Matt's Weekend Picks: March 25-27
Fringe (Friday, 9/8c, Fox)
This entire season has been a tour de force for Anna Torv. Doing double duty as dueling Olivias from parallel warring universes, she most recently spent an episode channeling her inner Spock — aka Leonard Nimoy — as the ghostly soul of William Bell inhabited her body for a very clever outing. (In the climax, the dormant Olivia resurfaced briefly, freaking out Peter and the viewing audience.) This week, we're back in alt-world, as the pregnant Alt-livia faces mortal danger from several fronts. It's a very harrowing hour, deserving a far larger audience than it's likely to get, tucked away on Fridays. Fox, stand by this show!
Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Stand-Up (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, Comedy Central)
The sardonic comic, recently described in a Saturday Night Live retrospective as one of the most dangerous performers ever to have graced that stage, is making a comeback via Comedy Central. First up: his first-ever hour-long solo stand-up gig, where he tackles subjects as time-honored as death, sex, 24-hour news — and cheese sandwiches. Next month (April 12), he returns in a weekly format for Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, in which he skewers the sports scene in front a live audience — much as he did when he ruled over the Weekend Update desk on SNL.
Mildred Pierce (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO)
Banish all memory of the Oscar-winning Joan Crawford vehicle from 1945. Directed with languid sensitivity by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), this meticulously produced, painstakingly faithful miniseries adaptation of James M. Cain's novel shuns melodrama — such as the noir murder framework invented for the movie — in favor of a more mellow drama about a Depression-era single mother who sacrifices everything to provide for the spoiled daughter who never returns her love. Kate Winslet is a grounded-in-realism Mildred, bristling with emotional intensity, and her bad-seed daughter Veda is played in the first chapters by Morgan Turner (Evan Rachel Wood takes over the role on successive nights). Despite its overlength — nearly six hours over three Sundays — the movie is never less than absorbing, but patience is required.
Oprah Presents Master Class (Sunday, 9/8c, OWN)
After weeks of turning the spotlight on her famous friends and mentors (Maya Angelou, Sidney Poitier and — my favorite to date — Lorne Michaels, to name a few), the namesake of the Oprah Winfrey Network finally sits down to share her life experiences and lessons to her rapt public in a two-part episode (concluding April 3). Oprah digs deep into her past — from turbulent childhood to her start in TV — to reveal how she found her voice that resonates with so many millions.
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