'Good Fight' Returns, Oscar Night, Siege Mentality on 'Homeland,' Barkley on 'SNL'
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
The Good Fight (Sunday, CBS All Access): Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s “Let’s kill all the lawyers” is just one of many mordant twists as the second season of The Good Wife’s sophisticated spinoff gets underway. Christine Baranski is class personified as Diane Lockhart, buffeted by the insanity of our current political culture as the primarily African-American law firm she joined last year undergoes more upheaval. Joining Baranski is another multiple Tony winner: the sublime Audra McDonald as Liz Reddick-Lawrence, the outspoken and controversial daughter of the firm’s co-founder, who’s itching for a career change. (McDonald’s scenes with Brian Stokes Mitchell, as a top client with Obama connections, bring back fond memories of Broadway’s Ragtime.) Adding to the fun: Jane Lynch as a fed toying with Maia (Rose Leslie) in her prosecution of her Madoff-like fugitive dad, and the surprise return of a familiar face from The Good Wife where you’d least expect it.
90th Academy Awards (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC): The network is giving the Oscars the full Super Bowl treatment as the ceremony officially becomes a nonagenarian. Which isn’t to say a dinosaur, although few are expecting this year’s festivities to break any ratings records, considering that most of the lead contenders fall short of box-office blockbuster status. With no outright front-runner, the contest is at least interesting: The Shape of Water or 3 Billboards Over Ebbing, Missouri? (My vote would go to the mesmerizing Water.) Or could a provocative dark-horse sleeper like Get Out edge in? Jimmy Kimmel returns as host, after a buildup that includes a three-hour pre-show in the afternoon and a 90-minute red carpet special preceding the actual awards. I’ll be satisfied if along the way we get a taste of the Oscars’ storied TV history.
If you’re still awake when it’s all over, the network teases its new talk show Sundays With Alec Baldwin (approximate 11:35/10:35c), with guests Jerry Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live Emmy winner Kate McKinnon. Eight more episodes are set to air later this year.
Homeland (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): Among the few shows airing original episodes opposite the Oscars, this may be your best bet. The situation becomes harrowing quickly in the standoff between the government (represented by Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson) and the militia surrounding the sniveling conspiracy theorist Brett O’Keefe, played to the hilt by Jake Weber. Will this be the next Waco? (I mention this with memories of the just-concluded Waco miniseries fresh in my mind.) Within the White House, the president (Elizabeth Marvel) unleashes fury at her chief of staff (Linus Roache) for defying her orders, to which unstable superspy Carrie (Claire Danes) has a front-row seat, thanks to her illegal surveillance. A mystery man whose face will be familiar to fans of another acclaimed spy drama stirs the pot in such a timely manner it’s almost scary.
Inside Weekend TV: Is this not the perfect Lifetime movie scenario? Bad Tutor (Saturday, 8/7c) stars Vanessa Marcil as a single mom who gets her high-school daughter a tutor (Pretty Little Liars’ Charles Hittinger) who becomes obsessed with his pupil for all the wrong reasons. … OWN presents Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards (Saturday, 10/9c), honoring Danai Gurira (Black Panther, The Walking Dead), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), Tessa Thompson (Westworld) and Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi). … NBC’s Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:35/10:35c) returns from Olympics hiatus with Charles Barkley returning to host for the fourth time, and Migos as musical guest. So much material to satirize from the last few weeks, and my personal hope is that figure skater Adam Rippon will appear on Weekend Update (or somehow figure into the festivities). … Fox remembers the global impact of the late Billy Graham in Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey (Sunday, 7/6c), a biographical documentary produced by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.