What’s On: ‘Curb’ Returns, ‘Ray’ Faces Mortality, a New ‘SNL’ Season

Episode 81 (season 9, episode 1): Larry David.; Curb Your Enthusiasm - Larry David
John P. Johnson/courtesy of HBO

A critical checklist of notable weekend TV:

Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sunday, 10/9c, HBO): Larry David at his worst is TV at its best, as we’re reminded when after a six-year absence, Curb returns in all of its dyspeptic glory. The only thing more inevitable than Larry being annoyed at petty grievances is Larry annoying others, with calamitous results. Among those running afoul of Larry to varying degrees in the uproarious ninth-season premiere: Jimmy Kimmel, Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad, Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein and the reliably neurotic Richard Lewis. It’s pretty, pretty great having this show back.

Ray Donovan (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): You’ll need a laugh, or possibly a drink, after witnessing the powerfully tragic high point of Ray’s uneven fifth season. After teasing us for weeks, the show finally reveals the circumstances of Abby’s final night. It’s a devastating showcase for Paula Malcomson as Ray’s long-suffering spouse, whose cancer is something Ray (Liev Schreiber) can’t fix, though that doesn’t stop him from trying, flying to New York in a desperate attempt to get her into a surgical trial. “Does anyone in the family give a f— about what I want?” Abby tells her sorrowful brother-in-law Terry (Eddie Marsan) as they prepare to open the bar in her honor, an opening night that doubles as a final curtain. Malcomson, Schreiber, Marsan and Kerris Dorsey as daughter Bridget are all tremendously moving in this darkest night of a family’s tortured soul. Not to be missed by anyone who’s even a casual fan of this series.

Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, 8:30 PT, 9:30 MT, NBC): Coming off of an epic and Emmy-winning season, the enduring sketch comedy once again goes live coast to coast (with late-night replays in the Mountain and Pacific zones). Ryan Gosling hosts for his second time—let’s hope they can crack him up as they did in his debut—and Jay-Z makes his fourth appearance as the musical guest. Joining the ensemble as featured players: Heidi Gardner, Luke Null and Chris Redd.

Tin Star (Friday, streaming on Amazon): With a tin ear for nuance and a heavy hand with characterization and plotting, this contrived and unconvincing crime drama set amid the splendor of Canada’s Rockies reminds us how easily shows like Fargo and Ozark could go off track if we ever felt a step ahead of the predictable action. Tim Roth scowls through his thankless role as transplanted British cop and barely recovering alcoholic Jim Worth, where the new sheriff and his family run afoul of big bad Big Oil (represented by Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks as a PR vixen). The villains, including a psycho hit man (Oliver Coopersmith) and a comically Lurch-like corporate goon (Hell on Wheels’ Christopher Heyerdahl), are as obvious as Jim’s downward spiral in the wake of tragedy, with his darker alter ego glowering from the mirror. Does he think he’s on Twin Peaks?

Star Trek: Discovery (8:30/7:30c, CBS All Access): In case you were wondering when the disgraced Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) would make it to the title ship, that’s the crux of the third episode, introducing the rest of the core ensemble. If only it were more clear what the mission of Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) truly is.

Poldark (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): With Outlander continuing on Starz (8/7c), Sunday becomes a full night of period romantic escapism now that this glorious British import has returned for a third season on Masterpiece. The two-hour opener sends Ross (Aidan Turner) to revolutionary France in search of his newlywed friend, Dr. Dwight Enys (Luke Norris). Back on the homefront, Demelza’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) brothers arrive to stir things up, running afoul (big surprise) of the vile George (Jack Farthing).

Inside Weekend TV: Carla Gugino stars in Netflix’s film version of Stephen King’s erotic thriller Gerald’s Game (Friday). … It’s TGIF every night on Hulu, which has acquired streaming rights to ABC sitcom chestnuts from the ’80s and ’90s, including Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, Perfect Strangers and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. … CBS’s Hawaii Five-0 (Friday, 9/8c) opens its eighth season with an animated version of McGarrett and Danno’s “car-guements,” as Meaghan Rath joins the cast (which lost Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park over the hiatus) as new recruit Tani Rey. … Also entering its eighth season: CBS’s Blue Bloods (Friday, 10/9c), where Frank (Tom Selleck) clashes with New York City’s new mayor (The Sopranos’ Lorraine Bracco). … Fox’s The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c) goes medieval in the premiere of its 29th (!) season, with Game of Thrones’ Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as guest voice, and Homer leading a feudal uprising to save Lisa after she uses forbidden magic. As kids do. … Nia Long joins the cast of CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles (9:30/8:30c) as Executive Assistant Director Shay Mosley, who sets out to shake things up in Hetty’s (Linda Hunt) absence. As if the situation weren’t already tense, with a grieving Sam (LL Cool J) insisting Callen (Chris O’Donnell) get a new partner.