Worth Watching: Russell Crowe in 'Loudest Voice,' Party Down with 'Lies,' Ramy Youssef on HBO, 'Son' Finale
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
The Loudest Voice (Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime): In an astonishing transformation comparable to Christian Bale's Oscar-nominated turn as Dick Cheney in Vice, Russell Crowe becomes controversial TV visionary and Fox News founder Roger Ailes in an incendiary seven-part docudrama. Adapting Gabriel Sherman's book The Loudest Voice in the Room, this cautionary character study paints Ailes as a glutton for power and control and a cunning master of media manipulation, whose appetite for young women on his payroll (including Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson) would be his undoing. (Read the full review.)
Big Little Lies (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): In what may be my favorite episode of the second season to date, things come to a head at a disco-themed birthday party, where a bankruptcy-challenged Renata (the magnificent Laura Dern) puts on a brave face for her beloved little Amabella (Ivy George). "This is about happiness!" she snaps. Try telling that to Celeste (Nicole Kidman), who is pushed to the limit by mother-in-law Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) and her legal and emotional maneuverings that threaten her hold on her boys.
The Son (Saturday, 9/8c, AMC): Seen as another nail in the proverbial coffin of the TV Western, this sprawling drama of a Texas dynasty comes to an end after two seasons. Flashbacks of young Eli (Jacob Lofland), now living as a Comanche warrior, find him making a momentous decision. In 1916, an older if not wiser Eli (Pierce Brosnan) escalates his war with Standard Oil, pitting him against sensitive son Pete (Henry Garrett).
Ramy Youssef: Feelings (Saturday, 10/9c, HBO): The Egyptian-American comedian, whose autobiographical Hulu comedy series Ramy premiered this spring to rapturous reviews, takes the stand-up stage in Chicago to share anecdotes from his life as a practicing Muslim. Subjects include his father's immigration story and his own complicated feelings for LeBron James.
Instinct (Sunday, 9/8c, CBS): The crime drama returns for a second season — delayed a few weeks from its original date, and boy did fans notice — with Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) again starring in the groundbreaking role of openly gay criminologist and police consultant Dr. Dylan Rinehart. With husband Andy (Daniel Ings), they'll continue their road toward adoption, while with detective partner Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic), he'll continue to help solve murders. This season, the team is joined by Travis Van Winkle (The Last Ship) as transplanted Nebraska detective Ryan Stock, who's on the trail of a possible serial killer.
The Rook (Sunday, 8/7c, Starz): The only thing in this dreary and murky supernatural spy drama that isn't derivative is the name of its heroine: Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas, played with understatement by Emma Greenwell (The Path). We first see her lying bewildered on a rainy London road surrounded by mangled dead bodies. She doesn't remember who she is, but thanks to notes and other cues she left herself before her memory was wiped, she soon realizes she's a member — make that a rook — of a shadowy government agency called "the Checquy," which deals with EVAs, people with "extreme variant abilities." Like Myfanwy, whose powers she's only beginning to come to grips with. Ponderous and sluggish, The Rook will make you feel like a pawn in a puzzle not worth the effort of solving.
What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage (Sunday, 9:30/8:30c, Fox): You may be asking yourself that very same question after watching what is certainly one of the strangest experiments of the summer's silly season. Good sport Savage (late of Fox's much-missed The Grinder) plays himself as the host of a send-up of ubiquitous after-shows like Talking Dead. In What Just Happened??!, he and celebrity guests gush over a non-existent sci-fi TV show (The Flare) based on an equally non-existent fictional book series, your typical dystopian thriller about the effects on a small Illinois town of a solar flare and a battle for human survival. In the premiere, Kevin Zegers (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) guests as the star of the fictional Flare. Comic Taylor Tomlinson is Savage's co-host, and there's even a house band, Best Coast.
Inside Weekend TV: TV One recounts the life of an R&B superstar in The Bobby DeBarge Story (Saturday, 8/7c), starring Roshon Fegan in the title role… Lifetime's latest Jane Green adaptation, Family Pictures (Saturday, 8/7c), stars Justina Machado, who's no doubt celebrating the great news of One Day at a Time's resurrection by Pop TV. She plays Sylvie, one of two moms living on opposite coasts — the other is Maggie (Elisabeth Röhm) — who are connected by a devastating secret. Matt Passmore (The Glades) co-stars… For the last few weeks, everyone in AMC's Fear the Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c) has been looking for Al (Maggie Grace), abducted by one of those mystery soldiers who've been lurking around the show's new Texas setting. This week's episode will shed light on where she's been, and even where she came from before the zombie apocalypse.