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What to Watch on TV This Week

'Ellen's Greatest Night of Giveaways,' 'Moonlight Sonata,' Kennedy Center Honors' and more

TV for Grownups: What to Watch Playlist

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Ellen's Greatest Night of Giveaways

(NBC, Dec. 10-12, 8 p.m. ET)

With a little help from Michelle Obama, 55; Jennifer Aniston, 50; Melissa McCarthy, 49; and Robert Downey, Jr., 54; Ellen DeGeneres, 61, surprises lots of nice, deserving people with life-changing presents for three nights in a row. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements

(HBO, Dec. 11, 9 p.m. ET)

A deeply personal family story about Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky's young son's deafness and his quest to master Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata,” this fascinating documentary is also a 300-year history of deafness and a deep look at how dementia affects her deaf father — the subject of her Peabody and Sundance award-winning 2007 documentary Hear and Now—Gayle Jo Carter (G.J.C.) READ BRODSKY INTERVIEW

Kennedy Center Honors

(CBS, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. ET)

Singer Linda Ronstadt, 73; actress Sally Field, 72; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, 74; and the band Earth, Wind & Fire will receive the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, the illustrious awards for artists whose lifetime achievements have made a lasting mark on American culture. Also honored will be Sesame Street, which has earned 189 Emmys in its 50 years on the air. —T.A.

Movies Now Streaming on TV

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

(Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango, streaming anytime)

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. —T.A.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

(Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango, streaming anytime)

A partly heartbreaking, entirely inspiring documentary about the incredibly versatile superstar Linda Ronstadt, 73, whose public singing career was ended by Parkinson's disease. It's a nominee for AARP's upcoming Movies for Grownups Award for best documentary. —T.A. READ LINDA RONSTADT INTERVIEW

Catch Up With

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 3

(Amazon, begins streaming Dec. 6)

America's favorite imaginary 1950s female stand-up comic, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), gets her act together and takes it on the road — Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas — alongside a Nat King Cole-like singer (Leroy McClain). Her dad (Tony Shalhoub, 66) leaves his Columbia University job and lovely apartment, and Midge's manager (Alex Borstein, 48) may be eyeing a potential new client: Midge's Phyllis Diller-like rival Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch, 59). Also joining the cast, in top-secret roles: Gilmore Girls’ Lauren Graham, 52; and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, Black Panther). —T.A.

The Report

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

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. —T.A.

Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Grand Ole Opry

(NBC, streaming anytime)

Is anybody hotter right now than Dolly Parton, 73? Even Jolene would be jealous. A half century after her Grand Ole Opry induction (and 60 years after her stage debut there at 13), she sings, with tributes to her tunes by Emmylou Harris, 72, Toby Keith, 58, Hank Williams Jr., 70, and youngsters like Margo Price and Lady Antebellum. Tickets for this live show were on sale for $12,044, but for you? Free! She has a wonderful new podcast, Dolly Parton’s America; Netflix’s dramatic series inspired by her songs, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings (streaming anytime); and a cameo in Hallmark’s December film Christmas at Dollywood. And though the 9 to 5 sequel is canceled, she may still do a film with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. —T.A.

The Irishman

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

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. —T.A.

Merry Happy Whatever

(Netflix, streaming anytime)

Dennis Quaid, 65, already conquered TV drama (he is Billy Bob Thornton’s nemesis on Amazon’s excellent Goliath and got an Emmy nomination as Bill Clinton on The Special Relationship), but in his first sitcom, by the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, he’s overbearing Philadelphia dad Don Quinn, who feels “there’s the Quinn way, and the wrong way.” When his daughter (Bridgit Mendler) brings her musician fiancé (Brent Morin) home for the holiday, that’s wrong. It’s eight episodes, less like a Lifetime Christmas movie than Meet the Parents. —T.A.

Mad About You

(Spectrum TV, streaming anytime)

Paul (Paul Reiser, 63) and Jamie (Helen Hunt, 56) are back in the reboot of their 1992-1999 sitcom, still in their old Manhattan apartment 20 years later. Their kid (Abby Quinn) is at NYU, but the old gang is still around: John Pankow (Cousin Ira), Anne Ramsay (Jamie's sister), Richard Kind (Mark Devanow), plus newcomer Kecia Lewis from the Broadway musical Leap of Faith as Mark's new wife. Reiser and Hunt still have chemistry — where has she been, anyway? — and even though their characters have empty-nest syndrome, that doesn't mean mama Jamie won't be invading her daughter's college life to give her a piece of her mind. —T.A. PAUL REISER INTERVIEW

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

(Disney+, Tuesdays, streaming anytime)

The smart, pregnant-pause-loving Jurassic Park star hosts an eccentric, globe-trotting documentary series about everything from sneakers to ice cream. He could fill the ecological niche in TV left by the late Anthony Bourdain. —T.A. JEFF GOLDBLUM INTERVIEW

The Crown, Season 3

(Netflix, streaming anytime)
Yes, the first two seasons of the smash hit about Queen Elizabeth were great, but the third is better still. Olivia Colman (taking over for young Claire Foy) won an Oscar as England’s queen in The Favourite, and she’s likely to win an Emmy for this bravura performance as the grownup Elizabeth from 1964 to 1977. Game of Thrones’ Tobias Menzies plays Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter, 53, gives Princess Margaret just the right insecurely arrogant, reckless swagger. When she charms LBJ and the world with a vulgar liveliness that reminds LBJ of himself, it’s Elizabeth who feels insecure. We meet young Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and his new girlfriend — Camilla (Emerald Fennell). Sorry, Diana won’t arrive until Season 4. —T.A.

The Morning Show

(Apple TV+, streaming anytime)

Apple launches its huge new streaming service with the first show since Friends to star Jennifer Aniston, 50 — and it's must-viewing, by turns dark and comic, definitely compelling. She and Reese Witherspoon play TV news hosts, and Steve Carell, 57, the anchor who gets sacked for alleged sexual misconduct. Martin Short, 69, plays a predatory director; Billy Crudup, 51, is a nasty exec; and Grace Under Fire's Brett Butler, 61, portrays Witherspoon's mom. Plus, you get to see Apple open a new chapter in TV history. —Bruce Fretts (B.F.) FULL REVIEW

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Season 2

(Amazon, streaming anytime)

Last season, John Krasinski proved to all doubters that he could fill the shoes of Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford and Chris Pine, by playing the CIA guy who really just wants to be an analyst but whose circumstances force him to be an action hero — this time in unstable Venezuela. As usual, his secret weapon is his mentor James Greer (Suits' and The Wire's Wendell Pierce, 55). —T.A.

Catherine the Great

(HBO, anytime on demand)

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, Wednesdays)

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, streaming anytime)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Carol's Second Act

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

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.

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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