What’s Worth Watching: ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘The Circus’, ‘The Good Wife’ and more for Sunday, January 17

Downton Abbey
Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited/MASTERPIECE/PBS
Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Downton Abbey (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) as a Bridezilla? Surely not, but her insistence to marry Carson (Jim Carter) outside the Abbey continues to have repercussions, as does the fuss over a most unbecoming dress she’s chosen for the ceremony. It’s a delightful hour, with Violet (Maggie Smith) performing an “en garde” with her cane, and clashing with Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) over the hospital mess, while poor Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) finds a potential love interest while scrambling to meet a magazine deadline. (As often happens in real life.) Add a poignant guest appearance by Ronald Pickup as a potential employer in Barrow’s (Rob James-Collier) quest for new employment, and a fabulously satisfying and sentimental twist at the end, and chances are you’re be reaching for a hanky by the time it’s over.

The Circus (8/7c, Showtime): Politics is one of the hottest shows on TV these days. Joining a busy lineup that includes Shameless and the new Billions (see review here, which also covers the premieres of TBS’s Angie Tribeca marathon and PBS’s Mercy Street), this new “real-time” docu-series takes viewers inside the ongoing campaigns in the Republican and Democratic camps vying for the presidential nomination. The premiere follows Ted Cruz’s Iowa bus tour, a Donald Trump rally in Florida, and Bernie Sanders railing against Wall Street in New York. Bloomberg Politics’ managing editors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (Game Change) and campaign strategist Mark McKinnon will try to make sense of it all in one of the least predictable races in ages.

Afterward, you can turn to NBC for more political theater at the NBC News-YouTube Democratic Candidates Debate (9/8c), with Hillary Clinton, Sanders and Mike O’Malley squaring off in Charleston, S.C. Lester Holt moderates, joined by Andrea Mitchell.

The 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards (8/7c, 5 PT, A&E, Lifetime, LMN): for the first time, film and TV awards will be presented in the live broadcast from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, with Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller hosting. (Disclosure: I participated on several nominating committees on the TV side. Full list of TV nominees is here.)

The Good Wife (9/8c): Now that Peter’s (Chris Noth) misbegotten campaign is apparently history after his poor Iowa showing, the show can get back down to business—if Alicia (Julianna Margulies) can survive an eviction threat from neighbors annoyed that she’s operating her new business out of her home. Maybe this will be the catalyst to push her back to her old firm, seeing how she and Cary (Matt Czuchry) are playing nice for a change, teaming on a case this week.

Inside Sunday TV: Charlie Rose interviews Sean Penn in the wake of his notorious Rolling Stone interview with “El Chapo” for CBS’s 60 Minutes (7/6c). … The David Bowie tributes continue, with AXS TV reviving his classic 1973 concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (10/9c). … NBC News leads into its debate coverage with a special Dateline report, “Do No Harm” (8/7c), reported by Lester Holt, investigating the sensational crimes of Michigan oncologist Farid Feta, now in jail on counts of fraud and conspiracy after bilking Medicaid and insurance companies for more than $30 million in charges while misdiagnosing and over-treating cancer patients. … With the Oscar nominations leading the awards conversation this week, Ovation TV premieres Los Angeles Times’ The Envelope (8:30/7:30c) a five-part interview series. The first installment focuses on leading ladies, including Oscar nominees Cate Blanchett (Carol), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Brie Larson (Room) and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years).