It's May Day (as in: mayday!) for the Russian spies — and just about everyone else — in the taut first-season finale of FX's emotionally engrossing The Americans (Wednesday, 10/9c). Chivalry is not dead, even in the estranged not-quite-marriage of embedded KGB operatives Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), as they prepare for a dangerous mission that could be a set-up, with lots of jockeying and posturing between husband (who wants to protect while serving) and wife (who's adamant about following orders to the letter) about who's going to risk everything, including their "normal" family life, to walk into what might be a trap.
The world is Sir David Attenborough's playground, which he has revealed on camera in all of its natural wonder with irrepressible enthusiasm for the last 60 years, forging a career that encompasses what he calls "the golden age of natural history filmmaking." His breakthrough TV programs include 1979's epic Life on Earth, which launched a series of "Life" specials, and such recent phenoms as Planet Earth and Frozen Planet (although Discovery Channel replaced his narration with American actors for U.S. broadcast).
PBS' Nature celebrates his astonishing milestones over the next three Wednesdays with a miniseries, Attenborough's Life Stories (check tvguide.com listings), which functions as a visual history of how this sort of nature programming has evolved with the help of technological breakthroughs.
Lost in all this week's understandable hubbub over NBC putting Community on midseason hiatus — and no, I'm not happy about it, either — was the welcome news that NBC is at least doing the right thing by its freshman sleeper comedy Up All Night and moving it to Thursdays come January, swapping time periods with Whitney. (What took them so long?) On this week's new episode (8/7c), yet another Saturday Night Live alum makes a guest appearance:
Play ball! Or, seeing that TV hardly rolls over for the World Series any more, should we be saying, "Play hardball?" The showdown between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers begins tonight (Fox, 7:30/et) from Busch Stadium in St. Louis. No matter how many innings the games go, it probably won't seem as long as some of these recent two-hour episodes of The X Factor.
That takes care of sports enthusiasts, but there's plenty else going on. Some highlights:
TV is a wildlife lover's Garden of Eden. Networks like Animal Planet, Discovery, National Geographic, NAT GEO Wild and PBS fill their schedules with documentaries and critter reality programs. These shows promise a real glimpse into the behavior of wild animals. But just how authentic are they?
"There's a degree of audience deception that goes on," says veteran wildlife producer Chris Palmer, whose recent book, Shooting in the Wild, reveals some of the trickery.