Worth Watching: ‘Madam Secretary’ Now President, Tiffany and the ‘Kids,’ ‘Dead,’ ‘Mr. Robot’ & Other Returns, Phoebe Waller-Bridge on ‘SNL’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Madam Secretary (Sunday, 10/9c, CBS): That’s Madam President to you. As a shortened (10-episode) sixth and final season begins for the idealized political drama, which isn’t afraid to echo today’s headlines, the narrative skips past the campaign — if only life were that easy. We catch up with the presidency of Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) as she approaches the end of her first 100 days. Scandal beckons — the word “collusion” is heard — threatening a major piece of legislation and even her administration’s legitimacy. On a lighter note, First Gentleman Henry (Tim Daly) appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, prompting jokes about whether there’s still steam in the McCords’ romantic relationship. As if there were any doubt.
Kids Say the Darndest Things (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC): “I want to talk about fame,” Tiffany Haddish announces during her opening stand-up. “News flash: It’s GREAT!!” Who’s enjoying their success more than the irrepressible Haddish, a big kid herself? Which makes her the perfect choice to reboot the Kids franchise, in which she jokes and plays around with precocious children in front of a studio audience. The premiere includes a shout-out to the legendary Art Linkletter, who created the premise within his long-running House Party series. (No clips, naturally, of Bill Cosby‘s version.) It’s a bit wearying at a full hour, with incessant mugging and breakaways for auditions and forced sketches. But Haddish is always a hoot, and as a companion for America’s Funniest Home Videos (now in its 30th season), it’s a good fit.
Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30, NBC): The youth obsession with pop idol Taylor Swift is reflected several times in the Kids premiere, and she returns to the SNL stage for her third time as musical guest. But the real headliner this week is Emmy darling Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose success as writer-star of Fleabag and creator of BBC America’s Killing Eve has made her one of the most in-demand talents in show business. She makes her very well-timed debut as guest host, and don’t be surprised if she delivers some of her jokes straight to the camera (a Fleabag staple).
Returning Favorites: Among the many significant cable premieres this weekend is the milestone 10th-season opener of AMC’s The Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c), which finds the survivors in training mode after the damage inflicted by The Whisperers, and also in a reflective mood as they consider who’s good, who’s bad and what’s the point. “Sometimes I think we’re just surviving one fight to the next,” muses Daryl (Norman Reedus), giving voice to my own feelings about the show lately. But a falling object from the sky wakes everyone up to a more imminent danger.
After a nearly two-year hiatus, USA’s dazzlingly dark Mr. Robot (Sunday, 10/9c) is back for a fourth and final season of mind-bending technological intrigue. Creator Sam Esmail sets this last chapter against an incongruous Christmas backdrop, as hacker hero Elliot (Rami Malek) prepares for a showdown with Whiterose (B.D. Wong) and the Dark Army.
Also back: the Epix satire Get Shorty (Sunday, 10/9c), which captures Elmore Leonard’s darkly comic tone with a wonderful cast led by Chris O’Dowd as hit man-turned-Hollywood wannabe Miles Daly, who leaves prison as the third season begins and spars with studio head Laurence Budd (Steven Weber). Ray Romano co-stars as jaded producer Rick Moreweather, who is on the lam from the FBI with crime boss paramour Amara (Ludia Porto), which takes them to the Guatemalan jungle.
Succession (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): The Shiv hits the fan in the excruciatingly intense, and at times perilously amusing, penultimate episode of the Emmy-winning drama’s brilliant second season. The Roys head to Washington, D.C. to be grilled by a Congressional committee, and Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) former boss, Gil (Eric Bogosian), over a whistleblower scandal — how timely! — involving improprieties in Waystar Royco’s cruise business. While family members squirm, Shiv seeks out a very special witness. But where’s snarky black-sheep Roman (Kieran Culkin) through all of this? He’s in Turkey to make an investment deal to appease shareholders, but the meeting goes wildly awry in this political powder-keg of a country. Will anyone emerge from this mess with their reputations intact?
Inside Sunday TV: A Last Comic Standing veteran reveals his struggles with depression, leavened with humor, in HBO’s stand-up special Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh (Saturday, 10/9c)… E! revives E! True Hollywood Story (Sunday, 10/9c) with a season of new episodes, starting with the investigation “NXIVM: Self Help or Sex Cult?.” The episode features an interview with Catherine Oxenberg, who rescued her daughter from the shady group… Travel Channel is back in Salem, Mass., with the channel’s first docudrama, Witches of Salem (Sunday, 10/9c), a four-part series based on original transcripts from witnesses of the 1692 literal witch hunt… Disney Channel’s animated Star Wars Resistance (Sunday, 10/9c), intended as a bridge between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, returns for its second and final season, with Kaz (voiced by Christopher Sean) and the Colossus crew lost in space as they continue their first against the First Order.