The Weekend Playlist: Grammys Sing Live vs. Walking Dead, Guy Meets Girls
Singing or screaming? It's your choice on one of the busiest Sundays in a while. While CBS' standards-and-practices watchdogs are apparently keeping a close eye on any potential wardrobe malfunctions, the show goes on at The 55th Annual Grammy Awards (8/7c) from L.A.'s Staples Center, where it's probably easier to name who isn't performing or presenting than listing the full talent roster. (One star not on CBS' list: Justin Bieber, who's busy hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend.)
Among the more interesting mash-ups this year: Alicia Keys and Maroon 5; Bruno Mars and Rihanna and Sting; and during the In Memorial tribute, a salute to Levon Helm will feature Elton John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. The Grammys has become a music spectacular where occasional awards are handed out between the performances, and we're all certainly hoping things go without incident. Unlike last year, when the untimely death of Whitney Houston the night before the event caused a mad scramble as producers arranged a last-minute tribute to the superstar. A behind-the-scenes look at how that all transpired is the basis of CBS' Saturday night special, The Grammys Will Go On: A Death in the Family (9/8c).
Sunday's DVR alert goes out to horror and sci-fi fans, as AMC resumes the riveting third season of its mega-hit The Walking Dead (9/8c). It picks up from December's cliffhanger, as the half-blinded and rage-filled Governor presides over bloodsport in besieged Woodbury, pitting brother against brother — that would be Daryl against his bad-seed sib Merle — while Rick and the gang lurk, waiting to take action and change the status quo in this warped utopian village. Back at the prison, as the newcomers and the old-timers try to figure out how or whether to co-exist, it's once again impressive how this thriller maintains its tension in moments of absolute quiet. "It's easy to forget how loud the world used to be," muses Carol. If only she could hear our shrieks when the bad stuff with the zombies and the human monsters starts going down.
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For a sign of how far Syfy has strayed from the world of outer space-opera, check out the shabby treatment of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome (8/7c), which has the bad luck to go up against the zombies in its long-delayed premiere. A movie-length busted pilot for what would have been a wartime prequel, bridging the inert Caprica with the renowned BSG reboot, the tarnished Chrome sat on the shelf for more than a year before being distributed in bite-size installments on a YouTube channel, finally making it to TV with some extra footage added. Set 10 years into the first Cylon War, this is basically the story of how a young "Bill" Adama (Luke Pasqualino, a dead ringer for MTV's Teen Wolf lead) earns his wings: "How I Got My Viper."
A cocky rookie yearning for the glory and valor of war, Adama is about to be schooled in the gritty, fatalistic realities of treachery and sacrifice that we're accustomed to from the earlier, bolder BSG series. His coming of age takes the form of a mysterious mission overseen by a seductive civilian (Lila Bordan) whose purpose is unclear — although as her shrouded orders take their clunky bus-like Raptor closer and closer to the edge of Cylon space, Adama begins to share the apprehensions of his irascible co-pilot Coker (scene stealer Ben Cotton). As an action movie, Chrome has its virtues, although its earnestness and our awareness of who Adama will become saps it of the unflinching unpredictability of classic BSG. Syfy might be right that a straightforward combat series version of BSG would never have flown, but it still deserved better than this.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Sunday's real gem is a masterful self-contained episode of HBO's Girls (9/8c), a true mini-movie of wistfully existential romance, as Hannah (Lena Dunham) is unexpectedly swept off her feet by a handsome stranger (the terrific Patrick Wilson as Joshua — don't call him "Josh") who bursts into the coffeehouse where's she working for an especially douchey Ray. "It's like I'm in a Nancy Meyers movie," she bashfully gushes upon entering Joshua's deluxe brownstone, casting Ted Bundy worries aside as she embarks on her latest impulsive sex-capade, which strikes emotional chords neither she nor we expect. Actually, this is more like one of Woody Allen's art movies, exposing a self-aware angst amid the self-consciously comic deflection as Hannah observes a world to which she never imagined she could grow accustomed.
The episode's opening scene involves Hannah thinking she's coined a phrase in the made-up word "sexit," as in "making a sexy exit," but there's no rush on either her or Joshua's part to have this brief encounter end. You may want this delicately unsettling episode to go longer than 30 minutes as well.
NEARING THE END: Enjoy Sunday's two-hour Masterpiece wallow in PBS' Downton Abbey (check tvguide.com listings), because after this, there's only one episode left before we go into serious Downton withdrawal. Too soon? I agree. As the supersized installment begins, Robert is as usual resisting the change Matthew is preaching, and even as he honors tradition by recruiting players for Downton's cricket team for the annual town match, things aren't exactly cricket within the abbey — especially where O'Brien's dastardly crusade against Thomas is concerned. While that storyline reaches shockingly painful fruition, with fallout affecting Downton's upper and lower classes, widowed Branson invites his even less polished brother for the baby's christening, ruffling the usual feathers. Oh, how we'll miss this show.
WORKING IT: Going from "you're fired" to "you're hired," reality impresario Mark Burnett (Celebrity Apprentice) teams with game-show pro Michael Davies (Who Wants to be a Millionaire) to exploit the current unemployment crisis while reveling in corporate product placement in CBS' The Job (Friday, 8/7c). This unseemly but slickly produced competition series puts five eager contestants in the running for an enviable job — in the premiere, an assistant manager's gig at a prominent New York steakhouse — as they awkwardly interview with the company's execs in front of a studio audience. It's a little bit Undercover Boss — we see them in the workplace in a taped "trial by fire," after which one of the five is eliminated; a little bit Shark Tank — three other potential employers get a chance to swoop in and steal the prospects away; and while it's all meant to be aspirational, it's more desperation-al watching these professionals jump through hoops for our entertainment.
WHEN YOUR NUMBER'S UP: Sometimes retouching doesn't help. This has been a busy if perilous week for shows getting a chance to reboot: NBC's Smash, which opened to ratings that would close you overnight on Broadway; NBC's Community, like Smash taken over by new show-runners, and we'll soon know how that did; and then there's Fox's peculiar and ponderous Touch, which reinvents itself in such hapless fashion it may leave you wondering: If at first you don't succeed, why try again?
Last midseason, Touch's premise was fuzzy but at least original, following a devoted single father (Kiefer Sutherland) who's led on a series of metaphysical adventures by his autistic son Jake (David Mazouz), an 11-year-old savant who divines patterns of human interconnectedness through numbers. As the seemingly random coincidences piled up week by week, the show was not only confusing but unsatisfying. Now comes this unnecessary makeover, starting with Friday's two-hour premiere (8/7c), which transforms Touch into a tiresomely ordinary chase/conspiracy non-thriller, where an evil corporation pursues the boy for its own gain, while the heroic dad teams with another desperate parent (Maria Bello) whose similarly gifted daughter has fallen into their clutches. Elsewhere in the world, there's a religiously motivated assassin who wants to rid the world of aberrations like Jake. There's a lot of blah-blah about destiny, but Touch's fate was sealed when Fox banished it to the Friday graveyard. Even that seems too good for it.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: Some selected highlights: HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher (Friday, 10/9c) has assembled some intriguing guests, including interviews with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and editor Tina Brown. ... If you missed his impressive Hamlet on PBS' Great Performances several years ago, you owe it to yourself to watch David Tennant's exploration of this iconic character as part of Friday's final installment of PBS' Shakespeare Uncovered (check tvguide.com listings), which also devotes an hour to the mysteries of The Tempest, with director Trevor Nunn center stage. ... Lost's Jorge Garcia returns as the Giant on ABC's Once Upon a Time (Sunday, 8/7c), wreaking havoc on Storyville; while on ABC's Revenge (Sunday, 9/8c), Jack and Snore-Manda tie the knot, while Emily looks on in "what-if" mode. ... Fox's Sunday night "Animation Domination" is all Valentine's-themed, with Zooey Deschanel returning to The Simpsons (8/7c) as Bart's crush Mary Spuckler. ... Matt Damon is never better than when spoofing himself, as he has proven repeatedly on Jimmy Kimmel Live! In Showtime's House of Lies (Sunday, 10/9c), he reunites with his Ocean's Eleven co-star Don Cheadle, playing a most unflattering version of his super-famous self, demanding Marty & Co. find him a charity he can put his name on. Voila: Damon's Children.
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