DAVID BIANCULLI

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Sunday Serves Up Two Powerhouse Battles for Viewer Attention -- Both Involving HBO
January 16, 2009  | By David Bianculli
 

What a Sunday. In the afternoon, and again in the evening, different factions of TV are vying for our attention, serving up powerhouse lineups that exemplify TV Worth Watching.

It's a day made for VCRs, DVRs, picture-in-picture TVs, and rapid-fire channel-flipping...

FIRST BATTLE: FOOTBALL vs. INAUGURAL PARTY

Eagles.jpg

The NFL's conference championship games are played Sunday, deciding which teams will appear in this year's Super Bowl. Fox has the NFC title game at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, with the Philadelphia Eagles on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. That's followed at 6:30 ET by the CBS telecast of the AFC title game, with the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Baltimore Ravens.

Can't miss, right?

Except that, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET, HBO provides live coverage of the Obama Inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial -- a multi-hour affair it's calling We Are One. And to maximize exposure for its exclusive telecast, HBO is clearing its signal, which means anyone with cable or satellite TV should be able to watch it for no extra charge, even if they don't subscribe to HBO.

inauguration-we-are-one.jpgScheduled guests include Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Martin Luther King III. Guests scheduled to perform include -- and this is one hefty list -- Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, U2, James Taylor, Garth Brooks, Herbie Hancock, and many, many more. Really. Clearly, not to be missed.

HBO is offering two repeat plays of We Are One The first is at 7 p.m. ET, the second at 11:30. And that's important to note, because watching live means missing the Philly-Cardinals game, and watching the first repeat means missing the Steelers-Ravens showdown. My recommendation: Watch football, peek at the Inauguration party during commercial breaks, and watch the entire party at 11:30 on HBO.

SECOND BATTLE: HBO vs. SHOWTIME

big-love.jpg

At 9 p.m. ET, HBO presents the third-season premiere of Big Love, followed at 10 by the second-season premiere of Flight of the Conchords.

Meanwhile, over on Showtime, the sixth and final season of The L Word begins at 9, with a new series, The United States of Tara, following at 10, and the second season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl beginning at 10:30.

What's a viewer to do? Luckily, both HBO and Showtime will repeat all of these shows during the week, so it's more a question of personal taste. Eventually, you can, and should, see all. The only relatively weak link is Conchords, which starts out a little more flat than last year. But I really like these guys from New Zealand, so I'll stay tuned for a while.

SECRET-LIVES-OF-TARA-Jan-18.jpg

Big Love starts very strongly this year -- but so does The L Word, with a dead body and a series of mysterious, very sexy flashbacks. And as for Tara, the new entry starring Toni Collette as a wife and mother with several newly resurfaced alternate personalities, my best advice is to beg you to watch more than one episode. I've seen four -- and after two, the show really hits its stride.

To hear my review of The United States of Tara on Friday's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, click HERE after 3 p.m. ET Friday. And to navigate through the day, choose your course carefully.

My path: Football. Football. Showtime series. HBO Inauguration. Then tomorrow or Tuesday, pick up on the HBO series in reruns.

 

2 Comments

 

JD said:

Wow - No mention of the NBC premiere tonight of Friday Night Light's third season? Now THAT is tv worth watching.

Of course I've already seen the entire season and it's incredible. And no, I don't have DirectTV. (It was on Friday's Best Bets as one of the six best shows available. Doesn't that count? -- David B.)

Comment posted on January 16, 2009 11:48 AM



Chris Collins said:

Since I've got DirectTV, I've actually had a chance to see a preview of the pilot of United States of Tara on their 101 channel, and Wow! It's an excellent bit of TV. It's well acted, and delightfully tense, as well as funny. Ultimately, the pilot moved and surprised me, leaving me happier than a half hour of TV has left me in a long time. Certainly worth checking out.

Comment posted on January 16, 2009 12:36 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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