Worth Watching: ‘Taskmaster’ and ‘Fridge Wars,’ TCM’s ‘Summer Under the Stars,’ History Revisits A-Bombings
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Taskmaster (Sunday, 9/8c, The CW): File this under guilty pleasures, or an answer to the oft-asked question: What can I watch that’s just fun and takes my mind off things, preferably not streaming? Enter this long-running hit comedic game show imported from the U.K., which has spawned versions throughout Europe and briefly on Comedy Central in 2018. It’s hard to top the original, presided over with mock severity by “Taskmaster” host Greg Davies, bellowing, “Who says this show compromises your dignity?” after watching five comics chew doughnuts off a rope, catching the remnants in buckets for a weigh-in. These contestants will do whatever it takes, the more ridiculous the better, to win Davies’ favor and reap arbitrarily rewarded points. The barbed rapport of Davies and droll sidekick Alex Horne (the series’ creator) is delicious, and there’s universal appeal in watching clowns happily make fools of themselves.
Paired on Sundays with another import, from Canada: Fridge Wars (8/7c), in which two top chefs face off to make something fantastically edible — in 45 minutes — from ingredients found in everyday families’ refrigerators.
Summer Under the Stars (starts Saturday, 6 am/5c, Turner Classic Movies): For some, August means the dog days of summer. For others, it’s filled with anticipation as TCM reprises its annual celebration of Hollywood’s greatest stars, devoting each day of the month to the oeuvre of a different actor. (TCM recently announced that Olivia de Havilland, who recently passed away, will get her day on Aug. 23, originally scheduled for Bette Davis.) First up on Saturday: Barbara Stanwyck, with highlights including the hilarious Ball of Fire (8/7c) and her most memorable turn as a femme fatale in Double Indemnity (10/9c). Sunday’s star: Rock Hudson, whose tribute is anchored by his most famous Doris Day vehicle, Pillow Talk (8/7c).
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 75 Years Later (Sunday, 9/8c, History): A sobering documentary, also being shown on Hulu Japan this weekend, commemorates the 75th anniversary of a still-controversial event: the detonation of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing a cataclysmic end to World War II. The two-hour film from director James Erskine uses rare archival footage, including long-suppressed color film from the aftermath of the bomb and audio testimony from survivors, to humanize this dark historic chapter. 75 Years Later is told entirely from the first-person perspectives of world leaders, physicists, soldiers and survivors grappling with the moral and military issues that still haunt historians.
Syfy Wire After Dark (Saturday, 11/10c, Syfy): Nerd out with this cheeky special in which Syfy Wire’s team of experts gives summer picks and opinions on comics, water toys, summer movies and more. The 45-minute special is dedicated to robotics whiz and Mythbusters fan favorite Grant Imahara, who passed away in July at 49 of a brain aneurysm. He’s seen throughout the special providing quippy tips on how to make the most of the summer. He will be missed.
Ann Rules: Lifetime doubles down on true-crime writer Ann Rule with two TV-movies based on her work. In Ann Rule’s Sleeping with Danger (Saturday, 9/8c), Elisabeth Röhm stars as a flight attendant swept off her feet by a man (Antonio Cupo) whose passion soon turns into violent jealousy. In Sunday’s Ann Rule’s A Murder to Remember (8/7c), directed by Robin Givens, Maddie Nichols stars as a woman whose husband is killed on their anniversary camping trip and wonders if her rescuer (TC Matherne) may be up to no good. What are the odds? … Remember is followed by a companion special, Elizabeth Smart: Finding Justice (Sunday, 10/9c), in which the kidnap survivor interviews the woman whose actual ordeal inspired the film.
Britannia (Sunday, 9/8c, Epix): The epic fantasy, once a Prime Video exclusive, has a new home on cable’s Epix channel, which presents the first season of the gamy, gory and trippy series set in 43 A.D., when Celtic tribes and mystical Druids face invasion by unscrupulous Roman soldiers. (Epix will begin airing the second season in October and has committed to a third.) Britannia is especially notable for its female characters, including Yellowstone‘s Kelly Reilly as the unflinching Celtic princess Kerra. (If looks could kill, Reilly would be a serial murderer by now.) Kerra’s blood feud with rival Queen Antedia (a hammy Zoë Wanamaker) provides a strategic opening for Roman general Aulus Plautius (The Walking Dead‘s David Morrissey), but he’s more interested in tracking down young and spunky runaway Cait (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), whose prophecy of destiny deems her truly worthy of legend.
Inside Weekend TV: Best known for his brilliant work on The Carol Burnett Show, Tim Conway clowned his way through three rarely seen shows of his own, and all three — The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, The Tim Conway Show (both variety series) and the noir parody Ace Crawford, Private Eye — are now streaming on Shout! Factory TV, available across many platforms… Streaming on Sunday, on Netflix: the six-part docuseries Connected, in which science reporter Latif Nasser travels the globe to show how no one is an island and how we’re all linked to the world at large, from the microscopic level to the infinite in space… BBC America’s nature series Earthflight (Saturday, 8/7c), narrated by Broadchurch‘s David Tennant, looks at regions of the world from a bird’s-eye-view aerial perspective… The HBO special Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe (Saturday, 10/9c) finds the outspoken women’s soccer star discussing the state of today’s turbulent society with the equally opinionated U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pulitzer-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Peabody-winning comic Hasan Minhaj (Patriot Act)… “You almost look like a lawyer up there,” HBO’s Perry Mason (Sunday, 9/8c), played by Matthew Rhys, is told by his wry partner Pete (Shea Whigham) as things in the courtroom get chaotic in the first season’s penultimate episode… It’s time to step up or get out of the kitchen in the season finale of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America (Sunday, 9/8c) when the finalists are tasked to prepare a three-course restaurant-quality meal for a panel of experts. Top Chef it’s not, but I relate to these amateur chefs’ anxieties.