For all of Fox’s talk at their recent upfront presentation about moving to year-round programming, NBC is the network premiering three new scripted series this week. Also coming up: rock and comedy give themselves pats on the back in the form of honors shows; Memorial Day brings a new war documentary; and AMC launches what it hopes will be its next hit show.
Monday, May 26
The World Wars (9-11:04 pm, History)
Hey look, an actual history show on History Channel! Of course, this three-night, six-hour survey of the events around World Wars I and II and the key figures in those conflicts includes those sketchy dramatic reenactments, along with interviews with historians and current and recent political figures, but in our age of remotely-piloted drones it’s still worthwhile to be reminded what our world, and armed conflict, was like during this period. (Parts two and three air Tuesday and Wednesday at the same time.)
Also tonight: for the dozen of you who enjoyed Lifetime’s recent adaptation of Flowers in the Attic, its sequel Petals in the Wind premieres tonight (9-11:01 pm). Set ten years later, the children are now grown and thus played by different actors, but Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn reprise their roles as their mother and grandmother (neither of whom will be receiving any parenting awards).
Tuesday, May 27
The Wil Wheaton Project (10-10:31 pm, Syfy)
Actor, blogger, and all-around fanboy Wheaton launches a weekly geekfest that aims to be a humorous and enthusiastic celebration of the whole realm of sci-fi, fantasy, and genre entertainment.
Also tonight: the premiere of The Night Shift (10-11 pm, NBC), about the staff who work nights at a San Antonio hospital, because the world certainly needs another medical show.
Wednesday, May 28
One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles (9-11 pm, Spike)
Comedy legend Rickles is 88 and still performs regularly. His body of work belongs largely to an earlier generation, but many consider him one of the most important comedians of the past 60 years. This event, recorded a few weeks back, is intended as a sort of “lifetime achievement award” and an acknowledgment of what he has meant to other performers, including those (Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Tracy Morgan) who appear in this special.
Thursday, May 29
Undateable (9-9:30 pm, NBC)
In this new sitcom, a group of losers hangs out in a bar. Unwatchable? You’ll have to decide for yourself—I’m not going near it.
Also tonight: for those who can’t get enough of the historical documentaries, CNN begins a ten-part look at The Sixties, arguably the most tumultuous decade in our history (9-10 pm).
Friday, May 30
Crossbones (10-11 pm, NBC)
“John Malkovich as the pirate Blackbeard” must have seemed like a great idea in the pitch meeting, but as with so many TV shows, the distance between the idea and the execution can end up as wide as an ocean. Still, it is summer, and this might prove to be a suitably mindless diversion if you’re already inclined toward this sort of thing.
Saturday, May 31
2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (8-11:15 pm, HBO)
I admit that the very concept of a rock hall of fame is, by its nature, backward-looking and somewhat self-serving to those involved. That said, the highlight of these ceremonies is usually the combinations of performers there to entertain. This year’s event, taped in April, includes a tribute to inductee Linda Ronstadt by Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and Carrie Underwood; and the surviving members of Nirvana performing with Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Lorde, and St. Vincent.
Sunday, June 1
Halt and Catch Fire (10-11:04 pm, AMC)
That may be the strangest title for a TV series that I can recall. Set in Texas at the early-1980s dawn of the personal computer era, the show is about a former IBM executive convinced that he can improve on the success of IBM’s signature product, the original PC. From the description it doesn’t exactly sound like the next Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but star Lee Pace was excellent in the short-lived Pushing Daisies, so I’ll give it at least a few episodes. (The first episode is available to watch online.)
A Bit of Fry & Laurie (1989-95)
Long before House or… all the various things Stephen Fry has done, he and Hugh Laurie did a run of typically British and very funny sketch comedy. Some of it is pretty specific to England during it’s time period, but anyone who has enjoyed Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, or even The IT Crowd should appreciate this. (Four seasons, 26 episodes total, including a Christmas special that’s an adjunct to the first season.)
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels and networks. All times listed are Eastern time.)