Worth Watching: Kennedy Center Honors, an Apollo Mission on ‘Nova,’ and a ‘Vikings’ Death
A critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The 41st Annual Kennedy Center Honors (8/7c, CBS): One of the classiest performing-arts tributes of any year tries something new, saluting a contemporary work and its creative team with a special Kennedy Center Honor for Broadway blockbuster Hamilton, its composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director Alex Lacamoire. Also breaking tradition: Manuel, an honoree, gets down from the box to perform onstage during the Hamilton segment, along with original cast members Christopher Jackson (Bull), and the Schuyler Sisters themselves: Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones. 2017 honoree Gloria Estefan hosts the evening, which also pays tribute to jazz great Wayne Shorter, country queen Reba McEntire (with daughter-in-law Kelly Clarkson among those singing her praises), pop icon Cher and composer Philip Glass.
Nova: Apollo’s Daring Mission (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): While not as well remembered as the Apollo 11 moon landing the following year, Apollo 8 made history on Dec. 21, 1968, as the first manned mission to leave lower-Earth orbit and circumnavigate the moon. Commander Frank Borman, his crewmates, the mission control team and engineers are among experts reflecting on the risky venture that relied on untried new technologies.
Vikings (10/9c, History): A high body count is nothing new for this grueling historical drama, but prepare yourself for a major loss when Vikings led by King Harald (Peter Franzen) clash with Saxons on the battlefield. Meanwhile, in a fight with his inner demons, Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wrestles with guilt over his earthly passions.
Inside Wednesday TV: Turner Classic Movies celebrates the film career of Burt Reynolds, who passed away in September, with a night featuring some of the best-remembered movies from his 1970s heyday: 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit (8/7c), the hit that launched a franchise; 1972’s harrowing Deliverance (10/9c), arguably his best film; and 1974’s football prison romp The Longest Yard (midnight/11c)… Rowan Atkinson gets serious as the detective Maigret, in a second season of two mysteries based on the Georges Simenon novels, streaming on Britbox… IFC airs all six episodes of writer/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s unsparing tragicomedy Fleabag, starting at 11/10c. (This put her on the map; Killing Eve secured her place in the pop-culture pantheon.)