNitePlay.com.) Players can separately enter a “Friends Studio Tour Sweepstakes” to win a trip to L.A. for a Friends-themed tour.
- 9-1-1: Lone Star (8/7c, Fox): Austin is still in the grip of a deadly ice storm, and as a thawing T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) fights for his life, Grace (Sierra McClain) is about to give birth—which, par for this series’ course, couldn’t happen at a more perilous time.
- The Neighborhood (8/7c, CBS): An earthquake disrupts life on the block, with Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer) and Tina (Tichina Arnold) moving in with their sons, while neighbor Dave (Max Greenfield) overreacts as usual.
- Prisoner of Love (9/8c, Investigation Discovery): Previously seen on discovery+, this series follows prison matchmaker Chelsea Holmes as she connects inmates with hopeful singles. Among the five couples profiled is Chelsea’s own relationship with inmate Manuel.
- Ordinary Joe (10/9c, NBC): In Joe’s (James Wolk) parallel worlds, the cop version tries to impress Amy’s (Natalie Martinez) family, the nurse version goes on a road trip with son Christopher (John Gluck) and the rock star version hits the skids.
- NCIS: Hawaii (10/9c, CBS): In the conclusion of a two-part episode that started Sunday, Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) is in for a shock as she investigates the kidnapping of her mentor, Maggie Shaw (Julie White).
- Not Going Quietly (10/9c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): POV presents an inspiring and acclaimed documentary profile of Ady Barker, whose diagnosis of ALS at 32 led him to become a leading activist for universal healthcare, appearing at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
- Two charming series end their seasons on Acorn TV: the cozy whodunit Queens of Mystery and the British family dramedy The Larkins.