Worth Watching: Remembering John Belushi, Charlie Brown on PBS, American Music Awards, Christmas with Dolly Parton, ‘Family Guy’s New Mayor
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Belushi (Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime): A softer, more human side of the legendary comedian John Belushi emerges in R.J. Cutler’s remarkable documentary portrait, which leans heavily on audiotapes of candid interviews for an oral biography. Fellow performers, family members and other admirers remark on Belushi’s fearless talent, which exploded on Saturday Night Live and in movies like Animal House, but also his reckless appetites. Love letters (read by SNL veteran Bill Hader) to his widow, Judy, further humanize this volcanic comic actor, who died tragically young at 33 of a drug overdose in 1982.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Sunday, 7:30/6:30c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): After an outcry that the classic Peanuts holiday specials, a yearly tradition for millions, had moved from network TV to Apple TV+ exclusively, comes a smart and necessary course correction. For one night only, the 1973 Thanksgiving special will air on PBS and PBS KIDS. (Even more important, the show that started it all, A Charlie Brown Christmas, will air on PBS on Dec. 13.) Thanksgiving will be available to non-subscribers for free on Apple TV+ Wednesday through Friday. (For those keeping track of classic holiday specials, TBS airs 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a personal favorite, Sunday at 6/5c and 7/6c.)
2020 American Music Awards (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC): How long has it been since the last big music awards show? (Seems like yesterday.) Even so, this annual event, with fans doing the voting, is typically one of the biggest, and with Empire‘s Taraji P. Henson hosting, it’s bound to make noise. Leading the nominations: Roddy Ricch, The Weeknd, and Megan Thee Stallion, the latter two among the long list of performers. Other headliners from L.A.’s Microsoft Theater include Katy Perry, with the world premiere of “Only Love,” Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, medleys from Bell Bid DeVoe and Nelly, a collaboration of Jennifer Lopez and Maluma, and a Latin music crossover featuring Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez. Plus awards and speeches when there’s time.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Sunday, streaming on Netflix): If you’d rather your music have a holiday flair, the legendary Dolly Parton has you covered. She stars as no less than an angel of wisdom in a holiday movie, directed and choreographed by Grey’s Anatomy‘s Debbie Allen, that features 14 original Dolly songs. All in service of warming the heart of icy businesswoman Regina Fuller (The Good Fight‘s fabulous Christine Baranski), who’s come back to Fullerville USA to sell off the land to a mall developer and evict the locals, including childhood chum Jenifer Lewis (black-ish) and former flame Treat Williams (Everwood). Angel, have mercy on this woman!
Parton’s is by far the highest profile of the weekend’s onslaught of holiday movies. On Hallmark Channel: A Nashville Christmas Carol (Saturday, 8/7c) reintroduces Scrooge in the persona of a workaholic TV producer (Nashville‘s Jessy Schram) who’s visited by three ghosts: her recently deceased mentor (Wynonna Judd) and the Spirits of Christmas Past (Kix Brooks) and Present (Kimberly Williams-Paisley); and The Christmas House (Sunday, 8/7c), which features a Hallmark first, a primary gay character, in bakery owner Brandon (Jonathan Bennett), whose homecoming with TV-star brother Mike (Robert Buckley) is overshadowed by his attempts with husband Jake (Brad Harder) to adopt a baby.
On Hallmark Movies & Mysteries: The Angel Tree (Saturday, 10/9c), starring Mystery 101‘s Jill Wagner as a writer who discovers her childhood friend (Lucas Bryant) is responsible for granting wishes from the aforementioned tree; and A Godwink Christmas: First Loves, Second Chances (Sunday, 10/9c), with Brooke D’Orsay and Sam Page as former high-school sweethearts who meet cute years later in Hawaii.
On Lifetime: Feliz NaviDAD (Saturday, 8/7c), directed by former Sabrina Melissa Joan Hart, stars the ubiquitous Mario Lopez as a widowed high school principal in Arizona whose kids contrive to bring some joy back into his life by setting him up through online dating; and Homemade Christmas (Sunday, 8/7c), about an ambitious freelance holiday assistant-for-hire (Michelle Argyris) who could use some fixing in her personal life.
The Undoing (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): The murder trial begins in the penultimate chapter of the gripping mystery thriller, and the defense is desperate to throw suspicion on anyone other than Jonathan (Hugh Grant). But can his wife Grace (Nicole Kidman) even pretend to stand by her unfaithful man? It’s hard enough convincing her tormented son, Henry (Noah Jupe), not to lose faith. And yet another climactic twist has us counting the days until next week’s series finale.
Family Guy (Sunday, 9:30/8:30c, Fox): As voices go, Sam Elliott’s mellifluous deep bass is among the most distinctive in all of show business — which makes him an inspired choice to take on the recurring role of Wild West, the cousin of late Quahog mayor Adam West. Peter recruits the mustachioed cowboy, whose “hair follicles run deeper than the roots of a sequoia,” to run for the vacant office, then turns against him when initially skeptical wife Lois melts for the Zen macho man.
Inside Weekend TV: An impassioned account of what it means to be Black in America, HBO’s Between the World and Me (Saturday, 8/7c) adapts Ta-Nehesi Coates’ 2015 bestseller, with footage from a 2018 stage production, animation, home video and readings by an all-star cast including Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Yara Shahidi, Jharrell Jerome, and This Is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson. … History’s Lost Mysteries (Saturday, 9/8c) literally reopens the case of the Titanic‘s sinking by gaining permission to look inside of a box including personal notes of Lord Mersey, who investigated the tragedy in 1912. … After dealing with COVID-19 in its first episodes, CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans (Sunday, 9/8c) tackles police misconduct, when Pride (Scott Bakula) and his team take on some dirty cops after an NOPD officer is murdered. … In Food Network’s Buddy vs. Christmas (Sunday, 10/9c), Cake Boss regular Buddy Valastro puts his elaborate confectionary designs up against holiday creations by a scenic designer, a glassblower, an animatronics expert and a Lego master. These were among the last cakes designed by Buddy before he injured his right hand in September in a freak impaling accident.