As the end of the traditional TV season approaches, the pace of new programming slows but it never completely stops—there are still two series premiering this week. Elsewhere, Inside Amy Schumer is back, and I gripe about the state of movies on TV.
Monday, April 20
StarTalk (11 pm-12 am, NatGeo)
Noted astrophysicist and host of last year’s Cosmos 2.0 on Fox, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a logical choice to front a talk show, and I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. The show will cover topics in science while mixing in some pop culture; his first guests include Bill Nye and George Takei.
Tuesday, April 21
Inside Amy Schumer (10:30-11 pm, Comedy Central)
Amy’s back for season three, filling the month-long void of smart, funny women on Comedy Central left after the end of Broad City’s season. Her career is blowing up, so I have no idea how much longer she’ll want to keep doing this show, but I hope it’s several more years because it’s wickedly funny and sharply observant of human relationships. [Update 4/21: Schumer confirmed that Comedy Central has ordered a fourth season of the show during her appearance on Late Show last night.]
Wednesday, April 22
NOVA (9-10 pm, PBS)
This Friday marks 25 years since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, and tonight’s episode, “Invisible Universe Revealed,” looks back at its creation and launch, and celebrates the information about our universe that it has provided.
Thursday, April 23
Movie Watching on TV Ain’t What It Used to Be…
Something has happened with movies airing on TV: the choices aren’t as good as they used to be. Sundance wastes seemingly half its airtime with reruns of Law & Order; incessant and interminable commercial breaks ruin the real-time movie-watching experience; and, let’s face it, much of what the premium channels run between their original shows is at best mediocre. I guess the rise of streaming services has left broadcast and cable channels feeling they don’t have to try as hard.
That said, there are a couple of options tonight that are both very much worth watching, for different reasons: 1995’s Heat (8-10:55 pm, Encore) is an epic crime story starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and written and directed by Michael Mann. Mann has certainly had his share of misfires during his long career (watched any Miami Vice reruns lately?), but Heat is unquestionably at or near the top of his achievements; its two-hour, 45-minute running time flies by (for me). National Lampoon’s Animal House (8-10:30 pm, IFC) was one of the most popular and ultimately most significant movies of the 1970s; it inspired all sorts of imitators and spiritual successors, and continues to do so today.
Friday, April 24
Bruce Jenner: The Interview (9-11 pm, ABC)
Jenner has been going through a very public, rather difficult struggle for some time, and this interview with Diane Sawyer may help dispel some of the ignorance around the situation and perhaps promote greater understanding of the issues involved.
Saturday, April 25
White House Correspondents’ Dinner (7-11:30 pm, CNN)
The organizers of this annual event try to imbue the proceedings with some pop-culture cachet through the choice of host (this year it’s Cecily Strong from Saturday Night Live), but it is of interest mainly to hardcore political junkies and hardcore journalism junkies. In fact, I’m somewhat surprised that CNN is airing it, as it seems more appropriate for C-SPAN.
Sunday, April 26
Happyish (9:30-10 pm, Showtime)
A middle-aged ad man contemplates mortality and how he fits into a world that values youth above everything else. It’s tempting to make comparisons to Mad Men, but I think that’s a bit facile. There are surface similarities (the setting is advertising, the protagonist is a successful creative who is unhappy), but the time period is contemporary and the issues are examined with humor. The excellent cast (which was originally to be led by Philip Seymour Hoffman) includes Steve Coogan, Kathryn Hahn, Bradley Whitford, Ellen Barkin, and Carrie Preston.
The Wonder Years (1988-93)
Many people grew up with this highly-regarded family show about adolescence in the late 1960s and early ’70s; I was in my mid-20’s when it premiered, but I’ve only ever seen a few episodes of it because it happened to air at a time in my life when I rarely watched any TV at all (hard to believe now, I know). Six seasons, 114 episodes total (there was also a clip show at the end of season four that isn’t available on Netflix, but it’s irrelevant to the overall story).
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels, providers, and networks. All times listed are Eastern time.)