Worth Watching: ‘Sesame Street’ Celebrates Its 50th, ‘Dublin Murders,’ Carol and Daryl on a ‘Dead’ Mission, Showtime’s ‘Back to Life’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Celebration (Saturday. 7/6c, HBO): The most famous address in all of children’s TV is throwing a block party, and multiple generations will want to revisit some of their earliest memories of learning-through-television, Muppets style, with a special that looks back at a half-century of inclusive innovation. Kermit the Frog makes a special appearance, along with celebrity guests including host Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Whoopi Goldberg, Patti LaBelle, Meghan Trainor, Elvis Costello, Sterling K. Brown, Norah Jones and Itzhak Perlman. (PBS will air the special later this month. Check local listings at pbs.org.)
Dublin Murders (Sunday, 8/7c, Starz): Fans of dark, stubbornly ambiguous mystery will relish this eight-part adaptation of the first two “Dublin Murder Squad” novels by Tana French, In the Woods and The Likeness. The story follows two troubled detectives, Brit transplant Rob Reilly (Killian Scott) and ambitious Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene), as they investigate a murder in the woods with ties to an unsolved mystery from the past. In an intertwining storyline, Cassie returns to her undercover roots when a lookalike whose name hits close to close is fatally stabbed. The whodunits will satisfy procedural fans, but more troubling existential questions leave a haunting residue. (See the full review.)
Back to Life (10/11c, Showtime): Airing back-to-back episodes over three weeks, this melancholy dark comedy from the producers of Fleabag stars, and is co-written by, Episodes‘ Daisy Haggard. She is quietly moving, also wryly amusing, as hangdog Miri Matteson, a 36-year-old who has spent the last 18 years in prison, and upon release, tries to move on with her life, even when the quirky residents of her British seaside hometown present obstacles by refusing to forget her crime (the details of which emerge slowly). At times painfully funny, and sometimes just painful, Back to Life is a beautifully detailed character study, and if you find yourself instantly hooked, Showtime is making all six episodes available for binge-watching on the Showtime app and On Demand.
Paired with the 10th-season premiere of Showtime’s Shameless (9/8c), which moves on from the departure of Fiona with youngest sis Debbie (Emma Kenney, The Conners) taking the reins of the Gallagher clan’s finances, while dysfunctional dad Frank (William H. Macy) scams scripts. To help compensate for the loss of Emmy Rossum, Cameron Monaghan is back as brother Ian, resuming his prison relationship with Mickey (Noel Fisher).
For Nature Lovers: In BBC America’s Blue Planet Now (Saturday, 9/8c), a four-episode follow-up to Blue Planet II, scientists join hosts Chris Packham, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall for a deep dive into the world’s oceans for an update on how marine life is coping with climate change and other ecological issues. Among the stops in the opening episode: a Mexican whale nursery and a research station on the Great Barrier Reef where newborn sea turtles are the object of study, and admiration… Playing like a feature-length thriller, and airing free of commercials, National Geographic’s documentary Sea of Shadows (Saturday, 9/8c) follows scientists, journalists and conservationists who team with undercover agents and the Mexican Navy to combat poachers, with ties to drug cartels and Chinese traffickers, who are threatening the ecosystem and the very existence of the most endangered whale species, the vaquita porpoise.
The Walking Dead (9/8c, AMC): You know you’re in good company when OG survivors Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) work together on an away mission, although Daryl is understandably suspicious of his troubled friend’s motives and methods as they scope out a new tactic for taking down the Whisperers. This episode could also be titled “When Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) met Alpha (Samantha Morton),” now that the chatty arch-villain has crossed over the Whisperers’ border — but first, the former Saviors leader must pass a Beta (Ryan Hurst) test.
Inside Weekend TV: Dateline NBC (Saturday, 9/8c) presents the special report “A Song for Whitney,” in which the late Whitney Houston’s BFF Robyn Crawford opens up about her romantic relationship with the superstar… Billions‘ Kate Asia Dillon guest-voices on Fox’s The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c) as Paula, Marge’s new trainer in the sport of competitive lumberjacking. When Paula takes Marge to Portland for a monthlong retreat, guess who gets jealous?… Hot off her success in Apple’s The Morning Show, Jennifer Aniston accepts the People’s Icon Award during the E! People’s Choice Awards (Sunday, 9/8c). Other honorees include Gwen Stefani (Fashion Icon Award) and P!nk (People’s Champion Award)… Cult alert: Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty (Sunday, 11:30/10:30c) is back for a limited run of five surreal new episodes.