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Garth Brooks: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
(PBS, March 29, 9 p.m. ET, check local listings)
Crave a concert, but it’s not safe to go out? See superstar Garth Brooks accept the prestigious Gershwin Prize and sing Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” as well as “Piano Man,” “Night Moves,” “American Pie” and “Wild World.” Trisha Yearwood, Keith Urban, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Stapleton, Keb’ Mo’ and Jay Leno are also on hand. You’ve got to see Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy and Roy Blunt groove to “Friends in Low Places.”
Man With a Plan, Season 4
(CBS, April 2, 8:30 p.m. ET)
It’s not remotely as smart and funny as Friends, but Matt LeBlanc, 52, is winsome as ever playing a contractor whose wife (Liza Snyder) goes back to work, leaving him with the kids. And Kevin Nealon, 66 (Saturday Night Live, Weeds) is gifted at playing his dim, oddball brother.
(CBS, April 2, 9:30 p.m. ET)
What perfect timing for a show about a family going broke and suddenly forced to live together and driving each other crazy! Pauley Perrette (NCIS), no longer pigtailed, is a cash-strapped single mom whose home is invaded by her snooty sister (Natasha Leggero) — a character inspired by Dorit on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills who says “vahz” for “vase” — and her Mexican American husband (Jane the Virgin’s Jaime Camil), because his rich dad cut them off penniless. A so-so show with an irresistible star, by the creators of Will & Grace and Jane the Virgin.
Home Before Dark
(Apple TV+, April 3)
This bingeable series is inspired by the incredibly inspiring Hilde Lysiak, who cracked a cold-case murder in a small Pennsylvania town at age 9 and covered it in the newspaper she published. It stars the extraordinarily talented Brooklynn Prince, 9, who lit up the Oscar nominee The Florida Project.
Frankie Drake Mysteries, Season 3
(Ovation, April 4, 7 p.m. ET)
This addictive show, written and produced mostly by women, is good feminist fun. Private detective Frankie (Lauren Lee Smith) solves crimes in 1920s Toronto that involve church choirs, bathing beauties, pioneer moviemakers and her own best World War I friend — a case on which she consults Agatha Christie (Honeysuckle Weeks).
ACM Presents: Our Country
(CBS, April 5, 8 p.m. ET)
The coronavirus forced the Country Music Awards to move to September, so in its place, the stars (including Shania Twain, Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Carrie Underwood) will perform acoustic shows from their homes. There’s also a Kenny Rogers tribute and clips of past CMA highlights.
World on Fire
(PBS, April 5, 9 p.m. ET)
In an absorbing epic series set in 1939, war engulfs everyday life in England, Poland, France, Germany and the U.S. The cast is killer: Sean Bean, 60 (Game of Thrones); Phantom Thread Oscar nominee Lesley Manville, 64; and Helen Hunt, 56 (As Good As It Gets, Mad About You) as an American radio journalist working on a Nazi-controlled station. Hunt (whose character is inspired by renowned reporters William Shirer and Claire Hollingwood) explains the events (conquest of Poland and Paris, Dunkirk, etc.), but it’s mostly about personal lives invaded by history. You wish Hunt’s character was less narrator-ish, but she and the show are still tops.
Catch Up With
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
Even by Ken Burns’ sky-high standards, this seven-part documentary about America’s most influential family — Teddy Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor Roosevelt, and her husband, FDR, who was Teddy’s fifth cousin — is riveting. It’s free on pbs.org.
Making the Cut
Tim Gunn, 66, and Heidi Klum (who calls him her “TV husband”), 46, didn’t get to do much together on Project Runway. But they sure do on their new show, on which a dozen designers vie for $1 million and their own Amazon fashion line. READ TIM GUNN’S FASHION TIPS FOR AARP GROWNUPS
Ozark, Season 3
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney play riverboat casino owners with a violent disagreement: She says they should keep laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. He’s too scared — and thinks the casino has an FBI mole. Plus, there’s a second cartel attacking their boss. Can this marriage be saved before somebody gets killed? After a fine first season and a so-so second, this show is full of fresh energy. The best character is the casino manager (Emmy-winning Julia Garner), a spitfire you’ll want to meet.
One Day at a Time
(Pop TV, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)
Want a soothing escape from bad news? Try Norman Lear’s rebooted classic sitcom, canceled by Netflix but now reborn after an outcry by fans and TV critics, on Pop TV. Justina Machado is great as a single mom and Army vet in L.A. who’s contending with her kids and her Cuban mother (the legendary Rita Moreno, 88).
The Plot Against America
(HBO, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)
In a Philip Roth alternative-history story that’s a bit like Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, only smarter and subtler, a Jewish American family in 1940 Newark (Roth’s hometown) witnesses the rise of an anti-Semitic, dictatorial president: heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh (Ben Cole). Winona Ryder plays the girlfriend of a rabbi (John Turturro) who’s Lindy’s adviser. He woos her to the dark side, as her family watches in growing fear. It’s a superb cast, and if you liked showrunner David Simon’s The Wire and Treme, you’ll find this fantasy world is catnip.
My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name
(HBO, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)
The second season of HBO’s titanic adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s international best seller, about two rivalrous, gifted teens growing up in impoverished southern Italy, is as emotionally compelling as the first. It’s about young love, sexual initiation, family traumas and the stubborn hope for a better life. Now it’s the 1960s, and the girls are 16, one unhappily married, the other a student in Pisa. A chance meeting with a childhood friend changes the course of their lives forever. And if you watch this, you’ll be compelled to catch up on Season 1.
Little Fires Everywhere
In Hulu’s rival series to HBO’s Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon again plays a white woman so privileged that she seems like she was born wearing pearls. But she’s a believer in giving less fortunate folks a chance, so she rents a home to a penniless artist (Kerry Washington in an unusually good TV role) and her daughter (Lexi Underwood). Mysteriously, in the opening scenes, a house burns down. You’ll want to find out why. The series isn’t as stellar as the best-selling novel it adapts, and Reese was even better in Big Little Lies. Still, it’s worth a watch.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is magnetic as America’s richest African American businesswoman (and richest self-made woman) — hair-product entrepreneur Sarah Breedlove (aka C.J. Walker). The child of slaves, she was worth $8.8 million in modern dollars when she died in 1919. Carmen Ejogo is great as her frenemy entrepreneur, as is Tiffany Haddish as her wilder daughter, who became a big deal in the Harlem Renaissance.
Cosmos: Possible Worlds
(National Geographic, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)
In the third season of the wildly popular science series created by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, host Neil deGrasse Tyson, 61, makes 14 billion years of evolution fly by like an amusement-park ride for your mind. Did one cosmic ray zap 13 atoms in our ancestors’ DNA, helping transform us from creatures the size of a paper clip to makers of art and cities (and perhaps our own destruction)? Looks like it. Tyson is the most fun science teacher ever, with help from Sir Patrick Stewart as astronomer William Herschel, Viggo Mortensen as geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, and Judd Hirsch as Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.
The Pale Horse
In a gleamingly stylish BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery, Rufus Sewell, 52, is a sleek antiques dealer in 1960s London who sleeps with lots of women — who mysteriously turn up dead, and it looks like he’s on the killer’s list, too. It is Christie’s most supernaturally tinged thriller. Our posh urban antihero must visit the village of Much Deeping to find out who or what the killer is — while getting goose bumps from the stares of the town’s three resident witches (including Rita Tushingham, the ultimate ’60s star of The Knack and A Taste of Honey). The zigzag plot is tricky to follow, but it’s rich in period flavor, and Sewell has a Mad Men coolness.
Black Monday, Season 2
(Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
What could be more timely than a crime comedy-drama about the 1987 stock market crash? It stars Oscar nominee Don Cheadle, 55, as gonzo Wall Street wild man Mo Monroe, now on the run now after he destroyed our financial system. And then there’s the business about the two people who were murdered last season. Understandably so, his financier rivals are sweating his return. This retro show has the unhinged brio of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, with a touch of Boogie Nights.
Empire, Season 6
(Fox, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
Now is the time to discover the cantankerous Lyon clan, as the final season of the melodrama about this family and their hip-hop record label kicks off. The show is a magnet for TV’s top black talent, but the reason to see it is Taraji P. Henson, 49, as the family’s leopard-print-clad boss mama, Cookie Lyon — a role that won her the Golden Globe and two Emmy nominations. As cast member Jussie Smollett (who’s leaving the show after his real-life scandal) put it, “If Samuel L. Jackson had a baby with Bette Davis, it would be Taraji.”
In Amazon’s gripping, complex eight-part miniseries, Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), 69, plays a shipping magnate in cahoots with an international cocaine cartel. It’s a violent, sprawling epic, shot in New Orleans, Mexico, Italy, Senegal and Morocco. The plot is rooted in showrunner Roberto Saviano’s factual research — actual gangsters hate him, so he travels in bulletproof cars with bodyguards.
Steven Spielberg’s reboot of his 5-Emmy-winning anthology series from 1985 to 1987 is the most hotly awaited new show on Apple’s new streaming service. Each episode is a free-standing story, and the most eagerly anticipated is the last performance of Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), who died in October, in the episode “Dynoman and the Volt,” about a granddad bonding with his grandson over a powerful ring they got from an ad in a comic book.
Dispatches from Elsewhere
(AMC, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)
Sally Field, 73, in her first big TV series role since Brothers and Sisters 14 years ago, plays an optimistic yet tormented widow trying to get her new life in order — only to be swept up in a bizarre, mysterious conspiracy world orchestrated by a sinister entrepreneur (Richard E. Grant, 62). Created by Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, How I Met Your Mother), who costars as a glum tech worker sharing her scary adventure, it’s modeled on the head-trippy films of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), only it’s even weirder. Field is the reason to watch the show, and the third episode, the one most focused on her, is the best.
Babylon Berlin, Season 3
The most elaborate and expensive foreign TV series in history is back, catapulting you into the scary, thrilling, decadent world of Berlin in 1930, as Communists and Nazis battle for Germany’s future. It’s also a gripping mystery, as a police commissioner investigates the violent death of an actress in the growing film industry, just switching from silent to sound — and sometimes the sound is a scream.
(CBS, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
David Boreanaz, 50 (Bones, Angel), who won fame as Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fanged friend, returns after his new show’s two-month hiatus in his grownup action-hero role as the leader of the elite Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) Bravo Team.
Al Pacino, 79, plays Meyer Offerman, a secretive, schmaltzy, grandfatherly guy who recruits a Jewish genius kid (Logan Lerman) into a group of Holocaust survivors in 1977 as they hunt Nazis who plan to make the U.S. a Fourth Reich. Posing as locals like the Soviet agents in The Americans, the Nazis have infiltrated America all the way up to the White House.
Better Call Saul, Season 5
(AMC, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)
At last! After four seasons, Jimmy McGill, the lawyer with a weakness for breaking laws with good-ish intentions, has changed his name to Saul Goodman, the shamelessly amoral shyster we loved from his original show, Breaking Bad, and he’s handing out half-off coupons to every lowlife crook he can find. It’s a more fascinating transformation than Breaking Bad’s science teacher turned meth gangster, and star Bob Odenkirk, 57, has a wonderful sidekick, girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, 47, the most underrated actor on TV), an honest lawyer who loves slippery Jimmy/Saul and cuts moral corners of her own. If you’ve never watched the show, now is a perfect entrance point. If you’re a fan, you’re going to love this season — Saul’s season of change.
Narcos: Mexico, Season 2
The greatest gangster show on TV is the truest: the bloody war among the Mexican drug cartels and the American avengers of their murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. You don’t have to have seen the previous Narcos shows to understand this one — it’s a self-contained drama including a narco who kidnaps a girl who becomes his partner in crime; a DEA guerrilla (12 Years a Slave’s Scoot McNairy) whose rage takes him into moral horrors; and the most interesting drug lord of all, Felix Gallardo (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Diego Luna), the cop-turned-narco who killed Kiki. This show is more addictive than Felix’s product.
Homeland, Season 8
(Showtime, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
In the final season of the spy drama, Carrie (Claire Danes) is sprung from a Russian prison and under suspicion as a double agent — just like Brody (Damian Lewis) in the first season. “Perfect symmetry,” says Danes. Also, her relationship with her boss Saul (Mandy Patinkin, 67) gets resolved. “Who is the parent? Who is the child? Who is the mentor? Who is the mentee?” says Patinkin. Tune in and see.
(CBS, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET)
Edie Falco, 56 (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie), the queen of high-IQ TV for grownups about the criminally inclined, plays cop Tommy Thomas in a smart new show. Tommy’s NYPD career tanked when she broke her sex-assailant boss’s nose — but now that the LAPD’s chief (L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen, 65) is mired in his own sex scandal, Tommy becomes L.A.’s first female (and gay) police chief. Grownups should watch, since it’s from ex-Washington Post critic Paul Attanasio, 60, who created Bull and Homicide and knows how to craft artful drama about hot-button social issues. READ EDIE FALCO INTERVIEW
Star Trek: Picard
(CBS All Access, new episodes on Thursdays)
Sir Patrick Stewart, 79, who hasn’t played Capt. Jean-Luc Picard since 2002, comes back big time in a hotly awaited new show executive produced by Michael Chabon, 56, the only top blockbuster auteur (Spider-Man 2, Unbelievable) who’s also a Pulitzer-winning author. READ PATRICK STEWART INTERVIEW
Grace and Frankie, Season 6
In the new season of Grace and Frankie, Jane Fonda’s Grace and Lily Tomlin’s Frankie have a new business venture: the Rise Up, a toilet seat that helps mature folks get to their feet and on their way. The entrepreneurs even land a slot on Shark Tank. Mary Steenburgen, 66, will guest star, and maybe even Dolly Parton (though that’s not confirmed). Fonda, 82, has said she knows why even non-grownups love the hit show: “Young people get a kick out of seeing people their grandmother’s age behaving in unexpected ways.”
FBI: Most Wanted
(CBS, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)
Producer Dick Wolf's Law & Order spin-off Law & Order: SVU spawned the spin-off FBI — and now that's got a new spin-off, about a grownup investigator (FBI's Julian McMahon, 51) whose Fugitive Task Force hunts the worst bad guys on the FBI's top 10 criminals list. It's got a better cast than some Dick Wolf shows, whose spin-offs tend to become hits.
Movies Now Streaming on TV
(Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, Xfinity on Demand)
Doe-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) spins an enchanting web as Emma Woodhouse, the rich, spoiled and beautiful 21-year-old queen bee of her sleepy village, who lives with her hypochondriac father (Love Actually’s Bill Nighy, 70). Emma believes she can find the perfect husband for sweet, naïve Harriet Smith (a refreshing Mia Goth). Though it’s a fresh take with gorgeous costumes, lush cinematography, colorful production design and a luminous score, first-time feature director Autumn de Wilde and writer Eleanor Catton — the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious Booker Prize — don’t really reinvent the wheel with this version. But it’s akin to a delicious crumpet smothered in lemon curd with the perfect cup of Earl Grey tea.
The Invisible Man
(Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, Xfinity on Demand)
In a No. 1 box office hit, Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) flees her controlling lover (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an inventor. When he slits his wrists and leaves her $5 million, she fears he’s found a way to get invisible and hunt her. OK, it’s predictable, but the director is good at staging the cat-and-mouse tricks an invisible aggressor can play. An empathetic, Edvard Munch-faced Moss rocks the role, delivering screams and sudden jumps, then turning the tables on the bad guy, aided by stilettos, juicy red lipstick and an excellent cosmetic concealer. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
This loose adaptation of the best-selling mystery novel Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland is created by and stars Mark Wahlberg, 48, who has an Oscar- and Emmy-honored green thumb as a producer (The Fighter, Boardwalk Empire). His previous collaboration with coproducer Peter Berg, the Boston Marathon drama Patriots Day, was a solid thriller. Wahlberg is the perfect Bostonian to play boxer turned cop Spenser, now sprung from prison himself and sleuthing his colleagues’ killers. The Kominsky Method’s Alan Arkin, 85, plays his sardonic mentor, and Marc Maron, 56, has a mysterious untitled role.
Annette Bening, 61, AARP The Magazine's latest cover subject and the latest Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award winner, brings her new film about the Senate's investigation of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program to the tube. As Bening told AARP, “When you make movies, you want to make an impact on people, not just entertain them.” The Report is entertaining as well as thought-provoking.
Netflix’s biggest-ever theatrical release, Martin Scorsese’s career-capstone Mafia drama about a hitman who kills Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, is now also on TV, and it’s just as good on the small screen. It’s like a grownup, 3-hour, more reflective Goodfellas, with Robert De Niro, 76, Al Pacino, 79, Joe Pesci, 76, and Ray Romano, 61, in peak form.
The Two Popes
The wittiest fact-based movie of the year is a world-class acting duel between Jonathan Pryce, 72, as an Argentine cardinal who asks Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins, 81) to bless his retirement — only to be ordered to become the next pope, Francis. In a fascinating debate that affected the fate of a billion Catholics, traditionalist Benedict and his toughest, most liberal critic face off. In these bitterly divided times, this sweet tale of reconciliation through respectful intellectual combat feels downright redemptive.
At 50, director Noah Baumbach has made his grownup masterpiece, loosely based on his divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh. Scarlett Johansson has seldom been better as the loving but thwarted ex-bride. Hollywood skyrocket Adam Driver is her arguably self-absorbed director ex-groom. But they're no better than Alan Alda, 83, Ray Liotta, 65, and Laura Dern, 52, as their lawyers — most pundits predict Dern will win an Oscar for her sympathetic yet cynical role. Better than Kramer vs. Kramer.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
(Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango)
As the underpaid stuntman and best friend to washed-up TV star Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, 55, steals Quentin Tarantino's sweetly nostalgic love letter to 1969 Hollywood. Though it's an alternative history fable about the Manson murders, it's nowhere near as upsetting as you'd think. It could win the Oscar for best picture.