What's On: Return of ‘The Crown,’ ‘Crazy Ex’ Road Trip, ‘Outlander’ Season Finale
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
The Crown (Friday, Netflix): As this spectacular historical drama brings the royals into the 1960s, Queen Elizabeth (the fascinatingly stoic Claire Foy) is informed, “The age of deference is over.” We beg to differ. Though the second season is more uneven than the first, and gets off to a sluggish start depicting the malaise in the relationship of Elizabeth and Matt Smith’s pouty Prince Philip, The Crown hits its stride by the fourth episode and is at its best illuminating the insecurities of its queen. The best episode: When the queen is outshone in a meeting with the glamorous American first lady Jackie Kennedy (a nuanced Jodi Balfour) and acts up accordingly.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Friday, 8/7c, The CW): In the first episode ever that doesn’t include ex-boyfriend Josh’s name in the title, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) shuffles off to Buffalo to support BFF Paula (the fabulous Donna Lynne Champlin) on a visit to her ailing father. While there, Paula encounters her own version of Josh Chan, a crush from her youth who propels her into one of the giddiest numbers yet from this show’s wonderful playlist. If you love ABBA, you won’t want to miss it.
Outlander (Sunday, 8/7c, Starz): The third season of the romantic drama wraps with Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitiona Balfe) far away from Scotland in the wilds of Jamaica. The action sends them racing through the jungle and tangling with an old adversary—now known as the Bakra—in hopes of saving young Ian (John Bell) from a fate worse than death.
Encore! (Sunday, 10/9c, ABC): The latest airing of Frozen (8/7c) should whet one’s appetite for this promising sounding and very tuneful special, produced by and featuring The Good Place’s Kristen Bell. Encore! reunites the cast of a high-school musical production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods and challenges them to perform it again 20 years later. This time, they’ll have Broadway directors, choreographers and vocal coaches to help them prepare for the spotlight.
Inside Weekend TV: In the penultimate episode of the second season of Fox’s terrifying The Exorcist (Friday, 9/8c), Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) takes on the demon while Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Rose (Li Jun Li) race to get the foster kids off of the cursed island. … The digital nostalgia channel Decades celebrates the late Jim Nabors with a weekend-long 84-episode marathon of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., with episodes starting Saturday at 1 pm/12c and continuing to early Monday morning. … James Franco hosts NBC’s Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c) for the fourth time, with SZA the musical guest. … AMC’s The Walking Dead presents a 90-minute (sigh) midseason finale (Sunday, 9/8c) that promises to bring together the disparate elements of this scattershot eighth season. I’ll believe something of note actually happens when I see it. … Nat Geo WILD kicks off its eighth annual “Big Cat Week” with Jaguar vs. Croc (Sunday, 9/8c), capturing the survival stories of Brazilian jaguars. The series of specials continues through Friday. … Executive producer Jamie Foxx returns as an exaggerated version of himself in the season finale of Showtime’s White Famous (10:30/9:30c). He offers an embattled Floyd (Jay Pharoah) a lifeline when his career suffers another blow thanks to a viral video.