Worth Watching: HBO's 'Brexit' Movie, Mrs. Maisel Does 'SNL,' BBC America's 'Dynasties,' NFL Championship Games
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Brexit (Saturday, 9/8c, HBO): With a super-stylized approach that makes even the most chilling aspects of this docudrama entertaining, Brexit dramatizes the disruptive “new politics” behind the polarizing 2016 vote that led to the turbulent deal (still being negotiated) separating the United Kingdom from the European Union. As history plays out before our eyes, the movie could hardly be timelier. And Benedict Cumberbatch scores again with his oddball intensity, almost unrecognizable beneath a balding pate, as Dominic Cummings, the cunning strategist and political Frankenstein who employs newfangled micro-targeting social media to stir up fear and emotion, manipulating and identifying voters overlooked by old-school rivals. How this will play out remains to be seen, but Brexit helps explain how they got there. (And we think our politics is a mess!)
Dynasties (Saturday, 9/8c, BBC America; premiere simulcast on AMC, IFC, SundanceTV): Not to be confused with The CW’s sudsy dumpster fire, this sumptuous five-part nature series (presented by Sir David Attenborough, who pronounces it “din-nis-ties”) comes from the BBC’s renowned Natural History Unit. Dynasties embeds cameras within families of celebrated and endangered species to tell their survival stories. The series opens with a tribe of lions in Kenya and its heroic lioness leader, named Charm, followed over the course of an eventful, sometimes tragic and triumphant year.
Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:35/10:35c, NBC): We know she can deliver scripted stand-up material, with such verve she has collected an Emmy and two Golden Globes (among other accolades), and now Rachel Brosnahan — otherwise known as Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — tackles a high-profile gig Midge would kill for: guest-hosting SNL. Musical guest is Greta Van Fleet.
Black Monday (Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime): An old-school Showtime logo propels us into a world of retro raunch in a broad satire of 1980s’ excess, anchored by a poisonously giddy Don Cheadle. He plays coked-up high-stakes financial trader Mo Monroe, whose antics and schemes may have something to do with the infamous “black Monday” (Oct. 19, 1987), the day of Wall Street’s worst plunge. Caught in his hyper web: a skeptical ex (the terrific Regina Hall) and a naïve straight-arrow MBA nerd (Andrew Rannells).
This new series is paired with a second season of the more grounded dramedy SMILF (10:30/9:30c), starring Frankie Shaw as struggling single mom Bridgette—whose quest to learn more about her MIA father leads to an unexpected discovery, even as matters closer to home with her own mom Tutu (Rosie O’Donnell) take a stark turn. Showtime’s new Sunday lineup also includes the continuation of Season 8 of Shameless (9/8c), with Fiona continuing on her downward spiral, as series star Emmy Rossum nears her exit—at which point, why continue this series?
NFL Championship Games: Let’s face it, most eyes Sunday will be on football, as the NFC and AFC decide their championship teams to head to the Super Bowl in Atlanta on Feb. 3 (airing on CBS). Fox broadcasts the NFC Championship (3:05 pm/2:05c) pitting the Los Angeles Rams against the New Orleans Saints at New Orleans’ Superdome. Then CBS airs the AFC Championship (6:40/5:40c) faceoff between last year’s runner-up New England Patriots vs. the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
CBS uses the mighty football lead-in to give a boost to its middling reboot of Magnum P.I. on a special night (approximately 10/9c). In the episode, Magnum (Jay Hernandez) joins every other private eye (including Ken Jeong’s Luther Gillis) and bounty hunter on Oahu in the search for a man on the run, accused of murder.
Also getting a special Sunday airing: CBS’s delightful The Late Late Show with James Corden (11:35/10:35c, 8:35 pm/PT, times approximate), with special guests including Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett, whom the host will take to Space Camp (emphasis on camp). Also on board: six-time All-Pro Super Bowl Champ Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, who’ll attend a Touchdown Dance Bootcamp with other pro football players.
Inside Weekend TV: Christina Ricci plays a real-life pioneering 19th-century journalist who fakes her way into a women’s “lunatic asylum” to expose deplorable conditions in Lifetime’s Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story (Saturday, 8/7c). Judith Light co-stars as sadistic head nurse Matron Grady… Amazon Prime Video offers a mindless escape from the winter chill with remastered episodes of the guilty-pleasure Baywatch to mark its 30th anniversary… HBO moves its acclaimed stoner comedy High Maintenance from Fridays to Sunday (10:30/9:30c), where it follows a third season of Pete Holmes’ Crashing (10/9c).