Worth Watching: ‘SNL’ Returns, ‘Poldark’ Final Season Premiere, ‘Preacher’ Series Finale, a New ‘Godfather’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, NBC): The Emmy-winning sketch institution could hardly have picked a more auspicious moment in political history to launch its landmark 45th season. (And here’s hoping Kate McKinnon takes on the role of teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, maybe during Weekend Update?) Woody Harrelson (Zombieland: Double Tap) returns for his fourth round as guest host, and Billie Eilish makes her debut as musical guest. And next week: Fleabag Emmy sensation Phoebe Waller-Bridge!
Poldark (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): “Why didn’t I marry an ordinary man?” laughs Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson), the fiery wife of hero Ross Poldark (a smoldering Aidan Turner) as the fifth and final season of the gorgeously produced and sweeping Masterpiece period drama begins. Ross heads back to London to help an old military friend out of a jam with political ramifications for his future, leaving Demelza in Cornwall to deal with dangerous labor unrest. But here’s the headline: Are we really being asked to feel sympathy for tormented widower, and Poldark nemesis, George Warleggen (Jack Farthing)? Even in his grief-addled state, he’s such an inhuman, cold snake that he doesn’t make it easy.
Preacher (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): The countdown to apocalypse is nigh in the truly bizarre series finale of TV’s most boldly irreverent supernatural thriller. How irreverent? Consider the epic fistfight between Jesus (Tyson Ritter) and Hitler (Noah Taylor) that’s just one of many showdowns: Tulip (Ruth Negga) confronting a traitorous Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Jesse (Dominic Cooper) facing the unyielding Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish), and God (Mark Harelik) vs. just about everyone. Can the world be saved? Should it?
Godfather of Harlem (Sunday, 10/9c, Epix): Forest Whitaker is a force of urban nature as real-life Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson, who returns home after a decade in Alcatraz as the colorful 10-episode first season begins. Bumpy is determined to reclaim his turf from Italian mobsters (including Vincent D’Onofrio as combative Vincent “Chin” Gigante), and along the way, Bumpy bumps up against historical figures including Cassius Clay (the future Muhammad Ali), crusader Malcolm X (Nigél Thatch, reprising his role from Selma) and canny politician Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito). This follows the first-season finale of Pennyworth (9/8c), in which Bruce Wayne’s future butler Alfred (Jack Bannon) must choose a side when the Queen is abducted.
NCIS: Los Angeles (9:30/8:30c, CBS): The JAG invasion continues from last season’s cliffhanger, with Navy Capt. Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) working with Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam (LL Cool J) to track down spies aboard the USS Allegiance. Back on shore, Lt. Col. Sarah “Mac” Mackenzie (Catherine Bell) teams with Hetty (Linda Hunt) to stop a Middle East missile attack, which could bring further peril to Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen), pinned down in a mobile CIA unit in Iraq.
Inside Weekend TV: Nostalgia-based Decades devotes the weekend to A Very Brady 50th Anniversary (starts Saturday, 1 pm/12c, through Monday at 7 am/6c) with select episodes from the iconic sitcom, as well as follow-up series The Brady Brides and The Bradys, plus a bunch of TV movies. Advice: stick to the original. It went downhill from there… MeTV salutes the Bradys with a shorter tribute, airing four back-to-back episodes, starting with the pilot, Sunday at 12 pm/11c… Lifetime’s topical movie Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (Saturday, 8/7c) stars Addison Holley as a teenager who comes out as gay to her Mormon parents, who promptly place her in a conversion therapy home against her will… Nat Geo WILD’s Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet (Saturday, 9/8c) is back for a seventh season, hosting a drive-through vaccination clinic for recalcitrant pets who’d rather stay in their masters’ car… CBS’s revered 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7:30/6:30c) launches its 52nd year with a newsmaker interview, as Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell sits down with Saudi Arabia’s controversial Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman… Fox’s eternal The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c) begins its 31st season with John Mulaney as a guest voice, when Bart and Homer become social-media stars after one of their fights goes viral… Followed by the premiere of an uninspired new toon, Bless the Harts (Sunday, 8:30/7:30c), featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz as cash-strapped Southerners. It will probably make you miss King of the Hill… AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead wraps its fifth season with Morgan (Lennie James) leading the group on a mission. Will that be toward or away from Virginia (Colby Minifie) and her Darwinist gang of Settlers?… ABC’s The Rookie (Sunday, 10/9c) moves to a new night for its second season, in which the newbie cops including Nolan (Nathan Fillion) get the results of their latest training exam.