Worth Watching: Rediscovering 'Witches,' In Memoriam TV, HBO's 'Tiger,' PBS's 'Creatures,' NFL Wild-Card
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
A Discovery of Witches (Saturday, streaming on Sundance Now, Shudder, AMC+): A hit for Sundance Now, the romantic supernatural spellbinder based on Deborah Harkness's fantasy trilogy takes on a sumptuous Masterpiece sheen in its second season by borrowing from the Outlander playbook. Which means time travel, when powerful witch Diana (Teresa Palmer) and her ancient vampire lover Matthew (Matthew Goode) zap back in time to 1590 London. Fantasy intersects seductively with history as Diana, a scholar who knows everything except how to control her abilities, flees her modern-day enemies and Matthew confronts his treacherous past as a spy for Queen Elizabeth I. Diana's goal is to learn, with the help of a local coven, how to control her gifts even as she and Matthew continue to seek the mysterious Book of Life, rumored to explain the origin of their occult species. As their Elizabethan contemporary Shakespeare might put it: Something wickedly irresistible this way comes.
Nostalgia Alert: You can always count on cable's nostalgia niches to give TV icons their due upon their passing. And so MeTV honors Dawn Wells, Gilligan Island's immortally perky Mary Ann (and the channel's first official celebrity marketing ambassador), with a three-hour "Best of Mary Ann" mini-marathon on Sunday (starts at 2 pm/1c). My favorite episode comes last (at 4:30/3:30c), when Mary Ann gets knocked out and wakes up thinking she’s the ever-glamorous Ginger (Tina Louise, the show’s last surviving cast member).
The last of TV's original Charlie's Angels, Tanya Roberts as Julie Rogers in the 1980-81 final season, gets a three-hour salute on COZI TV (Saturday, starts at 3 pm/2c), with the first three episodes of Season 5 that introduced her character.
Tiger (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Few superstars dominated a sport the way Tiger Woods ruled golf in the late 1990 and 2000s — and as this riveting two-part documentary profile (concluding next Sunday, Jan. 17) reveals, few paid as dear a price in body and soul. Woods only appears in archival footage, but commentary from sports journalists, family friends, a former caddie — and, sensationally, former mistress Rachel Uchitel — presents a rise-and-fall-and-rise story that reminds us never to underestimate this sports legend's resilience.
All Creatures Great and Small (Sunday, 9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org): Veterinarian/author James Herriot's beloved stories of a Scottish vet and the animals he treats in the Yorkshire Dales have inspired a second series adaptation — the first aired on public TV in the 1970s and ’80s. In Masterpiece's version, newcomer Nicholas Ralph is the recently graduated, and anxiously earnest, Herriot, who's eager to impress his gruff boss (Samuel West) and skeptical locals so devoted to their pets and livestock. The late Diana Rigg appears in later episodes as an eccentric aristocrat who may be spoiling her beloved Pekingese to death.
NFL's "Super Wild Card Weekend": Ready for some football? You’d better be, as NFL's post-season kicks into high gear with an expanded playoff roster comprised of six games over two days. On Saturday: The Colts meet the Bills in New York (1:05 pm/12:05c, CBS); Rams face the Seahawks in Seattle (4:40 pm/3:40c, Fox); and in prime time, Buccaneers take on the Washington Football Team at Maryland’s FedEx Field (8:15/7:15, NBC).
On Sunday: Ravens clash with the Titans in Nashville (1:05/12:05c, ESPN and ABC); Bears brawl with the Saints in Nashville (CBS, Amazon Prime Video and Nickelodeon); and in prime time, Browns go against the Steelers in Pittsburgh (8:15/7:15c, NBC, Telemundo and Peacock).
Critics Choice Super Awards (Sunday, 8/7c, The CW): For those who think awards shows are biased against genre programming, this one’s for you. Focusing on the best of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, superhero/comic book, action and animation, the first Super Awards are hosted by Kevin Smith and Dani Fernandez, with Hulu's Palm Springs leading the movie nominations (with five) and HBO's Lovecraft Country leading in the TV field (with six). The Star Trek franchise receives a Legacy Award for its cultural impact, with Picard star Patrick Stewart and Discovery's Sonequa Martin-Green accepting. [Full disclosure: I participate in some nominating panels for the Critics Choice Association.]
Inside Weekend TV: Having moved on temporarily from its Christmas fixation, Hallmark Channel presents A New Year's Resolution (Saturday, 9/8c), starring Friday Night Light's Aimee Teegarden as a morning-show producer who vows to make the new year all about saying "Yes," which is convenient when she falls for a confirmed "Yes man" (Michael Rady)… Showtime's The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth (Sunday, 8/7c) certainly picked the right week to return for a sixth season, as the opinionated team looks back on the pivotal runoff election in Georgia, which was eclipsed by the shameful riot against the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Former contributor Jennifer Palmieri joins as a co-host, alongside John Heilemann, Alex Wagner and Mark McKinnon… The stylish Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (Sunday, 8/7c) opens a third season with Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) relocating in peaceful Lakeside, Wisconsin in an attempt to escape his destiny. Good luck with that… No one said it would be easy to become an NCIS agent, as Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) learns as he struggles to make it through the training process on CBS's NCIS: Los Angeles (Sunday, 9/8c)… ABC reschedules the first of three new episodes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Sunday, 9/8c), all bumped on Wednesday by breaking news, with Amanda Peet, Zachary Quinto, and Karamo Brown playing for charity.