Worth Watching: ‘Pennyworth,’ Shark Week Begins, V.C. Andrews on Lifetime


A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:

Pennyworth (Sunday, 9/8c, Epix): It’s the origin story you didn’t know you wanted. In a heightened action thriller with echoes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond, Jack Bannon stars as dashing ex-British Air Service hero Alfred Pennyworth. We know him better as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s future butler/mentor, but back in the day of this stylized 1960s prequel, from Gotham‘s Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, battle-scarred Alfred starts a private security firm and soon runs afoul of anarchist movements determined to overthrow the British government. He also begins a complicated relationship with American billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), future dad of Bruce, a financial forensics analyst whose discovery of systemic fraud puts him in potentially lethal crosshairs. Though decrying violence, Alfred is no wallflower when it comes to beat-downs, and the rousing Pennyworth gives him plenty of opportunity to test his mettle.

Shark Trip: Eat. Prey. Chum (Sunday, 9/8c, Discovery): The 31st annual Shark Week extravaganza kicks off with a special that puckishly tries to downplay the idea that sharks are no joke. Comedian Rob Riggle invites fellow clowns Damon Wayans Jr., Adam Devine, Joel McHale and Anthony Anderson on a boat trip to the Bahamas where their encounters with finned friends include sitting atop a “human bait box” while reef and nurse sharks feed. Who’s laughing now?

Heaven (Saturday, 8/7c, Lifetime): Having scored with its movie adaptations of V.C. Andrews’ creepy Flowers in the Attic franchise, Lifetime spends the next five Saturday evenings dramatizing the author’s Casteel Family series of novels. In the sordid opening installment, Annalise Basso plays the title role of Heaven Leigh Casteel, eldest daughter in a backwoods family from the West Virginia mountains. Her life takes a terrible turn after her father sells her and her four siblings to different families, and Heaven ends up with her dad’s disturbed and abusive ex-lover (Julie Benz), whose husband (Chris McNally) gets uncomfortably amorous with his new ward. Ewww.

Amazing Dogs (Sunday, 8/7c, Smithsonian Channel): All bark with the added bite of history, this three-part series shows mankind’s best friend as they exist in the wild all across the globe, while explaining how they evolved into the domesticated breeds we welcome into our homes — and depending on the circumstance, our beds. Biologist Patrick Aryee travels from Mongolia and the Middle East desert to the dog-sledding north in the opening episode, which focuses on descendants of the wild gray wolf.

Inside Weekend TV: Oxygen’s two-hour special Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials (Saturay, 7/6c) relives the troubling 1983 legal witch hunt that ensued when proprietors and teachers at a prestigious California pre-school were charged with outrageously lurid allegations of child abuse and molestation. Spoiler alert: After a seven-year ordeal, the unsupported claims resulted in zero convictions. How did this happen?… Hallmark Channel begins a five-week series of “Summer Nights” romantic movies with Rome in Love (Saturday, 9/8c), starring Designated Survivor‘s Italia Ricci in a twist on the movie classic Roman Holiday. She plays a fledgling actress cast in a remake of the movie who falls for the reporter (Peter Porte) assigned to profile her… HBO’s Share (Saturday, 10/9c) could be seen as a companion piece to the ongoing series Euphoria. The movie, expanding Pippa Bianco’s film-festival winning short film, stars Rhianne Barreto as a 16-year-old shamed in a viral video from a night she can’t remember. As she tries to piece together what happened, she must also deal with the fallout from social media…