Worth Watching: Extraordinary ‘Zoey,’ ‘Outlander’ Premiere, ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ & ‘Idol’ Return
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (Sunday, 9/8c, NBC): Like a love child of La La Land and Ally McBeal, this ambitiously whimsical musical-fantasy-comedy is like nothing else on TV. Jane Levy (Suburgatory) stars as the flustered Zoey, an ambitious San Francisco coder who suddenly begins to hear the inner thoughts of friends, families and strangers—through elaborate song and dance numbers. Her mind is a Pandora’s jukebox, and she can’t stop the music. Not that you’d want her to. One of the year’s biggest swings from a broadcast network, well worth checking out. (See the full review.)
Outlander (Sunday, 8/7c, Starz): Starz subscribers got a Valentine’s Day gift with the early On Demand and app release of the fifth-season opener. For those who choose to wait until the linear premiere on Sunday, the addictive time-travel romance opens with the wedding of Brianna (Sophie Skelton) to Roger (Richard Rankin). The big day is a happy one for most, but the celebration is marred marred by the arrival of Governor Tryon (Tim Downie), reminding Jamie (Sam Heughan) or his obligation to quell rebellion and hunt down the fugitive Murtagh.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Sunday, 9/8c, HGTV): Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) hosts a reboot of the tear-jerking home-and-life makeover show, off the air since 2012. In the premiere, designers Breegan Jane, Carrie Locklyn and Darren Keefe are joined by Food Network’s Tyler Florence to upgrade the circumstances of a single mom with five kids, three of them adopted, who need a new place to call home. Extreme Makeover to the rescue!
American Idol (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC): Also returning, on a crazy-busy Sunday—the first without a major sports or entertainment event since mid-January—is the singing competition, beginning its third season on ABC. Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie return as judges, and host-from-the-beginning Ryan Seacrest, to scout fresh talent in locales from L.A. to Washington, D.C., with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oregon and Georgia among other stops. Expect to see people singing their hearts out, when they’re not wearing them on their sleeves.
The Thing About Harry (Saturday, 8/7c, Freeform): As if to reinforce the message of the new Apple TV+ docuseries Visible: Out on Television (read the review here), about the importance of LGBTQ representation on TV, here’s an actual gay rom-com where the same-sex relationship is at the heart of the story, not the fringes. Grey’s Anatomy’s Jake Borelli stars as Sam, an uptight and lovelorn college student in Chicago who’s forced to reconnect with a high-school tormentor, Harry (Niko Terho), on a car ride home to Missouri for a wedding. Along the way, Sam realizes Harry has changed. He now identifies as “pan-sexual”—more inclusive than “bi”—and there’s a definite connection. But one that takes years, and a number of setbacks, to blossom into what friendship and possibly even love. As always in this genre, you know how it will end, but the fun is getting to that blissful happy ending. And as corny as it ultimately turns out to be, there’s still something groundbreaking and wonderfully affirming about Harry (directed, co-written by and co-starring Peter Paige).
A CNN Combo and More History: Two favorite subjects of news junkies—presidential campaigns and Britain’s royal family—get the CNN docu-treatment with six-part series, airing back-to-back on Sunday. Race for the White House (9/8c), narrated by Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, looks back at iconic presidential contests, starting with 2008’s historic match-up between Barack Obama, then a freshman senator, and John McCain. … Followed by the premiere of The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty (10/9c), narrated by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), which opens on the scandalous abdication of Prince Edward (briefly Edward VIII) to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson (thereafter known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor).
Going further back in history, the three-night History docuseries Washington (Sunday through Wednesday, 8/7c) humanizes the nation’s first president with live-action sequences (featuring Nicholas Rowe), excerpts from his letters and interviews with historians and scholars. Jeff Daniels narrates the series, executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Among those interviewed: President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and historians Joseph Ellis and Jon Meacham.
For those with a taste for more modern politics, Epix presents a six-episode docuseries based on the hit podcast Slow Burn (Sunday, 10/9c), taking a deep dive into the Watergate scandal by focusing on some of the story’s most unforgettable characters.
Inside Weekend TV: The nostalgic Decades network remembers the late Robert Conrad with a weekend-long binge of his cult series The Wild Wild West (starts Saturday at noon/11c), including TV-movie revivals from 1979 and 1980. … In advance of the police drama’s return next Sunday from a two-month hiatus, ABC replays the most recent three episodes of The Rookie (Saturday, 8/7c) to help fans catch up. … CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7/6c) goes backstage with a revolutionary Broadway revival of the classic West Side Story. … For those who lacked access to the Breaking Bad sequel El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie on Netflix, AMC premieres the Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)-centric film (Sunday, 8/7c) after a marathon binge of the five season of Breaking Bad. Spinoff Better Call Saul returns next Sunday. … BBC America’s Doctor Who (Sunday, 8/7c) gets literary, when the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her gang visits Mary Shelley and her intimate circle of poetic friends on the night that inspired her iconic Frakenstein. … Premium channel Epix launches a modern-day adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic War of the Worlds (Sunday, 9/8c), with Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern leading an international cast. … Just in time for the presidential race to heat up, HBO’s Emmy-winning Last Week with John Oliver (Sunday, 11/10c) makes a most welcome return for its seventh season of satirical commentary.