Worth Watching: 1980s ‘Movies’ on CNN, ‘Evel Live 2,’ ‘Big Little Lies,’ Space Specials
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
The Movies (Sunday, 9/8c, CNN): If the goal of this six-part series is to stimulate fond memories of moviegoing from years gone by, in a roughly decade-by-decade approach, it has already worked its magic on me. One of the first things I did after watching the dizzyingly dense two-hour tribute to the opening episode, devoted to films of “The Eighties,” was to replay a movie I hadn’t seen in years: 1982’s Paul Newman classic, The Verdict. (It holds up.) With Tom Hanks among the executive producers, the series interviews filmmakers, stars, and critics for a brisk overview of an era’s most culturally relevant peaks. There were plenty in the 1980s, including such blockbusters as The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Who Framed Roger Rabbit (described by Hanks as “the most complicated movie ever made”), and Back to the Future. It was a decade that launched Tom Cruise’s career (Risky Business, Top Gun) and secured Meryl Streep’s reputation for quality (Sophie’s Choice, Silkwood), while providing iconic touchstones for a young generation in music-driven hits like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, and Flashdance and the films of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) and Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything). I could go on with raves about Tootsie, Terms of Endearment, The Big Chill, Broadcast News, and so many more. But to quote Spike Lee in his breakthrough film: Do the Right Thing, and watch.
Evel Live 2 (Sunday, 9/8c, History): Some last-minute scrambling was required when motocross star Axell Hodges—who had planned two potentially record-breaking jumps during this live show, a sequel to last year’s hit special—injured both ankles during a practice jump. Following an hourlong behind-the-scenes special (8/7c) looking back at last year’s show, featuring three recreations of Evel Knievel’s legendary jumps by Travis Pastrana, the reworked live show will now include exclusive footage of Hodges’ crash. But the focus of the live coverage, from San Bernardino International Airport in California, will turn to X Games Medalist Vicki Golden, who hopes to break the motorcycle firewall record, when she speeds through a series of flaming wooden boards. (The current record is 12, set in 2007.)
Big Little Lies (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Part of the fun of the second season is watching great actresses relish the opportunity to play juicy scenes opposite living legend Meryl Streep. This week, it’s Laura Dern’s turn, when the high-strung Renata (Dern) invites Mary Louise (Streep) for team, intending to dissuade the dour mother-in-law-from-hell from continuing her custody battle with daughter-in-law Celeste (Nicole Kidman). Mary Louise is no fool, and soon turns the tables by commenting in her passive-aggressive way on Renata’s bankruptcy and career woes. “Are you placing judgment on my life choices?” Renata recoils in disbelief. That’s some great acting. It’s also a strong episode for Zoë Kravitz as Bonnie, who flashes back to childhood trauma while caring for her ailing mother, and Adam Scott as Ed, who finally opens up to estranged wife Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) about his take on their troubled marriage. As always, stay tuned until the end for another possibly game-changing twist.
Apollo: Missions to the Moon (Sunday, 9/8c, National Geographic Channel): The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 has prompted many TV specials over the next few weeks, including a full “Space Week” of programming on National Geographic. The kickoff event is a two-hour movie from Tom Jennings that takes an immersive approach through film and audio recordings of the time to capture the entirety of NASA’s Apollo space program, bolstered by an evocative score composed by James Everingham.
On a similar note, Smithsonian Channel’s more tightly focused The Day We Walked on the Moon (Sunday, 9/8c) is a minute-by-minute recreation of the first 24 hours following the moon landing, told by witnesses including astronaut Michael Collins, members of Mission Control, and children of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Inside Weekend TV: Coverage of the 106th Tour De France race, one of the most scenic events of any given year, begins Saturday at 6 am/5c with Stage 1 on NBCSN. … Revel in Rami Malek’s dynamic Oscar-winning impersonation of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, making its HBO debut (Saturday, 8/7c). … Host Mario Lopez brings extra (or is that Extra?) value to HGTV’s Supersize My Pool (Saturday, 9/8c), surprising families by transforming their sad excuse for a backyard swimming hole into a resort-worthy cement pond (as they used to say on The Beverly Hillbillies). … PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! bids farewell for now to Endeavour (Sunday, 9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org). In the sixth-season finale, the collapse of a tower block unearths a clue that could solve a long-unsolved mystery. … Nat Geo WILD goes Out There with Jack Randall (Sunday, 10/9c) in a new series featuring a fearless protégé of Steve Irwin who traverses the Australian outback to get up close and personal with exotic and endangered species.