Diana Rigg in Dr. Who (l), Game of Thrones(r)
"You're just not for everybody," comedic curmudgeon Marc Maron is told — by the more popular TV clown (at least among a comic-store backroom of Twitter nerds) Dave Foley, who plays a rather unflattering version of his real self, as does Maron, in IFC's new dark-side-of-laughter comedy series Maron (Friday, 10/9c). Sunnier than FX's Louie if only by virtue of being filmed in California, the sardonically squirm-inducing Maron alternates between slice-of-rant sitcom and self-obsessed podcast from the comedian's garage, where he vents on his unhappy personal life, his diarrhea-prone cats and his unruly, taunting Twitter following: "Who are these people? Don't they have lives?" You might well ask the same about Maron, although if he was happy (shades of Louie) there'd be no show.
FANTASY LAND: As a devotee of the magnificent Dame Diana Rigg at least since the days of the classic The Avengers, I couldn't be more tickled by her imperious performance on HBO's Game of Thrones this season as "Queen of Thorns" Olenna Redwyne, who last Sunday dismissed "Master of Coin" Tyrion Lannister as a "browbeaten bookkeeper." Rigg hasn't lost a step, or her bite, over the years.
She's also in grand form this weekend in a delightfully nightmarish chapter of BBC America's Doctor Who (Saturday, 8/7c), as Victorian villainess Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower, whose blinded and scarred daughter is played by her real-life daughter Rachael Stirling (Tipping the Velvet). In "The Crimson Horror," written by Sherlock's Mark Gatiss, Mrs. Gillyflower's sermons of apocalypse may have something to do with a mysterious poison that's turning people lobster red. At first, it looks as if Silurian lizard lady Vastra and her spunky wife Jenny will be carrying the load of the heroics, but not to fear, the Doctor and Clara aren't far behind. Trust me, you haven't lived until you've heard Rigg bark at our heroes: "Die, you freaks!"
Can't say whether Rigg will be in this week's episode of Game of Thrones (Sunday, 9/8c), titled "The Climb," but it promises to scale some dizzying heights of its own as Jon Snow and the Wildlings prepare to mount The Wall.
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Stay tuned after Who for the freakiest episode yet of BBC America's just-renewed Orphan Black (Saturday, 9/8c), in which a crisis within suburbanite Alison's home prompts her to send in the clone: the saucy Sarah (also played by the smashing Tatiana Maslany), who arrives just in time for a pot-luck neighborhood luncheon to get underway in Alison's split-level. "You're the only person I can talk to, and you're just another version of me," whines a woozy Alison to her doppelganger. As usual, Sarah brings her own baggage along: her funky man-whore adoptive brother Felix, her drug-dealing ex Vic, and even Paul, the "monitor" who lived with and observed the late Beth, whose identity Sarah has assumed with mixed success. Got that? As the confusion and danger mount while the party goes on, Orphan reaches entertaining new heights of fantastic lunacy.
FAREWELL TOURS: I hope this isn't the last we've seen of the intrepid ladies of The Bletchley Circle, a three-part PBS miniseries concluding Sunday (check tvguide.com listings) about a female quartet of secret WWII code-breakers who reunite years later to use their analytical gifts to track a serial killer in 1950s London. As the final chapter begins, the group's leader Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) has come face to face with the possible murderer in a spooky abandoned hospital. Once again, the authorities are less than persuaded by their sleuthing — "All you have is conjecture, imagination, theories that are disrupting proper police work" — and it's up to them to connect the dots, get inside the killer's head and put themselves at risk before the list of victims grows (possibly including their own families), adding up to some nifty suspense in the satisfying climax.
As you'd expect, there are more finales this weekend: It's only the beginning of the end for Syfy's Merlin (Friday, 10/9c), which starts a five-episode run to its series finale with the wizard doing everything in his power to release Gwen from evil Morgana's control. ... In back-to-back and guest star-heavy episodes that could be the last hurrah on ABC for the very much on-the-bubble Happy Endings (Friday, 8/7c), Megan Mullally and Michael McKean return as Penny's mom and Dave's dad, not only still together romantically but planning to adopt; and wedding bells are ringing for Jane and Alex's "perfect" alpha sister Brooke (Stephanie March) and her equally flawless fiancé (James Lesure). ... After one more elimination in Belfast, the final three teams race to the finish line in Washington D.C., in the two-hour end to a mostly underwhelming season of CBS' The Amazing Race (Sunday, 8/7c). ... No surprise that the ever-elusive Red John is back on the fifth-season cliffhanger of CBS' The Mentalist (Sunday, 10/9c), striking at someone in Patrick Jane's past just as Jane narrows the field of likely candidates to seven. ... Likely signing off for good, ABC's midseason Red Widow (Sunday, 10:01/9:01c) wraps with Marta the vengeful widow plotting to kill Schiller during a gun exchange.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: Stargate SG-1's Michael Shanks hits the ice in the inspirational Hallmark Channel biopic Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story (Saturday, 9/8c). ... It's like the good old Oprah days on OWN as Oprah Winfrey scores a prime-time coup on Sunday's Oprah's Next Chapter (8/7c), interviewing newly openly gay NBA player Jason Collins along with his twin brother, his parents and the aunt he first came out to. ... The real story behind this year's Oscar-winning best picture is revealed on a special edition of National Geographic Channel's Locked Up Abroad (Sunday, 10/9c). In The Real Argo, CIA officer Tony Mendez (played in the movie by Ben Affleck) recalls how he smuggled Americans out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis under the cover of a fake Hollywood movie shoot. Also interviewed: two of the diplomats he rescued, married couple Mark Lijek and Cora Amburn-Lijek.
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