Worth Watching: Henry Winkler in ‘Actors Studio,’ ‘Succession’ and Other HBO Finales, ‘College Admissions Scandal’ on Lifetime, ‘Banana Splits’ Is Bananas
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Inside the Actors Studio (Sunday, 10/9c, 7/PT, Ovation): The fabled interview show has found a new home on cable’s arts network, Ovation, and adopts a new format in which famous performers and industry pros are questioned by equally renowned peers. (Sorry, James Lipton fans.) The new season gets off to a great start with Alec Baldwin‘s congenial one-on-one with a beloved TV legend: Henry Winkler. Charming and self-effacing, Winkler describes himself as a “late bloomer” even though he landed his breakthrough role of Fonzie on Happy Days at 27. The anecdotes of his various roles and auditions (up to and including his Emmy-winning triumph on HBO’s Barry) are amusing and compelling, and his advice to the students in the audience is absolutely sincere: “You have to have the courage to do what you think is right, not what you think they want you to be.” Seems to have worked for him rather well.
Succession (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): “Time for a blood sacrifice,” growled embattled media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in last week’s gripping cliffhanger, reacting to devastating congressional hearings into a corporate scandal at his family’s Waystar Royco empire. With a critical shareholder meeting looming, and Logan mulling his options aboard the family’s yacht, the second-season finale should shed light on which family member or loyal associate will be thrown under the bus (which feels more like a freight train). In a subplot I’m also dying to see unfold, feckless son Connor (Alan Ruck) must deal with reviews of girlfriend Willa’s (Justine Lupe) Broadway play. Can’t imagine they’ll be kind. Little on this brilliant series is.
Sunday is a big night for HBO finales. The Righteous Gemstones (10:10/9:10c) finishes its first season with Eli (John Goodman) questioning his horrible offspring’s future in the family business of religion — as well he should. And it’s the series finale of Ballers (11/10c), with Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) taking on one last fight on behalf of the league, while the various players consider their next moves on and off the field.
The College Admissions Scandal (Saturday, 8/7c, Lifetime): You can’t get more ripped from the headlines than this docudrama, which features Stargate‘s Michael Shanks as the real-life figure of consultant Rick Singer, who ropes wealthy families into a scheme to cheat the college-admissions system. Singer ultimately cooperated with the FBI in a plea deal to name his clients — two of whom (in composite roles) are played by Penelope Ann Miller and Mia Kirshner, as well-off moms who took the bait and must face the consequences of this epic fail.
The Banana Splits Movie (Saturday, 9/8c, Syfy): Another token of childhood innocence shatters in this ridiculous splatter thriller that leaves you wishing they’d just bring back Sharknado already. Even that would be preferable to Syfy tarnishing fond memories of misspent Saturday mornings in front of the TV (mine anyway). As a kid in the late 1960s, I knew The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was a mess, a juvenile rip-off of The Monkees that featured performers in furry animal suits. In this sluggish horror of a movie, the lumbering Splits are revealed to be malfunctioning robots who go on a killing spree when fans visit backstage after a live taping. (In what universe is this taking place?) What’s next, Huckleberry Hound as Cujo? Let’s not give them any ideas.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): When Alpha met Beta… Not exactly a rom-com, but for anyone yearning to know what brought together two of the most unpleasant characters ever to darken this series (Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst), fans get a pre-Whisperers back story from seven years earlier that also reinforces Alpha’s fierce maternal survival instinct toward her now-exiled daughter, Lydia (Cassidy McClincy). Whether you really want to spend an entire hour in their company is a test of resolve that separates true Dead-heads from the rest of us.
Inside Weekend TV: The road to the World Series continues Saturday with the second game of the NLCS, as the Washington Nationals take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium (4:08/3:08c, 1:08/PT, TBS), and the ALCS begins in Houston, with the Astros facing the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park (7:30/6:30c, 4:30/PT, Fox)… In a special edition of the CBS News series 48 Hours (Saturday, 10/9c), “Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping,” several survivors of the infamous 1976 crime recall the horror when 26 schoolchildren and a bus driver were taken by gunpoint from a bus into an underground truck trailer, where they were buried alive for 28 hours… Stranger Things‘ David Harbour makes his debut as guest host of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c), with Camila Cabello as musical guest… CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7:30/6:30c, 7/PT) features Scott Pelley‘s interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and human-rights attorney Amal Clooney about their efforts to seek justice against ISIS for the terrorist group’s genocidal crimes against the Yazidi people… Dr. T (Lauren Thielen) has left behind Florida and Dr. K (Susan Kelleher) of Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER to set up shop in her home state of Texas for her own Nat Geo WILD series, Dr. T, Lone Star Vet (Sunday, 9/8c)… Steven Spielberg collaborates with Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney as executive producers of Discovery’s six-part docuseries Why We Hate (Sunday, 10/9c), which attempts to understand this most elemental and destructive of emotions. The first episode, “Origins,” enlists evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare to look into our past for roots of the cruelty and violence being manifested today… Gibney is also among the producers of AMC’s series Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (Sunday, 12 am/11c), which opens with a study of Kanye West’s Christian rap song “Jesus Walks.”