Courtesy of Providence Pictures
(PBS, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 9 p.m. ET, Oct. 30, Nov. 13, check local listings, stream anytime on pbs.org/nativeamerica or pbs apps)
Martin Scorsese’s best pal Robbie Robertson, 75, isn’t just the Band’s frontman, he’s a filmmaker, author of a book on the real Hiawatha, and narrator of this smart four-part documentary on the first Americans, including Robertson’s own tribes (Mohawk and Cayuga, whose Iroquois Confederation was a model for the U.S. Constitution). He takes you into a recently discovered cave directly beneath the center of a ruined temple, with a ceiling whose glowing minerals symbolize the night sky, and shows how it linked ancient cities bigger than 19th-century New York in a geographic and astronomical grid system. It’s a fun, fascinating history lesson. Watch the exclusive clip below. INTERVIEW WITH ROBBIE ROBERTSON
(Showtime, Sunday, Oct. 28 at 9 p.m. ET, streaming thereafter)
After show creator Ann Biderman, 67, left her macho-yet-sensitive show about two-fisted L.A. fixer Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber, 51) and his convict dad (Jon Voight, 79) in 2014, it was time for some fresh energy. It gets some as Season 6 begins, and Ray has moved to New York, where a cop rescues him from his suicidal dive into the East River. But he’s still carrying a baseball bat and working for homicidal media mogul Samantha Winslow (Susan Sarandon, 72). The show remains proof of what Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman said when the show premiered: “Ann Biderman (Southland, Primal Fear) has absolutely obliterated the ridiculous industry standard that you have to be some young talented thing to make an impact. She’s created the most testosterone-fueled, rough and intelligent drama in ages.”
Catch Up With
Courtesy of The Woman in White Productions Ltd. / Steffan Hill / Origin Pictures
The Woman in White
(PBS, Oct. 21- Nov. 18, check local listings, stream anytime on pbs.org/americanmasters)
Wilkie Collins wrote this, considered the first mystery ever written, in 1859, and PBS's new five-part series makes it gripping still. Who is the woman escaped from the mental asylum who encounters a young painting teacher (Ben Hardy, Bohemian Rhapsody) one night? Can wicked Sir Percival Glyde (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible 2) thwart the painter's love for a young student? And what will the difficult uncle of his students (Charles Dance, 72, Game of Thrones) do to improve the situation — or worsen it?
(ABC, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 8 p.m. ET)
Roseanne is gone from the show about the Conner family. So? AARP Movies for Grownups award winner Laurie Metcalf, 63, is apt to throw off livelier sparks with her new high-IQ boyfriend (Treme’s Steve Zahn, 50) than she was trading stale anti-Trump jibes with Roseanne. Darlene (Sara Gilbert), whose ex (Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki) has a new squeeze (Juliette Lewis), gets her groove back with a new guy (Justin Long of Dodgeball). Give the greatest show about blue-collar Americans a second chance. FULL REVIEW
The Kids Are Alright
(ABC, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Roseanne and Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing producer Tim Doyle, 59, narrates his show inspired by his childhood in 1972 as “an awesome time to be a kid: Bike helmets hadn’t been invented yet ... or seatbelts, or nutrition, or even normal adult supervision." Dad (The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz, 53), "was busy with his defense job, keeping our neighborhood safe from North Vietnamese invasion.” And Mom (The West Wing’s Mary McCormack, 49) had eight sons to deal with. A show for grownups seeking a childhood flashback.
(ABC, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 10 p.m. ET)
Charming as Remington Steele, Nathan Fillion, 47, was better than his old show Castle, and he’s a wish-fulfillment dream in this loosely fact-inspired show about LAPD’s oldest newbie cop, whose boss calls him “a walking midlife crisis,” a middle-aged loser “looking for some kinda Eat, Pray, Love path to reinvention.” But in exciting cop-action scenes, he proves him wrong. This show is a win for grownups, and Fillion’s charm only grows. READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH NATHAN FILLION
Last Man Standing
(Fox, Fridays at 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.
(CBS, Thursdays at 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.
Will & Grace
(NBC, Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)
One of the better TV reboots is back, and talk about awkward! Now Will (Eric McCormack, 55) and Grace (Debra Messing, 50) are step-siblings, thanks to the marriage of their widowed parents (Blythe Danner, 75, and Robert Klein, 76). Alec Baldwin, 60, plays the swain of Karen (Megan Mullally, 59), and Friends' David Schwimmer, 51, is courting Grace.
The Good Place
(NBC, Thursdays at 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.
The Cool Kids
(Fox, Fridays at 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.
(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.
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