Worth Watching: Super Bowl Mania (Also Kitten and Puppy Bowls), 31 Days of Oscar on TCM, A Case of 'Poisoned Love'
A selective critical checklist of notable Sunday TV:
Super Bowl LIV (Sunday, 6:30/5:30c, 3:30/PT, Fox): The game is, obviously, the thing — the San Francisco 49ers meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami in the final act of the NFL season. But so, for one night, are the ads (at a whopping $5.25 million per 30 seconds). Although many of the star-studded commercials have leaked already, as part of elaborate marketing campaigns, Super Bowl Sunday remains one of the few nights viewers don't fast-forward — or leave the room — when the ads come on. (Especially if Budweiser Clydesdales or other animals are involved.) Fox's marathon pre-game show, starting at 2 pm/1c, features performances by Pitbull, Dan + Shay, DJ Khaled, Demi Lovato and Yolanda Adams, while superstar sirens Jennifer Lopez and Shakira share the all-important half-time stage.
The Masked Singer (Sunday, approximately 10:30/9:30c, 7:30/PT, Fox): When the Super Bowl festivities are all over, curl up for the third-season premiere of the perfectly witless The Masked Singer. Jamie Foxx joins the panel as a special guest as they welcome a series-high 18 new costumed contestants.
Puppy Bowl XVI (Sunday, 2 pm/1c, Animal Planet): It's a tradition almost as beloved as football, as an estimated 96 pups from 61 shelters hit the mini-playing field to compete for the fire hydrant-shaped "Lombarky" trophy, with Dan Schachner as "rufferee." Actually, everyone's a winner here, because all of the competitors will find a good home in this campaign for animal adoption.
Kitten Bowl VII (Sunday, 3 pm/2c, Hallmark Channel): Coming on strong is another pet-rescue spectacular, featuring more than 100 kittens rescued from across the USA, forming four teams vying for the Feline Football Championship. The paw-in-cheek event is hosted by Beth Stern, joined by Jill Wagner and Brennan Elliott for play-by-play with NFL running back Rashad Jennings as field correspondent and Pro Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason returning as Commissioner of the Football Feline League. No catfighting allowed.
Sanditon (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): While most networks play dead against the Super Bowl juggernaut, it's business as usual as this Masterpiece adaptation of Jane Austen's unfinished novel chugs along. The centerpiece this week is an annual cricket match between the "gentlemen" and the laborers, with tension behind the scenes because Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) is way behind on his payments to the workers — including young Stringer (Leo Suter), who's clearly smitten by Charlotte (Rose Williams). In what's becoming a pattern, Charlotte wins the favor of Sidney Parker (Theo James) when she impulsively joins the game. But then she falls in his esteem again after defying his overprotective attitude toward heiress ward Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke).
31 Days of Oscar (starts Saturday, 6 am/5c, Turner Classic Movies): This year's monthlong (through March 2) marathon of films recognized by the Motion Picture Academy — either with winners or nominees — constitute a "360 Degrees of Oscar," in which each movie connected to the film that follows by an actor or actress. Example: The lineup begins with 1960's The Entertainer, followed at 7:45 am/6:45c with another Laurence Olivier classic, 1939's Wuthering Heights, which featured Flora Robson, who also appears in 1945's Caesar and Cleopatra (9:30 am/8:30c), and on it goes. In Saturday's prime time, 1965's epic Doctor Zhivago (8/7c) leads into 1968's Funny Girl (11:30/10:30c), where Zhivago's Omar Sharif romances Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice.
Poisoned Love: The Stacey Castor Story (Saturday, 8/c, Lifetime): Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) stars in the title role of a based-on-a-true-story melodrama about a woman who arouses police suspicion when her second husband, formerly her boss, dies of an apparent suicide that echoes the death of her first husband. When her daughter also attempts suicide, the question is whether Stacey is a tragedy magnet or a Black Widow? This being Lifetime, it's doubtless a foregone conclusion.
Inside Weekend TV: Already streaming on Acorn TV, the 13th season of long-running Canadian mystery series Murdoch Mysteries begins a run of weekly back-to-back episodes on Ovation (Saturday, 7/6c). Set around the turn of the last century, the season opens with an explosion at a suffrage rally… The Weather Channel tackles the issue of climate change in a second edition of 2020: Race to Save the Planet (Saturday, 8/7c), featuring interviews with several presidential candidates, scientists and activists… If the thought of a weekend without a movie awards show has you bereft, BBC America broadcasts The 2020 EE British Academy Film Awards (Sunday, 9:10/8:10c), better known as the BAFTAs, hosted by Graham Norton. Top nominees mirror the Oscars: The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917.