Worth Watching: New ‘Curb’ and ‘Avenue 5’ on HBO, Australia Before the Fires in ‘Seven Worlds,’ ‘9-1-1: Lone Star,’ Cynthia Erivo in ‘Outsider’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sunday, 10:30/9:30c, HBO) We’re pretty, pretty enthused about the return, after two long years, of Larry David‘s deliciously cringe-worthy farce of bad behavior and inevitable consequences. We have no idea what will set Larry off in this long-awaited 10th season, but we’ll settle for nothing less than scorched-earth comedy. Among the celebrity guests said to risking Larry’s ire this season: Vince Vaughn, Jon Hamm, Mila Kunis, Fred Armisen, Timothy Olyphant (who’s having a good year as The Good Place fans know) and Ed Begley Jr.
Curb is paired for a solid comedy hour with Avenue 5 (Sunday, 10/9c), the latest from Veep provocateur Armando Iannucci. The knockabout sci-fi spoof, set aboard an ill-fated luxury space cruise ship to Saturn, stars a frenetically droll Hugh Laurie (Veep, House) as captain-in-uniform-only Ryan Clark, who’s ill-equipped to handle life-and-death crises when the Avenue 5 vessel goes disastrously off course, stranding a hapless crew and thousands of disgruntled passengers among the stars. Josh Gad co-stars (in an unflattering blond mop) as the ship’s spoiled and clueless owner, and Silicon Valley‘s Zach Woods steals every scene as the chirpily and perversely nihilistic head of customer relations. All aboard! (See the full review.)
Seven Worlds, One Planet (Saturday, 9/8c, BBC America, AMC, IFC, SundanceTV): Sounds like science fiction, but this visually enthralling series is the latest from BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit, capturing wildlife on each of Earth’s seven continents. To call attention to relief efforts from the fires that have captured the world’s alarmed attention, the network has shifted the series’ episode order to premiere with “Australia.” It’s almost too painful to behold as you can’t help wondering if the animals on display (filmed long before the wildfires began) could have survived the recent conflagrations. Among the rare sights captured by BBC’s crews: a dingo giving chase to kangaroos and bringing its bounty back to her pups.
9-1-1: Lone Star (Sunday, 10/9c, 7/PT, Fox): Surely you knew this was coming. As inevitable as the tides, one TV hit clones another, and as you might expect, things blow up real good in Texas as Ryan Murphy‘s outrageous emergency melodrama spins off with an Austin offshoot. In the opener, following the NFC Championship game (expect lots of promos), a tragic explosion wipes out most of a local firehouse, and six months later, New York transplant Owen Strand (Rob Lowe, making clever sport of his metrosexual image) is recruited to rebuild the Engine and Ladder 126 crew. Captain Owen has his own issues, including a health crisis and a gay firefighter son (Ronen Rubinstein) in recovery, but soon sets about hiring the most diverse team imaginable — Muslim? Check; Trans? Check — while touting skin-care and hair protocols. The action scenes, as always, are impressively produced, but the emotional load of Lone Star is carried by True Blood‘s Jim Parrack as Judd, the original house’s sole survivor, who needs to convince Owen and himself that his PTSD won’t get in the way of doing the job.
The Outsider (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Oscar-nominated Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) makes her initial appearance as “the one and only” Holly Gibney — a Stephen King character familiar from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy — a quirky but intuitive savant of an investigator called in on the mystifying investigation. When Ralph (Ben Mendelsohn) informs her, “I have no tolerance for the unexplainable,” she replies, “Well then, sir, you’ll have no tolerance for me.” We beg to differ. She’s just what The Outsider needs, especially when belligerent deputy Jack Hoskins (Marc Menchaca) has a fateful encounter with the lurking menace, and fatherless Jessa Maitland (Scarlett Juniper Blum) conveys warning messages from her eerie night visitor to stop the hunt.
Sanditon (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The Jane Austen-inspired Masterpiece continues to build on the undeniable sparks between Charlotte (Rose Williams) and the aloof Sidney (Theo James) with plot twists bringing them together often enough that he declares, “Seems I cannot escape you.” Set pieces include a demonstration of a futuristic “shower bath” and a construction injury that causes Sidney to consider Charlotte as more than a distracting ornament.
Vienna Blood (Sunday, 10/9c PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): If your appetite for British mystery is insatiable, you might relish this stiff and derivative series, set in 1906 Vienna. It’s your typical mismatched detective team, with gruff Viennese Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer) barely tolerating the boyish sidekick forced upon him: British student, and Freud acolyte, Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard), whose newfangled study of human behavior could help the Inspector, if only he’d listen. Their first case, continuing next week, involves the murder, possibly supernatural, of a beautiful but devious medium.
Awards Season: The countdown to the Oscars continues with the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (Sunday, 8/7c, 5/PT, TNT and TBS), with awards for film and TV. This year’s SAG Life Achievement Award goes to The Irishman‘s Robert De Niro, presented by Leonard DiCaprio. Among the TV categories are drama ensemble cast (Big Little Lies, The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things are nominees) and comedy ensemble (Barry, Fleabag, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek are nominated).
Earlier in the evening, PBS broadcasts the Great Performances presentation of Movies for Grownups Awards with AARP The Magazine (6/5c, check local listings at pbs.org), filmed earlier this month, with Tony Danza hosting and Annette Bening receiving the Career Achievement Award from Billy Crudup. Among the highlights: Diane Ladd presenting the supporting actress award to her daughter Laura Dern for her role in Marriage Story.
Inside Weekend TV: To honor the late Buck Henry, a popular performer and guest host in early seasons of Saturday Night Live, the network repeats a first-season episode from 1976 (Saturday, 10/9c), with Henry hosting and Bill Withers as musical guest… The road to the Super Bowl is determined by the winners of the AFC Championship Game (Sunday, 3:05/2:05c, CBS), with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Tennessee Titans; and the NFC Championship Game (Sunday, 6/5c, Fox), where the San Francisco 49ers are favored over the Green Bay Packers… Hulu becomes the streaming home of one of FX’s very best series, Justified, with all six seasons of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens’ (Timothy Olyphant) exploits available on Sunday. Won’t the judge from The Good Place be thrilled?… Building anticipation for the fifth and next-to-last season of Better Call Saul, returning in late February, AMC kicks off a Breaking Bad marathon with the first season airing in its entirety Sunday, starting at 4/3c. More seasons follow on successive Sundays… In the season finale of Showtime’s Ray Donovan (Sunday, 8/7c), Ray (Liev Schreiber) finally learns the truth about his beloved sister Bridget’s death, just in time for Mickey’s (Jon Voight) greedy shenanigans triggering a showdown between the Donovans and the Sullivans. As the saying goes, there will be blood. Or it wouldn’t be Ray Donovan.