Who knew? Few could have foreseen the enduring success of Doctor Who given its inauspicious origins a half-century ago — a fascinating story of pluck, luck and imagination delightfully rendered in An Adventure in Space and Time, a new TV movie (Friday, 9/8c) airing as part of BBC America's 50th-anniversary Who celebration this weekend.
You don't have to be a Whovian to appreciate this jaunty re-creation of a simpler, scrappier time in TV history. A "year-ometer" (cute touch) dials back to 1963, when the staid BBC's brash new head of drama, Canadian showman Sydney Newman (a marvelously uncouth Brian Cox), greenlights a new sci-fi serial to appeal to kids and fickle sports fans. With a miniscule budget, an overheated "broom cupboard" of a studio and an edict of "no tin robots or BEM (bug-eyed monsters)," Newman appoints an unorthodox team to realize his vision: Verity Lambert (Call the Midwife's Jessica Raine), an ambitious pioneering female producer, and Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), a novice Indian director.
With her floppy hat and flapping gums, Jackie "Moms" Mabley is mostly remembered these days for her outrageous appearances on late-'60s and '70s-era variety and talk shows, as mainstream as Ed Sullivan and as of-the-moment as the Smothers Brothers, performing racy and politically barbed stand-up routines whose sting was couched in a dirty-old-lady's guise.
Among those influenced by Mabley was Whoopi Goldberg, who performed an homage to the comedian early in her own career. In the HBO documentary Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley (Monday, 9/8c), the View personality directs and participates in this tribute to the pioneering comic's life and legacy, with TV clips and audio excerpts (enhanced with crude animation) from her many comedy albums, which hold up surprisingly well.
In Sunday's brilliantly entertaining finale to another splendid season of CBS' The Good Wife — we choose to forget that Kalinda's ex ever existed — Denis O'Hare returns as a judge whose sciatica keeps him off the bench, pacing around the courtroom as he presides over a late-night emergency hearing over ballot-box irregularities in the next day's neck-and-neck election for Illinois governor. (Alicia's husband Peter is sweating every single vote.) Like Judge Abernathy, you may find it difficult to stay seated as this episode (9/8c), written by series creators Robert King (who also directed) and Michelle King, takes its many clever twists and turns, specializing in mischievous misdirection and game-changing surprises up to the very last jaw-dropping minute.