PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

Season 3 of Downton Abbey, featuring Shirley MacLaine, doesn’t premiere until next year – okay, January 6, but still, it’s a wait. In the meantime, here’s a new special, a retrospective that will remind fans what we’ve been missing, and initiate newcomers to what’s about to come. Angela Lansbury hosts. Check local listings.

CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week, Judd Hirsch guest starred as a judge, and gave a typically complex, captivating performance. This week’s new episode presents another guest star who can be counted on to provide the same: Stockard Channing, playing Veronica, the meddling mother of Julianna Margulies’ Alicia. This is her first appearance, but I’m already betting she’ll make more.

AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s episode was a strong and pivotal one, taking several formerly disparate story lines – the prison, the Governor’s compound, the nomadic Michonne, Daryl and his brother – and weaving them, like a DNA strand, into one. And it left us with Rick, coming off a mental crisis that was cleverly scripted, staring through the prison fence at a wounded, wordless Michonne. But when she does speak, it’ll lead to a collision of the two camps, and, perhaps, to the two brothers.

Lifetime, 9:00 p.m. ET

This is not a recommendation in terms of quality – but this new Lifetime telemovie is fascinating in its own creepy way. It stars Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor, and Grant Bowler as Richard Burton. Bowler is convincing in the part, but Lohan isn’t, not for a second. And that becomes fun to watch, in a way, especially when the 1960s show-biz romance wallows in knowing allusions to the present. When the celebrity supercouple is chased by photographers, Lohan’s Taylor shrugs them off as a temporary nuisance. “They’ll find someone else to stalk,” she tells Burton. “You think?” he asks. Drolly, Taylor replies: “Yeah, I think.” And so they have. And while Lohan doesn’t improve her image with Liz & Dick, it has its moments, or at least its seconds. It’s written by Christopher Monger, who wrote the screenplay for one of the best telemovies in recent years, HBO’s Temple Grandin. For a full review, see Ed Bark’s Uncle Barky’s Bytes.

Showtime, 10:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s episode ended with a cliffhanger that left us up in the air – or close to it, as Brody (Damien Lewis) was driven to a remote wooden clearing, with a helicopter appearing from nowhere. Its passenger? The elusive, manipulative and very dangerous Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban).
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Dick Rossi
Please keep listing sporting events in your Best Bets. I find them very useful as I do not follow sports closely but enjoy viewing the highlights. Someone was complaining about those sports listings. I think that person was wrong.
Mar 27, 2017   |  Reply
mary bolduc
Sure, we should all comfort the afflicted.. but don't afflict the comfortable
Mar 26, 2017   |  Reply
David, I'd also have to say, The Pink Panther. It reminds me of my first true love who introduced me to the Pink Panther and it was one of our favorite movies to watch together. I need to watch it again 'cause who doesn't love to laugh?
Mar 26, 2017   |  Reply
Mary Bolduc
Because CNN's allusion is to the old motto of one of the nation's oldest newspapers, in Chicago, "to comfort the afflicted, to afflict the comfortable," it is likely to be more of a political statement than a strictly religious one _ and as a political precept, "afflict the comfortable" is fairly radical. I guess CNN can read anything into religious guides that it wants to. Readers don't have to buy its selective interpretations, though.
Mar 26, 2017   |  Reply
Mary Bolduc
Hi, have a media question, not specifically about TV, but about a story on CNN's site.
The author of an article on four things people frequently get wrong about Jesus, or the Bible, says "it was once said" that religion was supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But even if that really is a Biblical reference (scholars, is it?) isn't it better known as the mission statement for one of the Chicago newspapers, in which case is there some kind of code there? Or is that too far-fetched?
Mar 26, 2017   |  Reply
*How* do you want us to share? In the comments section? Email? Facebook? (POTUS tweet?) Be more specific. I've got one I've been carrying around for 50+ years.
Mar 25, 2017   |  Reply
Thanks for your thoughts Dave... makes sense. Honored you remember me and my know I've been following you for years and years! And as a fellow UF alumnus, go Gators tonite! Ken
Mar 24, 2017   |  Reply
Dave, why do you always put the basketball games in your Best Bets? Any fan of college BB already knows this and others could care less.
Mar 23, 2017   |  Reply
As wonderful as the BBC's Planet Earth II has livened Sat. nights,I just researched the ongoing story about Great Britain's naming contest for their Antarctic research vessel. Internet jokesters won the numbers with naming it Boaty McBoatface but the ship was officially named for naturalist Sir David Attenborough,superb narrator for the Planet Earth series. Meanwhile, an online petition raised over 2,000 signatures requesting Sir David to change his name to Sir Boaty McBoatface. Add to the story,there will be an actual Boaty McBoatface on the ship. You can look it up,but you can't make it up.
On this Pi Day(no pie for this diabetic),3/14,while Blizzard Stella(paging Marlon Brando) is burying my area with an 18 hr. snowstorm,this makes perfect sense.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
Robert Prestifilippo
Madeleine's constantly absent husband is Sam Loomis. That was the name of Marion Crane's lover in Psycho. He and Marion's sister Lila show up at the Bates Motel investigating Marion's disappearance.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
Keith Robin
Many, many thanks for the heads up regarding the Cream concert on AXS-TV. As a long-time fan, it is one more nugget for my cache of "golden" treasures from the artists that have become lifetime favorites!
Mar 11, 2017   |  Reply
Here, here!
Mar 12, 2017
Robert Steinberg
I was at your lecture last evening and wanted to thank you for an illuminating event.. You didn't pick the obvious /low hanging fruit and gave one much to mull over.. I have enjoyed and used your recommendations for a long while and wanted to thank you for shining a bright light on our pop culture. Rob
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
Jimmy Stewart was not in "North by Northwest." Perhaps you meant "Rear Window"?
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
Thanks Zeke. Maybe someday Angela as a "woman" will come around and see what the word rape represents and realize it shouldn't be used in a joking manner. David posted that it was a mistake to post "rape" as a joke.
Mar 6, 2017   |  Reply
As a “person” I find your admonition to Angela (of all people) for holding a less rigid attitude than yours to the term “rape” to be, um, “disappointing”. Add to this sludge in your cold coffee the suggestion that Angela might have several cats with whom she may enjoy dining. This is outrageous and “beyond the pale”. The “cat lady” meme has died a miserable but oh, so deserved, death at the hands of, among others, the “cat men and women of Earth”, a proud, feisty lot who rule, RULE the internet. So stand down, “Sue”. And, before you find some charming way to call me a “dog”, be aware that, among us cat people, dogs come in a close second. Very close. Tread carefully.
Mar 7, 2017
Guess you aren't a fan of DC Legends of Tomorrow, or you would be aware that every episode of this show provides sly comedy when you least expect it.
Mar 5, 2017   |  Reply
To Sue; re language of rape.
I also was startled at the use of the verb. A better one could be used.
With overuse, casual use, it can become normalized... and it needs to carry the emotional freight it deserves. Out of respect, not out of PC.
It is also shameful the way showers in Men's prisons have become a punchline.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
I meant at *first* through clumsy attempts at humor. Then with ease we are able to discuss problems more meaningfully.
Mar 8, 2017
I believe what becomes normalized is our ability to speak about difficult topics without fear of reproach. And through dialog is how we solve problems. Not by covering over problems too long shrouded in secrecy due to fear or by making problems almost taboo to discuss. I'm also guessing that abuse in men's showers hasn't become more prevalent because of jokes about it but rather the problem has been there all along and we seek to solve through our often clumsy but, oh so human attempts at humor.
Mar 8, 2017
As the college basketball regular season ends, today (Saturday) is a fan's paradise, and Carolina-Duke is in prime time.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
Cluelessly, the broadcast networks are stingy with their encore showings of new programming. People interested in "When We Rise" were probably rapt by nightly coverage of the ongoing political travesty, driving down the ratings for this interesting miniseries. Hope it is handed off to Netflix (at LEAST) or presented again in gulps less demanding of time and/or during calmer times so that it can get the attention it deserves.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
Note that Ring Lardner Sr. was a noted humorist,including a baseball book from 1916,You Know Me Al. The film Eight Men Out includes the director,John Sayles, portraying Lardner Sr. as one sports writer already onto the Chicago White Sox players throwing the World Series.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
While TCM winds down the Oscar films, note of a little seen French musical,The Young Girls Of Rochefort at 12:AM. Jacques Demy re-teams with Michel LeGrand and Catherine Deneuve to make another all-singing,all-dancing,colorful musical after the success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. American guest stars inlcude Gene Kelly,George Chakaris and Grover Dale,along with Deneuve's sister, Francoise Dorleac(she died before the film's premiere). While La La Land still has audience and critical praises,here is a '60s film that really loves the film musical. Not for all tastes(nothing offensive,just some unusual sights and the Americans dubbed in French) it is energy filled with real outdoor scenes and LeGrand's music an important co-star.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
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David Bianculli

Founder / Editor

Behind David in the picture is the first TV owned by his father, Virgil Bianculli, a 1946 Raytheon. (The TV, not his father. His father was a 1923 Italian.) David Bianculli has been a TV critic since 1975, including a 14-year stint at the New York Daily News, and sees no reason to stop now. Currently, he's TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and is an occasional substitute host for that show. He also teaches TV and film history at New Jersey's Rowan University, and his most recent book, 2009's Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour',has recently been purchased for film rights. His next, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is coming this fall, 2016.


Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20.

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post