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What to Watch on TV Now

A television icon returns, a mysterious prestige series, the Emmys and more

Colin Jost, Michael Che, Emmys, SNL

Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

Colin Jost and Michael Che host the 70th Emmy Awards on NBC.

What's New

70th Emmy Awards

(NBC, Monday Sept. 17, 8 p.m.)

SNL stalwarts Colin Yost and Michael Che come out from behind their Weekend Update desk to take on hosting duties for the first time. Emmy producers hope the duo can bring more eyeballs to the broadcast, which has shed viewers dramatically over the past decade. Dozens of over-50 actors are in the running, including Pamela Adlon, Jeff Daniels and four more whom we’d really like to see walk away from the Microsoft Theater with a trophy in hand.

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, Friday Sept. 21, then 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.

Sally Field in

Michael K. Short/Netflix

Sally Field in "Maniac"

Maniac

(Netflix, Friday Sept. 21, then streaming anytime)

Here’s what we know about the super-secret new 10-episode limited series: Not much. We know it has a glittery cast headlined by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill and featuring Justin Theroux, Sally Field and Gabriel Byrne. We know it's directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga in his first return to TV since his 2014 Emmy for True Detective. We know it tells the story of two characters, played by Stone and Hill, who meet while taking part in a clinical trial for a drug that its murky makers claim can cure depression and mental illness. We know that more details of its reportedly trippy plot have been mostly kept under lock and key, but that Fukunaga has described it as “haywire.” And we know that we can’t wait to watch it.

Quincy Jones from documentary

Courtesy of TIFF

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

Quincy

(Netflix, Friday Sept. 21, then 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.

Returning

Angela Bassett, Peter Krause in

Paul Schrimaldi/Hulu

Angela Bassett and Peter Krause return for season 2 of Fox's "9-1-1."

9-1-1

(Fox, Sunday Sept. 23, 8 p.m., then airing Mondays at 9 p.m.)

The edgy twist on the police procedural — yes, executive producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, Pose) can make even the cop-show genre feel edgy and twisty — was a midseason gift to grownup viewers upon its January debut. Connie Britton departs, but Angela Bassett and Peter Krause return to lead a stellar cast into a second season, which begins with a two-parter airing on back-to-back nights before the show settles into its regular Monday night lineup spot.

Catch Up With

The First

Paul Schrimaldi/Hulu

Natascha McElhone and Sean Penn headline a stellar cast in Hulu's new sci-fi drama The First.

The First

(Hulu, streaming anytime)

Sean Penn, 58, puts his grownup gravitas to work as an astronaut working on the first Mars launch in 2030, which looks like today with slightly better tech. Cars come when you call, but spaceships don't always do what you tell them. But the show, by House of Cards honcho Beau Willimon, is more about his earthly woes: a dead wife we meet in extended flashbacks, an addict daughter who needs him not to go to Mars for five years, and conflicts with his boss, Natascha McElhone, 48 (Designated Survivor). Penn pours his mightiest melancholy and perfected artistry into the part. There’s some sci-fi action, but at heart this is a deep, absorbing psychological drama.

Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen

Colleen Hayes/Amazon

SNL alums Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen are a couple trying to reignite their stalled relationship in Amazon's Forever.

Forever

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

Fred Armisen, 51, and Maya Rudolph, 46, play a couple in snoozy Riverside, Calif., whose marriage is getting terminally stale — she thinks. So they liven up their marriage with a ski trip where mysterious and big changes occur. It’s a comedy that poses a serious grownup question: how do you make love last? 

David Letterman, Norm MacDonald and Adam Eget

Eddy Chen/Netflix

David Letterman is among the guests joining Norm Macdonald and second banana Adam Eget on Netflix's new Norm Macdonald Has a Show.

Norm Macdonald Has a Show

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Macdonald, 48, one of the smartest, most subversive SNL veterans ever, does a quirky, sardonic talk show with guests like Chevy Chase, David Letterman (whom he quizzes about mortality), Drew Barrymore, Judge Judy (whom he invites to a strip club) and Jane Fonda, who tells him he looks like Brando. “Towards the end,” quips Norm’s new sidekick, Adam Eget.

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.

Kidding

(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

Lily James gathered around a group of people in “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.”

Kerry Brown/Netflix

Lily James stars in “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Can’t wait for the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie? Watch four of its actors in this equally snug romantic drama by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), adapted from a hit novel. Downton’s adorable Lily James plays a London writer who in 1946 is invited to a spectacular isle off Normandy by a gorgeous pig farmer and Shakespeare fan who runs a book group (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones Daario). Downton’s Matthew Goode plays her editor; Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley to you) is the sad widow; and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), the local radical. Tom Courtenay is the dozing postman. Like Downton, the tale features historical details, a mystery to uncover and a romance we urgently want to see happen. The potato peel pie of the title turns out to taste worse than Sweeney Todd’s — but this show is comfort food.

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