The Weekend Playlist: Foyle's Cold War, A Second Look at Orphan Black
One war makes way for another as the incredibly durable Foyle's War, in its seventh Masterpiece Mystery! season on PBS, transitions from post-World War II intrigues to the ethically murky spy games of a burgeoning Cold War. "I haven't got the requisite capacity for deceit," grumbles former police DCS Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen, radiating crisp intelligence and decency), who once again is denied his dreams of retirement when MI5 spooks reel him in, fresh off the boat from America.
We're now in the post-atomic era of 1946, with the Soviets the new menace and London still struggling with food shortages — "Sometimes I wonder whether we actually did win the war," declares Foyle's former driver, Sam (the delightful Honeysuckle Weeks), whose husband Adam (recast, now played by Daniel Weyman) is considering a run for Parliament on the Labour ticket. In The Eternity Ring, the first of three new Foyle mystery movies (Sunday at 9/8c, check tvguide.com listings), Foyle is drawn into the investigation of a rumored Soviet spy ring, with Sam caught in the web of suspicion because of her association with her current employer, a physicist who witnessed the A-bomb testing a year earlier in New Mexico. Who are the real traitors in a world on the cusp of potential nuclear annihilation? Can Foyle trust anyone, even his enigmatic and manipulative new bosses?
The world may have changed, but Foyle has lost none of his brusque appeal, even though he appears sulkier than usual to be drawn back into the shadows to protect pawns in an increasingly deadly conflict. It's great to have him back. (Because Sundays are ridiculously busy, if you miss Foyle on Sunday, episodes will be available online the next day at pbs.org and www.Acorn.TV, which also offers past seasons of this smart and absorbing series.)
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SO MUCH SUNDAY DRAMA: There is no war more compelling than the fight for survival currently being played out in the thrilling final hours of AMC's Breaking Bad (Sunday, 9/8c), which ended last week's episode on an amazingly fever-pitched note of high tension, abruptly cutting off amid a desert shootout that in its stark and savage violence recalled the best of Sam Peckinpah. Whatever comes next for Walter White and all of those caught up in his spiral of doom, it promises to be the weekend's most riveting hour.
Although running a close second, Showtime's outrageously entertaining Ray Donovan (Sunday, 10/9c) presents one of its most gripping episodes yet, with the majority of the hour feeling like an especially volatile stage play. The setting: Terry's gym. The situation: A bloody, emotionally bruising confrontation between the Brothers Donovan and the priest (Michael Cristofer) whom a distraught Bunchy (Dash Mihok) is convinced is the dirty Father who ruined his life.
From the world of odd coincidence, both Foyle's and Donovan share an ominous line of dialogue this week: "We've unleashed a monster." On Foyle's, they're talking about the A-bomb. With Donovan, the loose cannon is James Woods as rogue assassin Sully, who spared Mickey's life last week but may now be gunning for Ray's family, which is why Ray's main man Avi (Steven Bauer) is awkwardly babysitting Abby and the kids at home while Ray attends to more pressing personal matters.
To resign or not to resign, that is the question in the woozily romanticized second-season finale of HBO's The Newsroom (Sunday, 10/9c). The magnificent Leona (Jane Fonda) has put everyone's fate in the hands of her unctuous son Reese (The Mindy Project's Chris Messina), and with the senior staff's future and the network's credibility at stake while an election night rages on, there's still time to sort out enough messy relationships to keep Cupid busy until at least the midterm elections.
Last week, I sort-of-joked that I was watching HBO's Boardwalk Empire these days mainly for the soundtrack. Someone at HBO has a healthy sense of good humor, because within days I received the show's newly released Vol. 2 CD — good thing I didn't praise the costumes, or I might be awash in spats and sequins — and an impressive collection it is, with Elvis Costello, Liza Minnelli and Rufus Wainwright among the contributors, as well as Margot Bingham, who currently plays the Onyx club's glamorous new headliner.
There's actually good reason to check out Sunday's Boardwalk episode (9/8c): the arrival of the always-intriguing Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America) as Harlem's mellifluously menacing Dr. Valentin Narcisse — what a name! — who immediately gets under the skin of club owner Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), calling him out as a "a servant pretending to be a king." When these two actors are sizing up each other with quiet but potent animosity, you'll forget all about Nucky, Van Alden, Harrow and all of the other characters who have mostly outlived their dramatic usefulness.
CLONE POSSE: Look who's back: Sarah Manning — or is it Beth, or Alison, or Cosima, or Helena, or ... By any other name, Tatiana Maslany made the year's greatest star-is-reborn (or is that reborn?) impressions, portraying the multiple clones who populate BBC America's gripping and provocative fantasy thriller Orphan Black. The show is returning for a second run (Saturdays at 10/9c), and if you missed it the first time around, don't make that mistake again. If you did watch, you're likely to want to dive in all over again, the better to appreciate Maslany's mastery of accent and body language, sharply defining each disparate character as the mysteries of her origin deepen. "How many of us are there?" the heroine Sarah wonders early on. Sky's the limit, obviously.
The Orphan Black encore is accompanied by the basic-cable premiere of Torchwood: Miracle Day (Saturday, 9/8c), a 10-part miniseries continuation — some would say contamination — of the heretofore exceptional Doctor Who spinoff. Miracle Day bowed in 2011 on the pay channel Starz, and the initial premise is gripping to be sure, as the world wakes up to the fact that people have suddenly stopped dying — even those who by all rights should, including a Death Row psychopath played by Bill Pullman. Enter the remaining remnants of Torchwood to investigate: dashing Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and the intrepid Gwen (the wonderful Eve Myles), who head to America, where they team up with far less engaging CIA operatives (Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins), and before long the story goes irretrievably off the rails. Following the phenomenally terrifying Children of Earth miniseries, Miracle Day was a colossal disappointment.
THE FRIDAY GUIDE: If the president's address made you miss all or part of Fox's grand finale of So You Think You Can Dance on Tuesday — including the jubilant announcement of the show's renewal for an 11 season — both hours, which include some terrific encore dances from contestants and pros, will be repeated (8/7c). ... Some unique harmonies on display as Stevie Nicks teams with Lady Antebellum for a special CMT Crossroads concert (10/9c). ... Syfy's Haven opens its fourth season (10/9c) six months after the meteor-storm cliffhanger, with Audrey still missing. ... HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher is back from hiatus (10/9c), with guests including science guy Bill Nye, taking a break from Dancing With the Stars rehearsals.
THE SATURDAY GUIDE: New millennial-targeted cable network Pivot premieres Jersey Strong (10:30/9:30c), an anti-Jersey Shore docu-series that follows two Newark families on opposite sides of the economic divide. ... The channel also gives a platform to Sen. John McCain's opinionated daughter Meghan in Raising McCain (10/9c). ... As often happens, it's a busy Saturday night on the cable-movie marquee. Hallmark Channel kicks off a potential new franchise with Garage Sale Mystery (9/8c), starring Lori Loughlin as a garage-sale buff who unearths clues to burglaries and murder amid scavenging for bargains. ... Lifetime's self-explanatory Sins of the Preacher (8/7c) stars Gail O'Grady as a mom who suspects foul play when her daughter, a preacher's wife, dies and is declared a suicide. ... If you're still experiencing Sharknado withdrawal from the high-low point of this summer's silly season, Syfy provides an antidote with Robocroc (9/8c), in which Corin Nemec and Dee Wallace do battle with a metal-crocodile hybrid, the result of yet another botched nanotech military experiment.
THE SUNDAY GUIDE: In anticipation of Community's syndication to Comedy Central with a two-hour Friday block starting next week, a 10-episode marathon of fan favorites from the NBC cult comedy's first four season will air starting at noon/11c. At least that's the current timeline. ... President Lincoln's assassination rocks the world of BBC America's Copper (10/9c), although Detective Corky is distracted trying to elude Tammany Hall villain "Wild Bill" Eustace (William "Billy" Baldwin). ... Here she is, again. For all of those with minimal interest in the 49ers-Seahawks game over on NBC (8:20/7:20c), the Miss America pageant returns to Atlantic City after eight years, and ABC gives it a prime-time showcase (9/8c), with The Bachelor's Chris Harrison and GMA's Lara Spencer hosting, with judges including Lance Bass, Amar'e Stoudemire and Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran. ... It's a pretty sure bet none of the contestants will ever end up on a show like TLC's latest "alternative" reality series, My Five Wives (9/8c), about a "big, loving, progressive polygamous family" outside Salt Lake City.
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