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What to Watch on TV Now

'Arrested Development' is back after five years off the air, and several documentaries worth watching

A woman sitting at a table with pill bottles on a table in front of her.

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Alia Shawkat, 29, plays Maeby, who is impersonating an older woman in order to live in a fancy retirement home, on “Arrested Development.”

What’s New

It's Memorial Day weekend so it's no surprise that three documentaries related to war and war heroes are airing, plus the National Memorial Day Concert hosted by Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna will be broadcast live Sunday.

National Memorial Day Concert

(PBS, May 27, 8-9:30 p.m. ET) 

It is the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, and the annual concert — live from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. — pays tribute to fallen soldiers. Just part of the draw: Gen. Colin Powell; actress Allison Janney; the National Symphony Orchestra; the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets; the Army Chorus and Army Voices; the Soldiers' Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band; the Navy Band Sea Chanters; and the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants. 

John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls

(HBO, May 28, 9 p.m. ET)

Because Arizona Sen. John McCain is battling cancer, the subtitle of this documentary about him sounds slightly morbid, but it’s just a reference to McCain’s personal hero — the main character in Ernest Hemingway’s novel by that name. The story is about Robert Jordan, an American who fights fascists in the Spanish Civil War — McCain's model for a life lived heroically and idealistically against all odds. McCain talks in the doc about his "maverick" career, his triumphs, and his worst mistake (choosing Sarah Palin and not Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate in 2008) in a skillful, gentle film by six-time Emmy winner Peter Kunhardt. 

Going to War

(PBS, May 28, 9 p.m. ET)

Vietnam veteran and author Karl Marlantes and Oscar-winning chronicler of the war in Afghanistan Sebastian Junger help explain the painful paradoxes of war over several generations.

1968: The Year That Changed America

(CNN, May 27-28, then streaming on CNNgo and on demand on cable and satellite)

CNN's historical series talks about war — the Vietnam conflict — as well as everything else that made 1968 the pivotal year it was. See our FULL REVIEW of the Tom Hanks-produced deep dive into the past. It reveals plenty about what's going on today. 

Succession

(HBO, June 3)

This new 10-episode drama series is like a combination of BillionsTrust and Empire, with Brian Cox, 71, at its center. Cox calls his Logan Roy — so tyrannical over his kids that they call him “Kim Jong Pop” — like "King Lear," though some may find more parallels with Rupert Murdoch’s family, as Roy is the fifth-largest media mogul on earth. Cox tells us the character is “a self-made man whose children are not self-made — they’re very entitled — and he doesn’t think they’re deserving or capable of taking over his empire, except for his daughter. They’re trying to prove something to their father. It’s a satire of a dysfunctional family, and about how wealth distances you from life, removes you from a sense of reality.” Cox says it’s a show for a modern world in which, as he notes, “Forty-three people own more than what 3 billion people do.”

Arrested Development

(Netflix, May 29)

The beloved cult comedy about the insanely dysfunctional Bluth family is back after five years off the air, and most reviewers agree it's an improvement over the disastrous fourth season. (Its flashback timeline was so confusing that Netflix just released a more chronologically intelligible new version of it called Arrested Development Season 4 Remix.) The best character, matriarch Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter, 77), has dumped her husband and is eyed by a new guy (Dermot Mulroney, 54). Her son Buster (Tony Hale, 47) is accused of killing his mom's rival (Liza Minnelli). Granddaughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat, 29) is impersonating an older woman to live in a fancy retirement home. And the only semi-sane Bluth (Jason Bateman, 49) hopes to patch things up with his son (Michael Cera, 29) after they both dated the same woman.

Catch Up With

The Americans

(FX, May 30, 10 p.m. ET)

The best show on television — an intelligent drama about a couple of Russians in the 1980s posing as Americans to spy for their homeland — ends this week with a mystery-solving finale. What better time than a three-day weekend to get ready for that episode by binge-watching all six seasons (streaming on FXNOW, FX+, Amazon)? Real-life couple Keri Russell, 42, and Matthew Rhys, 43, have a family vibe as authentic as The Sopranos’ — plus great, knotty thriller plots and period-perfect realism (it’s based on several actual Russian spy couples in the U.S. in the 1980s). And one of our favorites from Justified and Sneaky Pete, Margo Martindale, 66, is aces as the couple’s Russian spy boss.

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