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What to Watch on TV This Week Skip to content

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What to Watch on TV This Week

Emma Thompson rules Britannia, Russell Crowe channels Roger Ailes and more

Years and Years

(HBO, premieres June 24, 9 p.m. ET)

Emma Thompson, 60, who's on a 10-year, $2.8 billion-grossing winning streak that dwarfs her Oscar-winning 30s, is peaking right now with her comedy Late Night and this smash hit series about a futuristic apocalypse that begins in 2019 and gets worse in 2031. Thompson plays a quirky tyrant in heels instead of jackboots, the rising demagogue Viv Rook — though since she's named after the second-most powerful piece in chess, her power is not secure. As the world floods with rising seas and refugees, dirty bombs detonate, left- and right-wing maniacs destroy democracy, teens literally become their smartphones, and people start to need eight jobs at once to survive, Rook rises (and so do her opponents). A fascinating fantasy by Russell T. Davies, 56, the writer of Doctor Who and Hugh Grant's also-must-see A Very English Scandal—Tim Appelo (T.A.)


The Loudest Voice

(Showtime, premieres June 30)

Spotlight writer-director Tom McCarthy's seven-part adaptation of Gabriel Sherman's book about Roger Ailes, the brilliantly successful creator of Fox News who lost his job because of sexual harassment charges, will likely only please people who loathe Fox News and peeve everyone else. But you have to admit that Russell Crowe, 55, looks impressively more like bald, plump Ailes than his usual self. Sienna Miller plays his news-exec wife Elizabeth Ailes, and Naomi Watts, 50, plays Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News host whose lawsuit sparked his fall. —T.A.

Catch Up With

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.

Frankie Drake Mysteries

(Ovation, Saturdays, 9 p.m. ET)

Do you enjoy Murdoch Mysteries ? Right after its Season 12 finale, tune into another show by its creators. Set in 1920s Toronto, it's about the town's first female detective agency, led by Frankie Drake (Lauren Lee Smith), who takes on cases the cops ignore — and clients who don't dare talk to the police. —T.A.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 3

(Hulu, Wednesdays)

With her daughter safely off in free Canada, June (Elisabeth Moss) schemes to resist tyranny in woman-hating Gilead. But who can she trust? Her commander (The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, 59), who helped June’s child escape but still seems slippery and sinister? The new commander in town (Law & Order: SVU’s Christopher Meloni, 58)? The sometimes nice, sometimes monstrous Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd, 63)? Our advice: Trust nobody. And wait until you discover what Lydia’s backstory is. — T.A. READ ANN DOWD INTERVIEW


Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Laura Linney, 55, reboots the show that made her famous. Linney’s Mary Ann Singleton returns to boho San Francisco and her wacky landlady Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis, 87), 20 years after abandoning her daughter (Ellen Page) there. After all this time, the locals are still, as Anna puts it, “flawed, narcissistic and doin’ our best.”  —T.A.

Big Little Lies, Season 2

(HBO, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

Now that the tormented women of beautiful Monterey (Nicole Kidman, 51, Laura Dern, 52, Zoe Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley) have successfully hushed up their ugly secret — the murder of an abusive husband was not, as they claim, an accident — what could go wrong? The dead man’s smart, relentless mother Mary Louise (Meryl Streep, 69, whose actual name is Mary Louise Streep) shows up asking nosy questions. The cast was tops to begin with, but Streep raises everyone’s game. Big Little Lies is a must-see — again.  —T.A. READ LAURA DERN INTERVIEW

Luther, Season 5

(BBC America, Sundays, 8 p.m. ET)

Two of the hottest stars on cable TV are back together: Idris Elba, 46, as Detective John Luther, scourge of murderers, and Ruth Wilson, 37, of The Affair and Mrs. Wilson, as his ex-girlfriend Alice. But wasn't she presumed dead? So we thought, but now she's back, bad as ever! Wilson told Entertainment Weekly that their dark, contentious relationship has a comic-book aspect: “He's Batman, and I'm, like, Catwoman or Robin or the Joker.” —T.A.

When They See Us

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Ava Duvernay, 46, dramatizes the 1989 persecution of the Central Park Five, the teenagers falsely convicted for the rape of a New York jogger. It's utterly soul-searing, even more so than Ken Burns’ acclaimed 2012 documentary about the shameful, revealing case. —T.A.

Good Omens

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

The last request of iconic fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who died in 2015 at 66 of Alzheimer's disease, was that Neil Gaiman, 58, should finish their puckish collaboration Good Omens. Inspired by their odd-couple friendship, the miniseries stars Michael Sheen, 50 (The Good Fight), and David Tennant, 48 (Doctor Who), as an angel and a demon joining forces to save the world. Jon Hamm, 48, soars as the angel Gabriel (a total jerk). —T.A.

Ask Dr. Ruth

(Hulu, streaming anytime)

America's favorite nonagenarian sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, entertains and educates America in this delightful documentary.—T.A. READ RUTH WESTHEIMER INTERVIEW

Wine Country

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Wine Country is a movie you really, really want to love. Crammed with veteran comics — Rachel Dratch, 53, Paula Pell, 56, Amy Poehler, 47, Maya Rudolph, 46, Tina Fey, 48, and Ana Gasteyer, 52 — how could it possibly be anything but hysterical? And yet it's simply never as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, Rudolph's Bridesmaids. Poehler's directing debut plays out over a girls’ weekend in Napa Valley to celebrate a 50th birthday. The film shifts from silly to serious to silly again, covering everything from marital strains to health crises. The stars’ second-nature chemistry is appealing, and an encounter with an artist who paints scenes from the old TV sitcom The Nanny is pretty darn funny. So gather up a few gal pals and enjoy this ensemble's collective charm. Watching it with a glass or two of wine doesn't hurt. —Shelley Emling READ THE CAST OF WINE COUNTRY INTERVIEW

Line of Duty, Season 5

(Acorn TV, streaming anytime)

Britain's top-rated show of 2019 beats American procedurals hands down, and you don't need to watch Seasons 1 to 4 (available on Acorn and Hulu) to plunge right into its tense, zigzagging, paranoid story. Stephen Graham, 45, Boardwalk Empire's Al Capone, is fantastic as John Corbett, an undercover agent embedded in a drug gang who crosses an ethical line or two. As a top cop complains: “Right, so we have a betting-shop robbery … a hijack … narcotics … a rival organized gang framed … three police officers murdered.” Then things get scarier, and Corbett may not be the bad guy (or not the baddest). —T.A.

What's My Name: Muhammad Ali

(HBO, streaming anytime)

Boxer Muhammad Ali, one of the top-three titans of American pop culture, gets a documentary equal to the great man's ambition and complexity. It's directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training DayThe Equalizer). —Ken Tucker FULL REVIEW

Chernobyl

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

The 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant calamity killed up to 35 times as many people as died at the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, but Russia's criminally incompetent, mendacious rulers managed to keep the full dimensions of the needless disaster from being widely known. This extraordinary, fact-based, five-part miniseries captures the Chernobyl experience in a way you won't soon forget. Mad Men Emmy nominee Jared Harris, 57, excels as the scientist in charge of the cleanup, who helped prevent a total meltdown that could've made Eastern Europe uninhabitable and paid with his life for the radiation he (like many doomed heroes on the scene) endured. He's a better actor than his dad, Richard Harris. Stellan Skarsgard, 67, is great as a government official who gradually, reluctantly sees reality, and Emily Watson, 52, is good as a scientist trying to pry open other officials’ closed minds. Though it packs the fascination of a documentary, it's the human drama that makes this one a must-see. — T.A.

The Code featuring Dana Delany

CBS

Dana Delany in 'The Code.'

The Code

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

Will grownups never get tired of NCIS-like military police procedurals? Nope, especially when the casting is as appetizing as Dana Delany, 63, as Col. Glenn Turnbull, top-ranking Marine Corps judge advocate. She's been a stellar performer in military roles ever since China Beach made her famous, and it's hard to imagine The Code won't please its eager audience. —T.A. READ DANA DELANY INTERVIEW

Kevin Costner (Right) and Woody Harrelson star in 'The Highwaymen' on Netflix.

Merrick Morton/Netflix

The Highwaymen

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

In a straight-shooting chase drama, Kevin Costner, 64, and Woody Harrelson, 57, play the real-life Texas Rangers who, despite carrying a few extra pounds that make it hard to vault fences in pursuit of criminals, managed to track down Bonnie and Clyde. The aging buddies have star power and excellent chemistry, and Kathy Bates, 70, is good as Texas Gov. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.) FULL REVIEW | READ KEVIN COSTNER INTERVIEW 

Martin Clunes in 'Manhunt'

Acorn TV


Manhunt

(Acorn TV, streaming anytime)

When this smart true-crime mystery starring Doc Martin's Martin Clunes aired in England in January, it got over twice the percentage of U.K. viewers that The Big Bang Theory got in the U.S. Based on a book by the London detective who caught Levi Bellfield, killer of two women and a 13-year-old girl, it's as good as Helen Mirren's Prime Suspect — and the crime is solved in three episodes, faster than Yank killer thrillers usually manage. Clunes proves as good at drama as he is at comedy. — T.A. READ MARTIN CLUNES INTERVIEW

Aidy Bryant walks down the street in a scene from 'Shrill'

Hulu

Shrill

(Hulu, streaming anytime)

Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant helped write herself a major career-boosting show that will put fat-shaming people to shame and win everyone's hearts. It stars Bryant as a young journalist, John Cameron Mitchell as her sarcastically perfectionist boss and SNL's Julia Sweeney, 59 — who's just returned to Hollywood after 10 years as a full-time mom — as her diet-obsessed mother. As delightful as Girls, only about a totally nice person. —T.A READ JULIA SWEENEY INTERVEW

Alan Arkin, Michael Douglas

Mike Yarish/Netflix

Alan Arkin (left) and Michael Douglas star in the new Netflix series The Kominsky Method.

The Kominsky Method

(Netflix, streaming anytime, 8 episodes)

TV's best grownup comedy in years — a creative breakthrough for super-showrunner Chuck Lorre, 66 (The Big Bang Theory) — stars Michael Douglas, 74, as an actor whose career isn't going as well as his former acting students’ (Diane Keaton, 72, and Jessica Lange, 69) or his doctor's (Danny De Vito, 73), who says, “It's a great time to be a urologist!” But he has a wonderfully sardonic agent and best friend (Alan Arkin, 84), and they make a team more delightful than Grumpy Old Men's Lemmon and Matthau or Grace and Frankie's Fonda and Tomlin. It captures the sardonic humor with which most people regard aging, and the laughs are rooted in poignant loss and grief, too. It's terrific, Arkin's best work since Little Miss Sunshine and as good as anything Douglas has done this century. READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DOUGLAS

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