Worth Watching: Finales of 'Dirty John' and 'Ray Donovan,' 'True Detective,' 'Victoria,' 'Valley of the Boom,' NFL Divisional Rounds
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Dirty John (Sunday, 10/9c, Bravo): The unexpectedly gripping love-gone-wrong docudrama closes on a shocking note as John (Eric Bana) violently escalates his vindictive campaign against Debra (Connie Britton) and her daughters (Juno Temple and Julia Garner, both fabulous). The women nervously await the psycho’s next move, knowing the police can’t intervene unless John does something. But no one could predict just how far he’s willing to go. Cue the newspaper stories, a podcast—and this series.
Ray Donovan (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): Wrapping what may have been the series’ most grueling season—and that’s saying something—Ray (Liev Schreiber) settles more scores in the finale. Where to start? I’m betting this won’t end well for his former employer Sam Winslow (Susan Sarandon), who was willing to sacrifice Ray’s kidnapped daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) for her own political and financial ends. And Showtime teases that the Donovans will “clean up their mess.” That could take all of next year, and Showtime has dutifully ordered a seventh season. Take your time. Everyone needs time to heal from this one.
True Detective (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Time is very much of the essence as the mystery anthology returns to top form in an intricately multilayered third season. Oscar and Golden Globe winner Mahershala Ali is mesmerizing as Wayne Hays, an Arkansas detective haunted over three decades by a missing-child case. Stephen Dorff projects a gruff, Bogart-like charisma as his more politically adept partner. (Read the full review.)
Victoria (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The third season of Masterpiece’s opulent historical drama picks up in 1848, with the monarch (Jenna Coleman) carrying her sixth child. Family and relationship matters take a back seat to European politics, with news of citizen revolutions abroad (most notably France) heralding change within England’s power structure.
The premiere is followed by the first of a two-part documentary special, Victoria & Albert: The Wedding (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), with royal historian Lucy Worsley providing an in-depth reconstruction of the deluxe 1840 wedding that united the young queen with her consort, Prince Albert.
Valley of the Boom (Sunday, 9/8c, National Geographic): This frenetic and playfully irreverent six-part documentary/drama hybrid about the Internet gold rush of the 1990s risks being too much of a busy thing, as it juggles various storylines: the “browser wars” pitting Netscape against a voracious Microsoft; the rise and fall of Facebook precursor theglobe.com; and the fraud perpetrated by flamboyant con man Michael Fenne (a manic Steve Zahn), who pitches investors a video-streaming service, Pixelon, which was ahead of its time because it lacked any of the necessary technology. The show is packed with gimmicks: impromptu rap and dance numbers, a fictional venture-capitalist narrator (Lamorne Morris) who calls attention to his own non-existence (“We’re in a metaphor here!”). While entertaining, it’s as exhausting as it is illuminating.
NFL Divisional Playoffs: Super Bowl mania is getting nearer, with divisional playoffs dominating the weekend TV schedule. On Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts take on the Kansas City Chiefs (4:35/3:35c, NBC), and in prime time, the Dallas Cowboys face the Los Angeles Rams (8:15/7:15c, Fox). On Sunday, last year’s Super Bowl combatants try to make it to the final round again, with champs Philadelphia Eagles going against New Orleans Saints (4:40/3:40c, Fox) and New England Patriots welcoming the L.A. Chargers (1:05/12:05c, CBS).
Inside Weekend TV: Nat Geo WILD’s most popular series, The Incredible Dr. Pol (Saturday, 9/8c), returns for a 14th season, with the Michigan-based vet and his staff dealing with an ailing goat, calf, horse and vomiting pot-bellied pig. Another day on the job… CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7/6c) consults a Chinese artificial-intelligence expert who predicts in 15 years, 40% of all jobs could be done by machines. Another segment profiles Chris Downey, an architect who lost his sight a decade ago but who has flourished in his very visual trade… Taye Diggs hosts the 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards (Sunday, 7/6c, The CW), honoring the best in movies and TV. Viola Davis will present The Crown’s Claire Foy with the #SeeHer Award, and the cast of The Big Bang Theory will be on hand to give creator Chuck Lorre the Creative Achievement Award. (Full disclosure: I served on the nominating committee for several TV categories.)… It was bound to happen: Peter Griffin, aka Fox’s Family Guy (Sunday, 9/8c) moves the family to D.C. so he can take a job as the new White House Press Secretary… In what is likely the series as well as season finale, Fox’s Rel (Sunday, 9:30/8:30c) signs off with Rel (Lil Rel Howery) heading home to Cleveland to check on his daughter.