Worth Watching: Kelsey Grammer Interviews Director James Burrows on ‘Actors Studio,’ Hetty’s Regrets on ‘NCIS: LA,’ ‘Facts of Life’ Reunion in Lifetime Movie, ‘Godfather’ Finale
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Inside the Actors Studio (10/9c, Sunday, Ovation): Described as “the person any actor wants calling the shots when the cameras are rolling,” legendary TV director James Burrows is interviewed by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer in a session that should be must-see viewing for any fan of classic TV comedy. The son of famed playwright and director Abe Burrows, James got his break when comforting Mary Tyler Moore during the disastrous tryout of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s musical (by Abe) that never made it to Broadway. This led to being invited to direct an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which led to a career guiding the futures of Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace and more. The self-effacing Burrows is lauded for his kindness and his ability to mine humor from any script, and notes, “If you can get people to laugh at attitude and not a joke, you’re home free.” He tells why Taxi may have been his hardest assignment, who was the role model for Ted Danson‘s Sam Malone on Cheers, who was offered Grammer’s role of Frasier (on Cheers) first, and fields questions on video from actors he helped make stars.
NCIS: Los Angeles (Sunday, 9/8c, CBS): The hit spinoff’s 250th episode is a big one for Eric Christian Olsen (Deeks), who co-wrote (with Babar Peerzada) the script, and also for Linda Hunt as ops manager Hetty. She is heartbroken to discover that a former black ops agent, Ahkos Laos (Carl Beukes), who she once recruited has gone rogue and is now targeting Hetty and her agents as payback for the violent life he has led. This leads to soul-searching among the team as they consider how things might have turned out if they’d gone solo like Laos.
Watchmen (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): How do you top last week’s dazzling episode, in which a Nostalgia-tripping Angela (Regina King) relived her grandfather’s life as a masked vigilante? You really can’t, but be prepared for a few more jaw-dropping and game-changing twists as Agent Blake (the wonderful Jean Smart) follows more leads to root out the Seventh Kavalry, and Angela undergoes treatment for her “recollective infestation,” exploring her own traumatic childhood in Vietnam as the Millennium Clock ticks down.
Godfather of Harlem (9/8c, Epix): The season finale of the gripping mob drama unfolds in the tragic wake of JFK’s assassination, with Bumpy (Forest Whitaker) sending his family away for safety while defending himself against charges that he killed a made man. His longtime friend Malcolm X (Nigél Thatch) is also in hot water, expelled from the Nation of Islam for ill-advised comments about Kennedy. Both men have more than their share of enemies to contend with.
You Light Up My Christmas (Sunday, 8/7c, Lifetime): Executive producer Kim Fields brings together her Facts of Life buddies Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn and Nancy McKeon for cameos in a holiday film in which Fields returns to her hometown to reignite her family’s struggling Christmas-light factory. Naturally, there’s an old flame (Adrian Holmes) willing to be lit up as well.
Also on tap for holiday-movie junkies: On Hallmark Channel: Christmas in Rome (Saturday, 8/7c), starring Party of Five fan favorite Lacey Chabert as an American tour guide who meets and falls for a lost American business executive (Sam Page) for whom she’ll play tour guide — and love interest. (What, no cute Italians available?)… Hallmark’s Christmas Town (Sunday, 8/7c) stars the ubiquitous Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House) as a schoolteacher whose train from Boston stalls in the quaint Grandon Falls (aka “Christmastown”), where she falls for a handyman (Schitt’s Creek‘s Tim Rozon) with a foster son. As one does… Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen (Saturday, 9/8c) uses Jane Austen as inspiration for a rom-com about party-planning sisters (When Calls the Heart‘s Erin Krakow and Kimberley Sustad) who take on an uptight client (Luke MacFarlane) with a bit of Mr. Darcy in his DNA… Bounce’s Every Day but Christmas (9/8c) stars Queen Sugar‘s Timon Durrett as a Christmas-hating Grinch of an author who sees the light when taken out of his discomfort zone during a book tour.
Inside Weekend TV: NBC rolls out Frank Capra’s sentimental 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life (Saturday, 8/7c), with James Stewart as the self-sacrificing George Bailey and Donna Reed as his eternally patient wife. Go earn those wings, Clarence!… Ne-Yo guests on Nickelodeon’s hidden-camera prank show The Substitute (Saturday, 9/8c), going undercover in a Burbank middle school as three different fake substitute teachers, including a chef whose recipe for eggnog is gag-worthy… In the penultimate episode of CBS’s Madam Secretary (Sunday, 10:30/9:30c, 10/PT), as President Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) prepares to testify in the impeachment hearings, a national security crisis proves an even bigger challenge when nuclear confrontation becomes a possibility… Mystery fans can binge on a 21st season of four feature-length episodes of the long-running British Midsomer Murders (Sunday, Acorn TV). Detective Chief Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and Detective Sgt. Winter (Nick Hendrix) investigate whodunit within a ballroom dance competition, a bee and honey empire, and a clash between fishermen and mud runners during a village’s Psycho Mud Run.