Worth Watching: ‘SNL’ Returns, Wendy Williams ‘What a Mess!,’ Cicely Tyson on TCM, Diana Rigg’s Swan Song, ‘Long Song’ on Masterpiece
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Saturday Night Live (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, NBC): At least nothing much happened while NBC’s satirical comedy-variety show was on hiatus for the last month. (We kid!) Hoping to bring Some Good News (the name of his digital series) in his first guest-hosting appearance on SNL is The Office star and A Quiet Place Part II director John Krasinski. Machine Gun Kelly is first-time musical guest. And with a new administration to spoof, while continuing to mock the excesses of the last, Alex Moffat settles into his impersonation of Joe Biden — accepting the challenge of finding humor in someone who isn’t inherently funny or outrageous. (We know Jim Carrey tried, but … ouch.)
Wendy Williams: What a Mess! (Saturday, 10/9c, Lifetime): Sometimes you just have to bow to something that calls it like it is. This feature-length documentary invites the outspoken talk-show host to bare her soul and walk us through her wild tabloid life — which is also the subject of the biopic, Wendy Williams: The Movie (8/7c), that precedes it. Ciera Payton plays Wendy through her career and personal highs and lows—and you’re allowed to sit back and gauge how’s she doin’!
Sounder (Sunday, 8/7c, Turner Classic Movies): Cicely Tyson, who passed away Thursday at 96, made her mark in movies, TV and theater, and her breakthrough came in 1972 with Sounder, about a sharecropping family in 1930s Louisiana. Tyson and co-star Paul Winfield were nominated for Oscars, along with the picture and its screenplay (by Lonne Elder III). As a tribute to Tyson, TCM presents this film, and 1966’s A Man Called Adam (10/9c), where she plays a civil-rights worker who gets involved with a self-destructive jazz trumpeter (Sammy Davis Jr.).
All Creatures Great and Small (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): In what became her final posthumous appearance on the satisfying new adaptation of James Herriot’s veterinary adventures, Dame Diana Rigg delights as the eccentric Mrs. Pumphrey, who’s overindulging her pet Pekingese, Tricki-Woo, nearly to death. Somehow, the vets convince her to let them keep the dog for a “spa treatment” of diet and exercise, and unfortunately for everyone, the task of dog-sitter goes to the irresponsible Tristan (Callum Woodhouse). And where’s James (Nicholas Ralph), who usually gets these unpleasant tasks? Out tending to Helen’s (Rachel Shenton) prize bull, who’s been “underperforming” lately.
The Long Song (Sunday, 10/9c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org)): This unusually sensual three-part Masterpiece fable of slavery in 1830s Jamaica could have been even longer. The Long Song is told by July (Tamara Lawrance), an irreverent slave renamed Marguerite by her impossible mistress (Agent Carter‘s Hayley Atwell). After a fateful Christmas uprising, July embarks on a dangerous liaison with the sugar plantation’s progressive but insecure new overseer (Jack Lowden).
The Lady and the Dale (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Where does HBO find these quirky true-crime tales? (I’m still recommending McMillion$ to people.) This four-part docuseries, premiering with back-to-back episodes, introduces the colorful Elizabeth Carmichael, a trans pioneer and possible conwoman. She reaped headlines in the 1970s when, at the height of the oil crisis, she promoted a new three-wheeled vehicle, The Dale, which promised fuel efficiency among its innovations. When charges of fraud and business code violations sunk The Dale’s prospects, the ensuing trial became a media circus focused as much on Carmichael’s gender identity as on her shady business dealings.
Your Honor (Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime): Returning after a week off, the characters in this severely flawed legal drama are still circling the drain of exasperating illogic. Having somehow contrived to get a colleague (Lorraine Toussaint) kicked off of presiding over Carlo Baxter’s (Jimi Stanton) murder trial so he can take the reins, poor over-his-head Judge Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston, acting up a storm to little avail) knows his every move and ruling is being watched by Carlo’s crime-boss dad, Jimmy (Michael Stuhlbarg). Michael’s son Adam (Hunter Doohan), whose hit-and-run that killed Jimmy’s other son started the whole mess, keeps making matters worse: lying to his teacher and former lover (Sofia Black-D’Elia), hanging out with Baxter’s daughter (Lilli Kay) — a dangerous disaster waiting to blow up — and making the sort of stupid decision about his future that should make even Michael wake up to realize the boy’s a lost cause who needs to be taught some life lessons before it’s too late.
Inside Weekend TV: Snapchat launches a new short-form series, Ryan Doesn’t Know (Saturday), in which Ryan Reynolds takes on challenges including ice and floral sculpting, axe throwing, latte art and other quirky areas of expertise that pique his curiosity… BBC America’s A Wild Year on Earth (Saturday, 8/7c) moves into March, which means cherry blossom time in Japan as longer days result in major weather events around the world… Enter at your own risk as Anderson Cooper anchors CNN Special Report: Inside the QAnon Conspiracy (Saturday, 9/8c), which investigates how this underground conspiracy-theory movement gained traction during the Trump years, culminating in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol… Ryan (Javicia Leslie) unveils a new Batsuit as she more fully embraces her role as the CW’s new Batwoman (Sunday, 8/7c)… Showtime’s late-night Desus & Mero is back for a third season, with new episodes on Sundays and Thursdays (11/10c).