Worth Watching: 95 Years of the Opry, ‘American Idol’ Returns, ‘Outlander’s Men in Kilts, Regina King on ‘SNL’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Grand Ole Opry: 95 Years of Country Music (Sunday, 9/8c, NBC): It’s a hootenanny for the ages. Celebrating a near-century of country-music legends and their greatest hits from the iconic Nashville stage, a two-hour special hosted by Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton features archival footage of interviews and classic performances. The guest roster includes longtime Opry stars Dolly Parton and Marty Stuart, plus such contemporary headliners as Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, Garth Brooks, Lady A, Darius Rucker and Trisha Yearwood.
American Idol (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC): If your musical tastes are more eclectic, maybe we’ll hear something new when auditions begin for the latest season of the singing competition that once upon a time crushed everything in its path. Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie are back as judges, searching for talent in a process that begins on the West Coast with hopefuls belting their hearts out in Los Angeles, San Diego and Ojai.
Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham (Sunday, 9/8c, Starz): If you have to ask “Sam and Graham who?” you’re probably not an Outlander fan. For the rest of us, the opportunity to explore Scotland with Sam Heughan and his co-star Graham McTavish is too good to pass up. Over eight episodes, the acting buddies sample all aspects of Scottish culture, which of course means plentiful food and, naturally, drink. The opener savors the glories of making top-shelf whisky and, a more acquired taste, haggis.
Also new to Starz: The Luminaries (Sunday, 8/7c), a six-part limited series based on Eleanor Catton’s prize-winning novel. Set in 1860s New Zealand amid a gold rush on the nation’s South Island, the sprawling and fanciful story begins when adventurous young Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) disembarks from her ocean voyage all the way from Great Britain to seek her fortune. Her chance meeting with fellow traveler Emery Staines (Himesh Patel) begins a tumultuous relationship that will test their resilience in this different take on a Wild West. Veteran scene stealer Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) adds a touch of mystery as the enigmatic Lydia Wells.
Comedy Tonight: After wowing us for years on TV (four Emmys for American Crime, Seven Seconds and most recently Watchmen) and in movies (an Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk), the magnificent Regina King tackles comedy with the cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c) for her first appearance as guest host. (Will there be a callback to her early days on 227?) Also making his debut, as musical guest: Nathaniel Rateliff.
Some 24 hours later, HBO’s perpetual Emmy champ Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sunday, 11/10c) returns for an eighth season of barbed social and political commentary. His timing could hardly be better after this last week in Washington, D.C.
That’s All, Folks: In finale news, BBC America’s raucous fantasy The Watch (Sunday, 8/7c) ends its first season by setting up a climactic battle between the ragtag City Watch and the villainous Carcer (Samuel Adewunmi), whose control of the Noble Dragon could spell doom for Ankh-Morpork… In the series finale of Showtime’s melodramatic Your Honor (Sunday, 10/9c), the end of Carlo Baxter’s (Jimi Stanton) trial is just the beginning of the troubles for Judge Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston) and son Adam (Hunter Doohan) as they face a reckoning in the cover-up of Adam’s hit-and-run. (Maybe he shouldn’t have started going out with crime boss Baxter’s daughter?)
Be Their Valentine: What would Valentine’s Day weekend be without a Hallmark Channel heartwarmer or two? In Playing Cupid (Saturday, 9/8c), teacher Laura Vandervoort’s class project of assigning students to create a small business gets personal when teenage Clara (Mia Quaranta De La Rosa) starts a Cupid Clara matchmaking service, with the intent of bringing her favorite teacher and her single dad (The Good Doctor‘’s Nicholas Gonzalez) together… Hallmark’s Valentine’s Again (Sunday, 9/8c) turns the holiday into a Groundhog’s Day scenario for Katherine (Nicky Whelan), when a gypsy curse has her reliving the day until she finds her Mr. Right (Greg Vaughan)… Get Ghost-ed on MTV when the channel celebrates Valentine’s Day with a 24-hour marathon of back-to-back screenings of 1990’s fan favorite Ghost (starts Saturday at 7 pm/6c). Throughout the marathon, look for fun facts and trivia scrolling on screen… For painful laughs, spend eight hours of your Valentine’s Day lamenting Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) romantic ups and downs in a 16-episode marathon of The Office (starts Sunday, 11 am/10c), with guest stars including Amy Adams, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Amy Ryan.
Inside Weekend TV: Racing enthusiasts for whom NASCAR is their first love will be spending their Valentine’s afternoon watching the running of the Daytona 500 on Fox (Sunday, 2:30 pm/1:30c)… In a revealing interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7/6c), Olympic gold-medal gymnast Simone Byles discusses the impact of last year’s decision to delay the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics until this summer, and how she had to be convinced to continue her grueling training… Jason Biggs hosts Fox’s new game show Cherries Wild (Sunday, 7/6c), which mixes trivia with gambling on a giant slot machine… After last week’s post-Super Bowl launch, CBS’s The Equalizer settles into its regular time slot (Sunday, 8/7c), when Robyn (Queen Latifah) responds to a call from a mother whose son has been kidnapped, with the threat of execution if she doesn’t steal confidential information from the FBI where she works. The Equalizer to the rescue!… Yet another kidnapping, this time on CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles (Sunday, 9/8c), when Sam’s (LL Cool J) daughter Kam (Kayla Smith) goes missing after leading protests on the city’s streets. At least Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) is back, rejoining the team… Bounce’s most popular drama, Saints & Sinners, returns with a movie, Judgment Day (Sunday, 9/8c), that bridges the fourth and upcoming fifth season (premiering April 11). In the movie, Mayor Ella Johnson (Vanessa Bell Calloway) is arrested for killing Malik (Karon Joseph Riley), which gives Ella’s mother Leona (Donna Biscoe) the opportunity to seize the key to the city. Good times… CNN launches two new and very different series on Sunday: Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (9/8c) follows the celebrated actor on a tasty six-episode travelogue of the country’s delicious regional cuisines. Lincoln: Divided We Stand (10/9c), narrated by This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown, relates the life story of the 16th president over six episodes, from his earliest days to his tragic end.