What's Worth Watching: Good spys, colorful villains, questionable con-men, popes and queens and more for Friday, Jan. 13 thru Sunday, Jan. 15
Homeland (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): The politically charged espionage thriller regained its footing last season, and it’s even more topical and unsettling as its sixth season begins. The series returns to the U.S., with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) living in Brooklyn and working for an agency that represents Muslims trapped in the justice system—most particularly a young man (J. Mallory McCree) whose incendiary videos lead to an arrest for “material support of terrorism.” In the bigger global picture, a new female president-elect (Elizabeth Marvel) is at odds with the CIA—sound familiar?—prompting clandestine scheming with an eight-week countdown to her inauguration. On the personal front, Quinn (Rupert Friend) faces his greatest battle yet—with PTSD in a powerful portrayal of dislocation and emotional disintegration. He is now Carrie’s great cause, and we all know what a crusader she is. Sober, somber, chilling drama right out of the gate.
A Streaming Bonanza: Two good choices for binge-watching on a long winter weekend, both premiering Friday: Netflix’s lavish adaptation of the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, with Neil Patrick Harris as the villainous Count Olaf; and Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, co-created by Bryan Cranston, who makes a chilling villain playing the gangster on the lookout for a con man (Giovanni Ribisi) who has taken the identity of his cellmate Pete and insinuates his way into the family that hasn’t seen Pete in 20 yars. Led by matriarch Audrey (the great Margo Martindale), the family runs a bail-bonds business, and the faux Pete learns it takes a criminal to catch a criminal—while hiding out from a criminal. The mix of suspense and humor is very appealing. (See full reviews here.)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Friday, 9/8c, The CW): Not every show can shift gears with equal confidence between a Soul Train parody, celebrating the newly rekindled love of Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), and a hora dance extolling the Jewish tradition of suffering. But then, what other show can deliver the dynamic combo of Tovah Feldshuh (as Rebecca's mom) and Patti LuPone (as her rabbi), as our romantically obsessed heroine brings Josh home for a bar mitzvah and learns a life lesson in what it takes to truly be happy.
END OF AN (OBAMA) ERA: As the historic Obama presidency nears its end, TV is taking plenty of opportunity to reflect. NBC’s Lester Holt’s interview with the president in Chicago, in advance of his farewell speech, highlights the news special Barack Obama: The Reality of Hope (Friday, 10/9c). 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft interviews Obama in the White House as part of a 60 Minutes Presents special, Barack Obama: Eight Years in the White House (Sunday, 7/6c), which includes excerpts from his many 60 Minutes interviews during his presidency. Cable’s History looks back at the Obama legacy, including interviews with Obama and many members of his staff, including Vice President Joe Biden, in The 44th President: In His Own Words (Sunday, 9/8c). National Geographic Channel honors the president’s commitment to creating the world’s largest marine preserve in the northwestern Hawaiian islands in Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures (Sunday, 7/6c), followed by Obama: The Price of Hope (Sunday, 9/8c), which goes inside the Obama administration to look back over the last eight years.
LEADERS OF CHURCH AND STATE: Two new series bow Sunday and are worth a look. Jude Law is electrifying as an enigmatic new pontiff with a God complex in HBO’s The Young Pope (Sunday, 9/8c, also on Mondays). And former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman is a spunk teenage monarch in the new Masterpiece drama Victoria (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org).
Inside Weekend TV: TV nostalgia alert. TV One marks the 45th anniversary of Norman Lear’s classic Sanford & Son with a weekend-long marathon, episodes airing sequentially starting Friday at 8/7c. The pilot episode gets a special showcase Saturday at 8/7c, the exact date and time the Redd Foxx comedy premiered in 1972. … PBS’s Great Performances presents the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere of Bel Canto the Opera (Friday, 9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), an adaptation of the acclaimed Ann Patchett novel by composer Jimmy Lopez and librettist Nilo Cruz. … Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) makes her first appearance as guest host when NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c) returns from its holiday break. Grammy nominee Sturgill Simpson is the first-time musical guest. … Hard to imagine there’s any milestone left for Fox’s The Simpsons to achieve, but this week is the show’s first-ever hourlong episode (Sunday, 8/7c), with Empire’s Taraji P. Henson and comedian Keegan-Michael Key among the guest voices as Mr. Burns locks horns with a music mogul. Snoop Dogg, Common and RZA appear as themselves. ... PBS's Sherlock wraps its latest and most frenetic season—too soon!—by following last week's shocking revelation with an episode ominously titled "The Final Problem" (Sunday, 7/6c, check local listings at pbs.org).