Seth & Paul Simon on 'SNL,' 60 Years of NASA, The CW's New Sunday Lineup, Eli Roth on Zombies
A critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, NBC): Though still hit-and-miss as ever, the topical live comedy showcase reaches into its past for guests who’ll resonate to longtime fans. Seth Meyers returns for his first time as guest host on the show where he spent 13 seasons, including as head writer and Weekend Update anchor, before launching his own successful Late Night show (with the brilliant “Closer Look” segments). He’ll be joined by musical guest Paul Simon, making his 15th appearance on SNL—on what happens to be his 77th birthday.
Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow (Saturday, 9/8c, Discovery and Science Channel): If you’re the sort who’s already bought an IMAX ticket to First Man, this two-hour documentary from Rory Kennedy (Last Days of Vietnam) should be a must-watch, with an in-depth look at the past, present and potential future of the space agency. Kennedy interviews engineers and astronauts who remind us how going into space gives us necessary perspective on our home planet.
The CW on Sundays: The network expands to a sixth night with an old favorite, Supergirl (8/7c), entering its fourth season with Kara (Melissa Benoist) called back into superhero action when members of the anti-alien Cadmus terrorist group attempt to assassination pro-alien leaders. And then a really old favorite returns in a reboot of Charmed (9/8c), with a new trio of witchy sisters exercising the “power of three”—Mel (Melonie Diaz), Maggie (Sarah Jeffery) and, new to the family, Macy (Madeleine Mantock), all trying to make sense of their mother’s mysterious death with the help of “Whitelighter” mentor Harry Greenwood (Rupert Evans).
United States Secret Service: On the Front Line (Sunday, 9/8c, National Geographic Channel): Producers spent a year following agents for this immersive two-hour documentary that examines the challenges the Secret Service faces in protecting the president, domestically and abroad. The special also looks back at the agency’s turbulent past, interviewing current and former agents and journalists.
Camping (Sunday, 10/9, HBO): It’s a rare show that makes a charming talent like Jennifer Garner truly unbearable to behold. But this mirthless misfire, adapted by the Girls team of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner from a British series, is so painfully toxic it should come with a hazmat suit. Garner plays tightly wound control freak Kathryn McSorley-Jodell, who overplans a 45th-birthday camping trip for her long-suffering husband Walt (David Tennant, doing his best), their equally suffering and overprotected son Orvis (Duncan Joiner) and assorted friends and family, who also suffer in Kathryn’s company. She’s forever complaining about her “dysfunctional pelvic floor” while nagging and kvetching at everyone—especially the raunchy free spirit, Jandice (Juliette Lewis), who’s joined the group with Walt’s recently separated BFF Miguel (Arturu Del Puerto). What’s intended as hilarious comes off as hateful, less a vacation than a death march of misery. Pack your tent and look elsewhere for entertainment.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): The dreadful Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) finally reappears in a brief scene teased in the new-season promos, but most of the action in another strong episode exposes fault lines among Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew as they work in possibly too much haste to construct a bridge intended to strengthen the bond among the various communities. It’s a powerful episode for Maggie (Lauren Cohan) as well, when Michonne (Danai Gurira) and others urge her to reconsider her more dictatorial ways. And an unexpected relationship begins to bloom, another sign of hope that, as one injured party puts it, “It’s not the end of the world anymore.”
Followed at midnight by the premiere of AMC Visionaries: Eli Roth’s History of Horror, a seven-part series in which the Hostel scaremeister chats with terror icons including Stephen King and John Landis, and various scream queens (The Birds’ Tippi Hedren, The Exorcist’s Linda Blair, Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis) to explore the genre’s evolution. First topic: what else but zombies, from Night of the Living Dead through AMC’s ongoing hit franchise.
Inside Weekend TV: BBC America’s Doctor Who (Sunday, 8/7c) continues its misadventures with the first female Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her new pals—but will we finally get to see inside the new TARDIS? … A special episode of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (Sunday, 9/8c) examines the late host’s impact on food and travel culture through his acclaimed series, with segments recalling his adventures in Jerusalem, Beirut, Shanghai, Hanoi, Cuba and other exotic locations. … PBS’s American Masters series gets up close and personal with a violin legend in Itzhak (Sunday, 10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), director Alison Chernick’s cinema vérité study of Itzhak Perlman that tells his life story through conversations with his many famous friends and Toby, his wife of 50 years. … ABC brings provocative talk into prime time with The Alec Baldwin Show (Sunday, 10/9c), a weekly interview series. In the premiere, the actor talks to Oscar winner Robert De Niro and Empire diva Taraji P. Henson. … Superhero satire goes political in a special new episode of Adult Swim cult classic Harvey Birdman, Attorney General (Sunday, midnight) in which Harvey (voiced by Gary Cole) is named the country’s Attorney General by the newly elected megalomaniac billionaire president, Phil Ken Sebben (Stephen Colbert). Harvey’s first task: figuring out how to remove the president from office.