Worth Watching: Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music,’ Alec Baldwin Roasted, Peter Fonda Remembered, a Pivotal ‘Succession’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Country Music (Sunday, 8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Ken Burns, America’s beloved bard of stirring and sweeping documentaries, delivers his latest magnum opus in a 16-hour history (airing over eight nights and two weeks) of the ever-evolving musical genre, telling soulful stories of gone-too-soon pioneers (Hank Williams, Patsy Cline), outlaws (Willie Nelson) and superstars (Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks). The centerpiece, and heart, of the series is troubled troubadour Johnny Cash, who married into country royalty (June Carter Cash) and is remembered frankly and fondly by daughter Rosanne. Don’t be surprised when interview subjects (including Dwight Yoakum, Marty Stuart, Reba McEntire and many more) suddenly break into song. It’s infectious.
Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin (Sunday, 10/9c, Comedy Central, simulcast on MTV, TV Land, VH1, CMT, Paramount Network): The opinionated actor can dish it out, and now he’s going to have to take it as Alec Baldwin submits to the ritual skewering, not for prudes. Will & Grace‘s Sean Hayes is the Roast Master, presiding over an eclectic gallery including Robert De Niro, Caitlyn Jenner, Nikki Glaser, Ken Jeong, Caroline Rhea, Adam Carolla, Blake Griffin, Chris Redd and the inevitable Jeff Ross. As a special treat, Baldwin gets roasted by daughter Ireland (who once was on the receiving end of dad’s ire in a notorious phone message). Regardless of how blue the show gets, this is for a good cause, with Baldwin and Comedy Central contributing a combined $1 million to the nonprofit Exploring the Arts, a program servicing public high schools throughout New York City and Los Angeles. (And probably not urging its students to watch this outrageous jokefest.)
TCM Remembers Peter Fonda (Sunday, 8/7c, Turner Classic Movies): Counterculture icon and Hollywood royalty Peter Fonda, who passed away last month at 79, gets the TCM treatment with showings of two films which earned him Oscar nominations: one for acting in 1997’s Ulee’s Gold (8/7c), in which he plays a reclusive beekeeper and Vietnam vet who gets roped into his son’s family and criminal intrigues; and one for screenplay for 1969’s Easy Rider (10/9c), which made him a star as well as the hipster biker on a fateful cross-country journey.
TCM is also making noise with its hiring of the channel’s first African-American host, Jacqueline Stewart, for the “Silent Sunday Nights” film series, Stewart, a professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, specializes in African-American film history from the silent era to the present. She is a three-term appointee to the National Film Preservation Board and chairs its Diversity Task Force. Her first “Silent Sunday” selection is 1927’s Two Arabian Nights (12 am/11c), a comedy-adventure from All Quiet on the Western Front director Lewis Milestone. Set in WW1, it’s about two American soldiers who escape from a German prison camp and fall for an Arabian harem girl.
Succession (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Another family outing, another scandal, and more ego-tweaking in-fighting among the Roys and their advisers, this time at a rustic media-tech-finance conference (patterned after the annual Sun Valley powwow). Things get tense in a pivotal and suspenseful episode, which also means it’s often squirmingly funny, as the sibs jockey over who’s best equipped to do some damage control, even as irascible poppa-bear Logan (Brian Cox) tries to speed up closing the takeover deal with Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) before it’s too late. Always good for comic relief: son-in-law Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), assigned to take the stage to present news channel ATN’s messy new slogan. What a hoot.
Inside Weekend TV: CBS’s 48 Hours (Saturday, 9/8c) kicks off a new season of true-crime storytelling with a two-hour episode investigating the crimes of serial killer Michael Gargiulo, dubbed “The Hollywood Ripper.”… Hallmark Channel travels to Ireland for the romance Forever in My Heart (Saturday, 9/8c), starring Merritt Patterson as Jenna, a newly engaged hotelier who returns to Ireland after five years and rekindles her affections for Charlie (Jack Turner), whose family operates the rural Ireland Inn. Begorrah!… To mark the 25th anniversary of the medical-drama phenom that was ER, Pop TV presents a nine-episode marathon featuring memorable guest stars, starting at 2 pm/1c with the harrowing “Love’s Labor Lost.” Bradley Whitford guests as the husband of a pregnant woman whose delivery goes terribly awry… As apocalypse looms in the final season of AMC’s outrageous Preacher (Sunday, 10:05/9:05c), the images are often disturbing, but the tone is one of comic mayhem. While a mutilated Herr Starr (Pip Torrens) and the Grail continue to search for the deranged Humperdoo (Tyson Ritter), Jesse (Dominic Cooper) finally comes face to face with God (Mark Harelik). Can anything or anyone spare His creation from annihilation?