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What to Watch on TV Now

Fall fare: Jane Fonda, 'Murphy Brown,' Ted Danson, 'Magnum, P.I.', Tim Allen, Martin Mull, and more

Jane Fonda,

Steve Schapiro/HBO

What's New

Jane Fonda In Five Acts

(HBO, Monday, Sept. 24)

It’s the biggest TV premiere week of the year, and first up is an epic documentary about the star with the most fascinating life: Grace and Frankie star Jane Fonda. The film covers the five figures who dominated her life: her dad, Henry Fonda (astoundingly cold, he failed to tell Jane of her mother’s suicide); first husband, director Roger Vadim (Barbarella); second husband Tom Hayden; third husband Ted Turner (she alienated him by becoming Christian); and at last, herself, responsible for her recent comeback. “I’m still changing — I’m only 80,” Fonda says. “And why be alive if you’re not learning and changing? You may not be able to make your life longer, but you can make it deeper and wider.”

Stephen Hil, Zachary Knighton and Jay Hernandez in CBS'

Karen Neal/CBS

Stephen Hil, Zachary Knighton and Jay Hernandez in CBS' "Magnum, P.I."

Magnum, P.I.

(CBS, Monday Sept. 24, 9 p.m. ET)

Like the Tom Selleck original set in Hawaii, only now Magnum is young Jay Hernandez, the British sidekick he butts heads with is a snooty female, and director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) has the investigator enter by skydiving from outer space and leaping off a cliff from his crashing Ferrari onto a helicopter.

Zeeko Zaki, Missy Peregrym, FBI

Michael Parmelee/CBS

Zeeko Zaki and Missy Peregrym in "FBI."


(CBS, Tuesday Sept. 25, 9 p.m. ET)

It’s like the four other snappy procedural crime shows on TV created by Dick Wolf, 71 (Law & Order), only instead of local crimes, the cases involve New York brownstones that blow up and mass poisonings. It has nothing to do with FBI politics currently in the news but deals instead with imaginary yet realistic crimes and the agents’ personal lives. Coolest casting: Sela Ward, 62, as an FBI boss. It’s “assiduously apolitical,” Wolf says.

Ted Danson, D'Arcy Carden

Justin Lubin/NBC

Ted Danson and D'Arcy Carden in "The Good Place."

The Good Place

(NBC, Thursday Sept. 27, 8 p.m. ET)

Ted Danson, 70, is bound to get his 16th Emmy nomination as the supernatural being in charge of four humans in the afterlife in TV’s smartest, least predictable hit. In the third season, he beams back to Earth, prevents their deaths and tries to see if he can manipulate them into becoming good people. Odd? Yes, but if you watch this, you’ll be a better person — and laugh more.

Joe Regalbuto, Grant Shaud, Candice Bergen, and Faith Ford

Jojo Whilden/CBS

Joe Regalbuto, Grant Shaud, Candice Bergen, and Faith Ford return in the reboot of "Murphy Brown" on CBS.

Murphy Brown

(CBS, Thursday Sept. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Assiduously political, left-leaning TV newswoman Murphy (Candice Bergen, 72) is back, with the original producer and core cast of her 1988-1998 smash. And her child (Jake McDorman) is now her rival on a Fox-like network. Bergen is a bit political, but here are five reasons she’s not like Murphy Brown.

Vicki Lawrence, Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, and Leslie Jordan

Patrick McElhenney/FOX

Vicki Lawrence, Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, and Leslie Jordan in "The Cool Kids."

The Cool Kids

(Fox, Friday Sept. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Roseanne’s Martin Mull, 75, David Alan Grier, 62, Leslie Jordan, 63, and Carol Burnett Show veteran Vicki Lawrence, 69, vie for social supremacy at the Shady Meadows retirement home, which is as unruly as any high school. “History is the best thing about getting old. You know stuff that young people don’t know,” Lawrence told the TV Critics Association. These four know as much about classic comedy as anyone alive.

Emily Watson, Emma Thompson, 'King Lear'

Ed Miller/HBO

Emily Watson and Emma Thompson in HBO's new production of "King Lear."

King Lear

(Amazon, Friday Sept. 28)

A stripped-down, streamlined, rocket-fast version of Shakespeare’s great play about aging, with Anthony Hopkins, 80, crackling with unhinged energy. In a barely futuristic England, he has wild parties with fellow old goats, goes mad in a shopping center parking lot and gets shafted by his snaky daughters (Emma Thompson and Emily Watson).

Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Christoph Sanders


Tim Allen, Nancy Travis and Christoph Sanders in "Last Man Standing."

Last Man Standing

(Fox, Friday Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET)

Tim Allen, 65, comes back big-time with his show, booted from ABC but entirely intact. The jokes land, and Allen has something to say about everybody’s politically squabbling clans — from his right-wing perspective, a trifle obnoxiously, but his smugness is why it’s funny, and lots of left-ier comedy fans will laugh, too. It’s mostly just about a family, like the 2018 Roseanne reboot, and it’s every giggle as good. Don’t miss the second episode, with Robert Forster, 77. “I play his father,” Forster told AARP. “I have died, and now I come back to him as something of a ghost.” It’s the best scene on TV this season — it cracks you up, and then it makes you cry.

Catch Up With

Tony Danza in

Michael K. Short/Netflix

Tony Danza is a kick in his return to TV on Netflix's "The Good Cop."

The Good Cop

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

There’s so much to be charmed by in Tony Danza’s return to television nearly two decades after his last regular series role. Right from its opening credits, which feature the dulcet tones of Danza himself on a throwback theme song, the show, from Monk creator Andy Breckman, brings a warm smile. Danza, 67, plays a disgraced ex-cop turned ex-con named Tony (is the surest sign of a beloved TV star that he can only play a character who shares his actual name?) who lives with his son Tony Jr. (Josh Groban), a straight-laced police officer who has risen to NYPD detective status by being the exact opposite kind of cop from his old man. How straight-laced? He keeps a swear jar in his office. Isiah Whitlock Jr. highlights a top-notch supporting cast, and there are laughs, nice chemistry between the yin-yang leads and a murder mystery that puts dad and son on the unofficial case together. Really, though, it’s great just to have Danza back.

Quincy Jones from documentary

Courtesy of TIFF

Legendary music producer Quincy Jones is the subject of the new Netflix documentary "Quincy."


(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Actress Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks and Recreation) co-directed this documentary and is the daughter of the titular subject, so don’t go in expecting a probing, critical look at the life of music industry icon Quincy Jones. But what the younger Jones may lack in detached perspective she more than makes up for in access, as her cameras were flies-on-the-walls of her dad’s globe-trotting life for more than three years. With Quincy Jones one of the most famously well-connected people on Earth, that makes for a lot of celebrity cameos. And for boomers who grew up on the music and artists Jones produced, from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson and so many in between, it makes for a pretty special musical journey.

James Franco in HBO's

Paul Schiraldi/HBO

James Franco does double duty as the twin Martino brothers on HBO's "The Deuce."

The Deuce

(HBO, streaming anytime)

At the moment, the best show on TV is this epic about New York’s 1977 porn biz, with Maggie Gyllenhaal as a hooker-turned-filmmaker (the greatest performance of her illustrious career) and James Franco playing two brothers in the vice trade, one responsible, the other entertainingly shiftless and stealing from the first. The whole cast gets remarkably deep character arcs, and it brings 1977 back alive. This show is totally addictive.

Jim Carrey in

Erica Parise/Showtime

Jim Carrey returns to television in the Showtime series "Kidding," in which he plays a Mr. Rogers-like star of a children's TV show.


(Showtime, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET)

Jim Carrey, 56, is heart-shreddingly good — but not funny — as the nice but crushingly depressive Mr. Pickles, the host of a children’s TV show worth $112 million, whose own son has died. His wife (the marvelous Judy Greer) and surviving son turn their backs on him. His dad and TV producer (Frank Langella, 80) won’t let him do a show about death, and wants his daughter (Catherine Keener, 59), the head puppet maker on the show, to craft a puppet version of Mr. Pickles, who might be easier to direct. The show is suffused with the melancholy of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Carrey’s most esoteric hit, because it’s created by Sunshine’s director, Michel Gondry, 55. Kidding is a great vehicle for top grownup stars, but when it comes to tragedy, it isn’t kidding.

Wendell Pierce and John Krasinsi in

Jan Thijs/Amazon/Paramount

Wendell Pierce (left) plays James Greer, the boss and mentor of Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) in Amazon's new "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan."

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

Understandably, everybody’s been raving about John Krasinski’s transformation from nice guy on The Office to CIA analyst turned field officer Jack Ryan. But as his partner/mentor, Wendell Pierce, 54, may be the more impressive terrorist hunter. You’ve seen Pierce as Baltimore Detective Bunk Moreland on The Wire, as trombonist Antoine Batiste on Treme and as powerhouse attorney Robert Zane on Suits, but you’ve never seen him this tough and subtle. He makes being grownup look cool. FULL REVIEW

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