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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Paul Schatz
Reread the Mr. Roberts post. Can you find the typo? Btw I first saw that wonderful movie from the balcony at Radio City Music Hall.
May 27, 2017   |  Reply
Mary Bolduc
Let me be unfair for a moment and say the news conference state seal makes Texas lawmakers look like they're in Gulliver's Travels when their rhetoric is big and their intentions are not so big in spirit... and the issues they are loudest about might be diversionary or gaming in some manner...
May 27, 2017   |  Reply
Mary Bolduc
Unrelated note on Friday Texas TV newscast about state legislation: Could that Texas state seal shown behind House Speaker Joe Strauss be any bigger?
May 27, 2017   |  Reply
Mary Bolduc
Where might a viewer who rarely watched "Twin Peaks" the first time round, and never saw a whole episode, locate a summary of the original?
May 26, 2017   |  Reply
Try Wikipedia,since they usually break down stories with spoilers(it's what they do). And yes,there is a Fandom site on Wikia. I have never seen a complete episode,having bailed during the premiere with house guests who were dumbfounded (me,too) I'm still glad,though, that someone attempted to turn mainstream TV on its head. Someone with ties to Philly's Pa. Academy of the Fine Arts. I like to think that a possible diet of cheese steaks,Tastykakes and Black Cherry Wishniak led Lynch to some crazy dreams,some of which have become part of his films. Me,I got heart disease and diabetes from that stuff. As Lynch left Philly in 1971, I spent lots of time in the bowels of Center City and saw my share of odd moments. Who needs Twin Peaks when watching commuters around Philly's City Hall? My favorite was the schizo guy who sat in the back of the bus and argued the Vietnam War with himself till the bus driver pulled over and threatened to throw off both sides,though there was only one person.
May 26, 2017
There are always cries of "fake news" when a Frontline show is recommended. Ignore the screams and catch the current Bannon's War,which premiered 5/23 but available and well captioned online at the PBS website. It has the feeling of history from years ago but includes headlines from just days ago. To paraphrase The Most Interesting Fake Man(II,since TIFM I was thankfully blasted into space,forever-we can only hope):"Stay involved,my friend. I don't drink the Breitbart Kool-Aid often,but if I do,I have a Frontline chaser to cleanse my system."
May 24, 2017   |  Reply
Mac, Thanks for the heads up. Awhile ago, I stumbled across a Frontline show. I then spent hours and hours on the Frontline website watching all the older shows. I always learn a lot about topical subjects. Good to know there's a new show out.
May 25, 2017
Joe in SF
Thanks for the Beatles Best Bet. We still need them. We'll still feed them. I guess SiriusXM could have put their music on Channel 64.
May 18, 2017   |  Reply
Minor correction - Jason Bourne is on HBO tonight, not Cinemax
May 13, 2017   |  Reply
Today (Saturday) is the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, which will stream from Kiev, Ukraine. Logo is streaming it in the US; it starts at 3 p.m. ET. This long-running competition--it began in 1956--is a strange combination of pop music and politics, since voting is done by country.
May 13, 2017   |  Reply
JP Becca
Dick is not a series premiere, it might be a season premiere.
May 12, 2017   |  Reply
I have never seen an episode of Then Came Bronson.Was Michael Parks' top 20 single,Long,Lonesome Highway,eventually used as a theme? Written by a guy once married to Mama Cass.They were in a group,the Mugwumps, also included future Papa Denny Doherty,as well as two Lovin' Spoonful guys,John Sebastian & Zal Yanovsky. As faux singer/songwriter stuff goes,it was pretty good.
May 12, 2017   |  Reply
I remember thinking that title clip was all wrong for a show about such a cool dude. And Long Lonesome Highway is shown on the site EG linked to (far right pic- top row) I had no idea Michael Parks sang that song. Here's a very interesting YouTube video that was the pitch video for potential investors and the making of the Michael Parks documentary project that sadly fell through. Also, Michael played Jean Renault the drug dealer in Twin Peaks.
May 15, 2017
Mac: The Gods of the universe have delivered a website dedicated to 'Then Came Bronson'... of course. ( The title clip we're showing has a smooth jazz instrumental, standard for many series from the '60's and '70's. But I do recall "Long Lonesome Highway" being used as a theme... maybe during the closing credits. Wikipedia has it as a top 20 hit when it was released, along with the series. –EG
May 13, 2017
Mary Bolduc
Couple of theories, probably wrong:
Title of TV show "Castle" may refer or allude partly to the Castle law in Texas, which I think allows a property owner to defend himself and-or his family on his property or in his house.... or not. It's a fantasy of a civilian, non-cop, defending himself or helping defend himself or his family.... OK, maybe not.
And off topic, name of character Jamie in "Fifty Shades of Gray" (which I have not read or seen) may be a play on the French word jamais, or never. Jamie sounds like "jamais." The plot is so over-the-top, absurd, it would never happen? That might be a better theory.
May 11, 2017   |  Reply
David, I'm surprised tonight's Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert (CBS, 11:35pm) didn't make your list. In celebration of Colbert's 20 years on late night television, he will host a "Daily Show" reunion with guests Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Ed Helms, & Rob Corddry. That's quite a lineup!
May 9, 2017   |  Reply
Yeah,that could have gone on for a week. Good skit included. A shame it was cookie-cuttered like so much of late night TV has become. Still,better than Fallon.
May 12, 2017
Keith Robin
Mr. Bianculli, With reference to your preview of the "Billions" season finale, I would normally issue an admonishment to anyone revealing important plot points a mere seven days after broadcast. Many is the time, and I am sure I am not alone, when I am too busy to watch a TV show sooner than a week after it premiered. this case, it's my opinion that anyone watching "Billions" already knows that the ONLY way to watch every episode is the same as watching "Game of Thrones": Live on Sunday night! It is, to me, the embodiment of the term "Must See TV"! I think it is one of the best dramas currently available on ANY medium! And last Sunday's episode was exceptional. I regret that too many viewers are either unaware or uninterested in watching it, but that's their loss! With so many shows available on so many platforms, it makes one feel good to know they've chosen wisely when deciding which of them is worth the time invested in entertainment of this quality.
May 7, 2017   |  Reply
George Ashur
"Almost guaranteed, there will be a sketch about a bunch of old white guys in suits and ties, celebrating their legislative “victory” in the Rose Garden." -- More likely is a sketch about Stephen Colbert sticking a fork in his "career."
May 6, 2017   |  Reply
Whatcha wanna bet, George?
May 7, 2017
David, In answer to your pop quiz question, I believe it was The Americans but I don't know the name of the show they were watching. Hopefully someone else will chime in with the answer.
May 4, 2017   |  Reply
(Hint: It wasn’t The Russians.)
May 4, 2017
Jia Talentino's New Yorker online story about the Sam Bee special describes taping starting mid-afternoon 4/29 for the 10PM broadcast,which was immediately repeated after the first showing. Lots of remote- button hopping that night between C-SPAN,Fox News,MSNBC and TBS. I missed the official correspondence remarks live because TBS ran the Bee special,but caught it on the first repeat later that PM. Lots of watching the Nerd Prom Cam on C-SPAN,wading through till the good stuff. Button hopping to hear Trump's Tall Tales. How tall? I live in Pa. minutes from the old steel works in Bethlehem and folks,there ain't ever gonna be any steel coming from there,ever. Billy Joel told you about that decades ago. It's all gambling,retail,music acts and movies today.
Note to Donald-Bethlehem Motors never used Bethlehem Steel in any of its cars. Bethlehem Motors never existed. Harold Robbins made that up to see if you were paying attention. Wrote the book,knowing you don't read.
May 3, 2017   |  Reply
Entire Lehigh Valley is basically in the warehouse business,with Amazon leading the way,and dictating temp workers with few benefits and subpar wages. Proximity to major East Coast sites like NYC,Philly,Boston & D.C. Amazon now has two,count-em tow,warehouses and pretty much will control the airport. Fed-Ex is building a mega site that will jam vehicle arteries and keep wages well under what UPS is faced with. Sure,the unemployment numbers look good on paper,but folks have taken a financial hit. The life of a temp worker is one of the dirty little secrets of employment today.
May 12, 2017
Bethlehem is one of the few steel towns that has a population about the same as its steel period peak. The people that ran the town brought in tech and other business to keep the town going. One of the great success stories.
May 4, 2017
Mary B.
"Jane the Virgin" is charming and quite watchable, but it's slightly alarming that the characters are so childish. Although most have left high school and college, and are adults, they talk continually about who has had sex, or is having sex. And they don't seem to have boundaries. Of course it's fiction ..
May 2, 2017   |  Reply
Warning! Severe pain can kill. It can damage the heart and other organs. And I know I never want to see a loved one suffer like people do in some other countries because it is illegal to prescribe opioids ever! That pendulum has already swung too far the other direction. Now doctors often have little say in how they can treat pain. Their hands are tied. And in the instances where a doctor may have discretion their too afraid to prescribe pain medicine for fear of DEA retribution. That's one big reason civil forfeiture needs to be made illegal. There's too much money to be made busting doctors. I sure hope HBO finds the middle ground.
May 2, 2017   |  Reply
Tom Ranftle
Hey, David! Keep in mind those of us who've been with you since TCM was a novelty. Some, dare I say most of us don't get all the pay channels. Some don't even get CNN. We need options on the low end of the pay scale. One over-the air network, one basic cable and four pay nets. I don't begrudge people who can pay, but we on this end need more help than they do.
May 1, 2017   |  Reply
"Paige turner" and "paid scale". Groan! ;)
Apr 26, 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