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What to Watch on TV This Week Skip to content

It’s not too late to catch some of fall’s best movies at your local theater! Check out AARP’s fall film preview.


What to Watch on TV This Week

'Finding Your Roots,' cold-case cracking on 'The DNA of Murder,' 'Inside the Actors Studio,' and more

Finding Your Roots, Season 6

(PBS, Oct. 8, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET, check local listings)

In an episode called “Hollywood Royalty,” royally entertaining historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., 69, tells Isabella Rossellini, Anjelica Huston and Mia Farrow about their own family history, as revealed by DNA and old-fashioned sleuthing. Guests coming up this season: Melissa McCarthy, Eric Stonestreet, Nancy Pelosi, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Queen Latifah and many more. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

The DNA of Murder With Paul Holes

(Oxygen, Oct. 12, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)

Paul Holes, 51, the retired cold case investigator whose breakthrough DNA research led to an arrest in the Golden State Killer case and opened a whole new chapter in America's ability to fight crime, dives into more unsolved homicides, starting with two guests found bludgeoned to death in a Williamsburg, Iowa, Holiday Inn in 1980. Holes is about the handsomest scientist you ever saw — he doesn't need a young Hollywood star to play him, now he's a Hollywood star himself. And, as he noted on Twitter, “Age is just a number.” —T.A.

Inside the Actors Studio

(Ovation TV, Oct. 13, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

Beloved host James Lipton, 93, has retired from his iconic thespian interview show after 24 seasons, but the show goes on with revolving hosts. First up, Alec Baldwin, 61, interviews Henry Winkler, 73. Also this season: Jane Lynch, 59, interviews Selma star David Oyelowo, and Greta Gerwig interviews Laura Dern, 52.—T.A.

Catch Up With

Almost Family

(Fox, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

Oscar winner Timothy Hutton, 59, plays a respected fertility doctor, whose daughter (Brittany Snow) discovers he's used his own DNA to conceive scores of other children. For Snow's character, it means suddenly finding two previously unknown half-siblings, one a childhood friend (played by Megalyn Echikunwoke) and the other a troubled former Olympian (played by Emily Osment). Based on an Australian series, Sisters, this one is developed by Annie Weisman and Jason Katims, whose previous works (Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) showed that they can bring humanity and humor to the proceedings. And the series format suggests they might find a whole lot more sibs along the way. —Roger Catlin (R.C.)

Goliath, Season 3

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

The third season's the charm for the excellent detective show by David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies, Boston Legal) that stars Billy Bob Thornton, 64, as Billy McBride, a disgraced lawyer who picks fights with the powerful in order to defend the weak. Now he stalks a new goliath: a sinister Central Valley, California, rancher (Dennis Quaid, 65). But Billy's own demons may get him before the bad guys do. —T.A.

The Blacklist, Season 7

(NBC, Fridays, 8 p.m. ET)

James Spader, 59, returns in the longest-running role of his career: criminal mastermind and FBI frenemy Raymond “Red” Reddington, the elusive hero in an incredibly twisty, seriocomic mystery show that's part police procedural and part chess game with the audience. —T.A.

Madam Secretary, Season 6

(CBS, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

In the final season of a show that's often compared to another grownup favorite, The West Wing, Téa Leoni, 53, is now the beleaguered first female president, whose first gentleman (Tim Daly, 63) faces unique challenges of his own. —T.A.

Poldark, Season 5

(PBS, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

Grownups love this ripping, soapy series about a British war hero whose abs make Brad Pitt look fat — almost half its viewers are over 66, and it's a top 20 hit for all over 50. It's like Downton Abbey with sex and mild violence. In the final season, it's 1800, and Capt. Poldark (oft-shirtless Aidan Turner) tries to save the colonel who saved his life: new character Ned Despard (Vincent Regan, 54), who, like Poldark, married his housemaid. Prepare to cry: Someone you love will die by the eighth and last episode. Seasons 1 to 4 stream on Amazon and PBS Passport (which also has Season 5). —T.A.


(Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)

Emergency responders on the fast-moving drama had their hands full with an earthquake that hit Los Angeles for its second-season premiere. How to top it for the third? How about a tsunami — slamming the Santa Monica Pier and nearly sinking its iconic Ferris wheel. Peter Krause and Angela Bassett, whose characters were married last season, are joined by recurring cast member Ronda Rousey, the former MMA fighter who's now donning a uniform. —R.C.


(CBS, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)

If a show can still shock you after 16 seasons, it came last spring when — to the delight of longtime fans — Cote de Pablo's character Ziva David had suddenly reappeared. De Pablo had left the show in 2013 and her character seemed to have killed in an explosion in 2016. But she's back — and apparently, understandably, determined to go after the responsible parties in the new season's first two episodes. Mark Harmon's Agent Gibbs is happy to help. —R.C.

NCIS: New Orleans

(CBS, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

Problems never seem to end for Scott Bakula's beleaguered character on the swampy spin-off. As Season 6 begins, he is still suffering the aftereffects of the LSD somebody slipped him during a kidnapping in May's finale, has a sudden hankering to visit his mother (Joanna Cassidy, 74), and must find and defuse a bomb full of nerve gas that's threatening the city. And he has to do it without his team leader (Necar Zadegan), who has been suspended. —R.C.

The Rookie, Season 2

(ABC, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

Nathan Fillion (Castle) returns as the oldest rookie officer on the LAPD. This time, besides his cop action, he's torn between two lovers, an ex-FBI hostage negotiator (Sarah Shahi) and a doctor (Ali Larter) with whom he shares a past. —T.A.

Prodigal Son

(Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

Silence of the Lambs fans may be drawn into this dark new series with Michael Sheen, 50, as an incarcerated mass murderer whose criminal psychologist son (Tom Payne of The Walking Dead) begins to visit, mostly to glean insights to solve murders for the NYPD. Bellamy Young (Scandal) is the conflicted ex-wife; Lou Diamond Phillips is the cop who encourages the uncomfortable father-son reunion. Sheen seems to be having an especially good time in his deliciously menacing role. —Roger Catlin (R.C.)

Bluff City Law

(NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)

At 64, Jimmy Smits returns to TV as an establishment lawyer in Memphis. He's joined in his firm by his estranged daughter (Caitlin McGee) after the sudden death of her mother, whom he has cheated on. So there are topical cases to represent each week as well as father-daughter bonds to repair over the long term. The setting in Elvis’ old hometown is emphasized, if only to keep your mind off Smits’ earlier legal locale in L.A. Law. —R.C. READ JIMMY SMITS' INTERVIEW

Bob Hearts Abishola

(CBS, Mondays, 8:30 p.m. ET)

If you got chuckles and awws out of Mike & Molly, cuddle up with this twist on that 2010-2016 hit (also created by Chuck Lorre). Giant teddy bear Billy Gardell, 50, charms as Bob, a Detroit compression socks entrepreneur who has a mild heart attack and insta-falls for Nigerian cardiac nurse Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku). SNL alum Christine Ebersole, 66, plays Bob's mom, and Olowofoyeku is an insta-star. Her widowed Abishola is affectingly guarded — but watch that heart melt. — John Griffiths (J.G.)

All Rise

(CBS, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

When CSI's Marg Helgenberger, 60, has a new show, everyone sits up and takes notice. But now they must stand, because she plays Judge Judith, the savvy grownup mentor to emotionally impulsive young L.A. County Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick). —T.A.

Carol's Second Act

(CBS, Thursdays, 9:30 p.m)

Patricia Heaton, 61, plays Carol, a divorced 50-year-old who decides to go into medicine, her lifelong dream. Her younger fellow interns all scoff. “I am getting tired of being treated like a meddling old lady,” Carol says. “I am a meddling old doctor. And I was good at it because I'm old. You think a woman my age should just disappear into the woods and knit. But I see the world in a different way than when I was 28. I know all kinds of stuff that you won't know for another 20 years. And guess what? My age is what's going to make me a great doctor.” —R.C.

Perfect Harmony

(NBC, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. ET)

This polished new Pitch Perfect-like sitcom with Bradley Whitford, 59, as an acerbic music expert out to shape up a ragtag bunch of church singers in Kentucky, is right on key. The busy Whitford ingratiates immediately as Arthur, a grieving widow contemplating suicide — until adorable diner waitress Ginny (Perfect's Anna Camp) and her colorful, well-cast choir mates screech into his life. As they attempt to trump the local megachurch group, toes tap (terrific rendition of “Eye of the Tiger,” guys!), spirits soar and Arthur scores some choice barbs. His nickname for the group's resident lothario: “Matthew McCona-snake.” —J.G.

The Politician

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy gives Jessica Lange, 70, a ripely entertaining role as the trashy, greedy, scamming mom of a high-school student who gets mixed up with the most ruthlessly ambitious teen onscreen since Reese Witherspoon in Election (Ben Platt). Gwyneth Paltrow plays the political kid's plutocrat mom, and Bette Midler, 73, Dylan McDermott, 57, and January Jones also star. —T.A.

Godfather of Harlem

(Epix, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

Forest Whitaker, 58 (Platoon, Black Panther) brings movie-star charisma to the role of the actual 1960s gangster Bumpy Johnson, with Vincent D'Onofrio, 60, as mafioso Vincent “The Chin” Gigante and Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. —T.A.


(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Amazing, enraging and utterly absorbing, this eight-episode series by the writer of Erin Brockovich and the director of The Kids Are All Right dramatizes the horribly true story of a Lynnwood, Washington, teen (Booksmart’s skyrocket star Kaitlyn Dever) who was raped by a man obsessed with recreating Princess Leia’s chained-by-Jabba the Hutt scene in Return of the Jedi. Pressured by male cops to recant her testimony, she was disgraced. But female Colorado detectives (Merritt Wever and Toni Collette) nabbed the rapist, who also attacked women in their 60s in several states and got him a prison sentence of 327 ½ years. The series is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning report that was also featured on the radio show This American Life. —T.A.

Why Women Kill

(CBS All Access, Thursdays, streaming anytime)

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry offers three parallel storylines about women on the verge of a homicidal breakdown in his new series for the CBS streaming service. Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) is a contented homemaker in 1963, suddenly unhappy about her husband's fling with a waitress. Lucy Liu, 50, is a 1980s socialite who craves the lifestyles of the rich and famous and thinks it's a bad look when her husband of 10 years comes out as gay. Kirby Howell-Baptiste is a 2019 attorney whose open marriage to a chronically unemployed writer gets complicated when she brings a lover home who strikes her man's fancy. —T.A.

Mindhunter, Season 2

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Damon Herriman, who plays Charles Manson in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, also plays him in David Fincher's hit adaptation of the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. The show also focuses on the BTK Killer, Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz, and the Atlanta Child Murderer — with a reprise appearance of the most interesting real-life monster from Season 1, the Co-Ed Killer Ed Kemper, whose IQ is 145. —T.A.

Always Be My Maybe

(Netflix, stream anytime)

Even better than Crazy Rich Asians (and more highly rated by audiences as well as critics), this delightful Asian American rom-com is more like real life: Randall Park plays a self-doubting, self-sabotaging underachiever courting his childhood sweetheart (Ali Wong), who's now a madly successful chef — with competition from the hottest star of the moment, Asian Canadian Keanu Reeves, 54, in an utterly hilarious role as the most pretentious, obnoxious possible version of himself. He's the kind of star who picks up the restaurant check, saying: “Six thousand four hundred dollars, less than the residuals from my movie Speed!” —T.A.

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