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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

Helen Mirren's 'Catherine the Great,' Tim Robbins' 'Castle Rock,' the 'Kominsky Method' and more

Catherine the Great

(HBO, premieres Oct. 21, 10 p.m. ET)

All bow before Helen the Great! In HBO's extraordinarily regal miniseries about Russia's 18th century potentate Catherine the Great, Helen Mirren, 74, the queen of actresses who play queens, gets her most powerful regent role yet. She ruled much of the earth and murdered husbands who got in her way. Critic Ann Donahue notes that Catherine's passion for her lover and coconspirator, Grigory Potemkin (the brilliant Jason Clarke, 50, of First Man and Chappaquiddick) has a vibe like Mirren's real-life four-year live-in relationship with Liam Neeson. The script is by Nigel Williams, 71, who won an Emmy for writing Mirren's triumphant Elizabeth I miniseries.

Castle Rock, Season 2

(Hulu, premieres Oct. 23)

In his first Stephen King drama since The Shawshank Redemption, Tim Robbins, 61, plays Maine's Pop Merrill, a military vet with cancer who's adopted Somali refugees (including Robbins’ fellow Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips). They collide with a newcomer, Annie Wilkes — the same mad character Kathy Bates played in Misery, only this story happens 10 years before that film is set and Annie's played by the dazzling Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), consciously emulating Bates’ performance. Annie's daughter is played by Elsie Fisher, who won fame in the masterpiece Eighth Grade. READ TIM ROBBINS INTERVIEW

The Kominsky Method, Season 2

(Netflix, premieres Oct. 25)

How could this killer comedy-drama about two old friends — an actor and teacher (Michael Douglas, 75) and his agent (Alan Arkin, 85) who quarrel incessantly in youth-obsessed Hollywood — get any better? By bringing in A-list guest stars: Paul Reiser, 63, as Douglas’ daughter's lover; Jane Seymour, 68, as Arkin's rekindled old flame; and Kathleen Turner, 65, as the ex-wife of her War of the Roses and Romancing the Stone costar Douglas. This is must-see grownup TV.

Mrs. Fletcher

(HBO, premieres Oct. 27, 10:30 p.m. ET)

Kathryn Hahn, 46, plays a divorced mom who gets empty nest syndrome after sending her son off to college and has a midlife sexual awakening. The show's creator is best seller author turned Oscar nominee Tom Perrotta, 58 (Little Children, Election, The Leftovers).

Catch Up With

Modern Love

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

Based on stories of actual lovers from the New York Times’ Modern Love column, Amazon's new anthology series is smart and moving. If you only watch one of the eight true tales, make it the last: four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander, 79, and James Saito, 64, in “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap,” about a couple who met jogging and learned to run together through life. “Old love is different and yet it is the same,” says Alexander's character, “because Ken and I did everything that young people do. We fell in love, we traveled, we remodeled a house together. We were no longer so pretty, but we were not so neurotic either.” The first one, about a pregnant young New Yorker's wise older doorman, is terrific, too. The killer cast includes Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Andy Garcia, Catherine Keener, John Slattery and Dev Patel. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

A scene inside a car, Paul Rudd holds money while talking to Paul Rudd in the limited Netflix series 'Living with Yourself'

Netflix

Living With Yourself

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Paul Rudd, 50, stars in this comedy by The Daily Show writer Tim Greenberg. Rudd plays a sad ad man who goes to the Top Happy Spa, which promises to make him a new man — and emerges with a replica of himself who's better than him in all ways (in Gemini Man, Will Smith also confronts his double, but that film is mostly a bust). At first he's glad to send the new him to deal with things at work and with his wife's pals that he doesn't want to do, but serious problems arise. Nobody could play this role better than Rudd. —T.A.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

It's worth seeing on the big screen, but you won't complain if you watch Vince Gilligan's superb two-hour sequel to his series Breaking Bad on TV. Bryan Cranston's bad, broken teacher turned meth gangster Walt is gone (as explained in an intro to catch you up), so now his tormented sidekick, Jesse (Aaron Paul), is on the run from the baddest guys in a battered El Camino. The grimness is balanced by the sweet idiocy and funny banter of Jesse's pals Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones). Paul deserves a fourth Emmy for this pedal-to-the-metal performance. —T.A.

Finding Your Roots, Season 6

(PBS, 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. —T.A.

The DNA of Murder With Paul Holes

(Oxygen, 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, 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.

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.

9-1-1

(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.

NCIS

(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.

Unbelievable

(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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