Worth Watching: ‘NCIS’ Spinoffs Return, Ron Howard’s ‘Rebuilding Paradise,’ Rock Hall of Fame Inductions

NCIS Los Angeles
NCIS: Los Angeles

A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:

NCIS: Los Angeles (Sunday, 8:30/9:30c, 8/PT): It’s been a longer than usual wait in this year of the pandemic, but things are beginning to look like a regular fall-season rollout again with the return of back-to-back spinoffs of TV’s top crime franchise. Airing an hour earlier now, LA kicks off its 12th season with Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam (LL Cool J) heading to the desert to find a missing Russian bomber plane, while Hetty (Linda Hunt) gives Nell (Renée Felice Smith) a strange new assignment. Followed by NCIS: New Orleans (9:30/8:30c, 9/PT), which takes a timelier approach in presenting its host city dealing with the scourge of COVID-19. Coroner Loretta Wade (CCH Pounder) struggles to keep up in the morgue, and there’s a humanitarian ship offshore with infected crew members and a suspicious death, which Pride (Scott Bakula) sends Tammy (Vanessa Ferlito) and Carter (Charles Michael Davis) to investigate. (Classic NCIS episodes fill the remaining hour on Sundays.)

Rebuilding Paradise (Sunday, 8/7c, National Geographic): Ron Howard‘s acclaimed documentary airs without commercials on the second anniversary of the devastating Camp Fire, which turned the California town of Paradise into a hell on Earth, killing 85 residents and displacing 50,000 more as nearly all of the town’s structures were destroyed. The film profiles a resilient community that comes together to build a new future, albeit one that remains threatened by new waves of dangerous wildfires.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020 Inductions (Saturday, 8/7c, HBO): Typically one of any year’s biggest music events, the 2020 ceremony moved from its original spring date to late fall, with testimonials replacing the usual tribute performances. Still, honor will be paid to this year’s inductees: Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., T-Rex and industry honorees Jon Landau and Irving Azoff. And the talent speaking on their behalf is beyond impressive, including Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Luke Bryan, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Miley Cyrus, Don Henley, Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Chris Martin, Jennifer Hudson, Gwen Stefani and more.

The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c, Fox): Look who’s classing up the joint: Emmy and Oscar winner Olivia Colman, whose new season of Netflix’s The Crown is just a week away. She’s considerably less royal as the latest guest voice, a British femme fatale who takes a shine to Homer when Marge takes the kids go on a seaside vacation. Will he fall for her seduction? Are donuts involved?

The Undoing (Sunday, 9/8, HBO): The mystery deepens in this terrific psychological thriller once Grace’s (Nicole Kidman) husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant), now a prime suspect in a murder, returns to the family fold to tell his side of a very sordid story. Will the wronged wife buy it? Will the police? As more bombshells drop, Douglas Hodge and Noma Dumezweni make strong impressions as two very different sorts of lawyers taking an interest in the case.

Fear the Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): Happy moments are so rare in the Walking Dead universe they should be acknowledged. So hats off to reformed Saviors Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista) on their recent blissful reunion, which takes a turn when they join a group dead set on usurping Virginia (Colby Minifie). I’m already on their side, although we may once again have to play favorites when Morgan (Lennie James) shows up, sparking a power struggle.

Fargo (Sunday, 10/9c, FX): The body count rises exponentially as the quirky crime anthology approaches the end game of its fourth brilliant season, with a memorable reunion of the Fadda brothers, Josto (Jason Schwartzman) and Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), which doesn’t go the way anyone expects; and Marshall Deafy (Timothy Olyphant) puts the squeeze on Loy (Chris Rock) to track down those irrepressible outlaws, Zelmare (Karen Aldridge) and Swanee (Kelsey Asbille). What happens next makes the train-station scene in The Untouchables look like child’s play.

Moonbase 8 (Sunday, 11/10c, Showtime): Those with a high tolerance for low-key humor may enjoy the antics of three hapless astronauts (Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker) grounded in the remote Arizona desert on a simulated moon base. They wait, and wait some more, for their chance to go into space, but they might as well be waiting for Godot. (See the full review.)

Inside Weekend TV: Is Hallmark breaking the rules by titling one of its holiday movies Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater (Saturday, 8/7c)? No worries, they’ll get there before it’s over. You can also get your yuletide on with Hallmark’s Christmas with the Darlings (Sunday, 8/7c), Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ The Christmas Ring (Saturday, 10/9c) and The Christmas Bow (Sunday, 10/9c), and Lifetime’s A Welcome Home Christmas (Saturday, 8/7c) and A Very Charming Christmas Town (Sunday, 8/7c)… Find your zen in BBC America’s nature series Earth’s Great Seasons (Saturday, 8/7c), narrated by Fleabag‘s Andrew Scott. Each episode reveals how plants and wildlife thrive during a specific season of the year, starting with spring… The last time Dave Chappelle hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c) following the election of 2016, he won an Emmy. Could lightning strike twice? Foo Fighters is back for an eighth gig as musical guest, marking the band’s 25th anniversary of their debut album… The four-part Epix docuseries By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem (Sunday, 10/9c) revisits the world of the Forest Whitaker series, returning in 2021, by focusing on the music that defined Harlem and its activism during the 1960s.