Best-bets for Sept. 24: Re-visit the “Discovery” and “Filthy” debuts

1) “Star Trek: Discovery” opener, 10 p.m. CBS. For six previous series – scattered over 54 years – “Trek” focused on the captains. This one – which previously aired on CBS All Access – centers on the science officer (Sonequa Martin-Green, shown here). A human raised in the Vulcan culture, she has Spock-ian logic and Kirk-ian passion … nudging her near mutiny tonight. The hour feels a bit cold and militaristic, but has an epic look. This is big-screen stuff, spectacular in its visuals and in its villains. Read more…

Emmys were fun — in a drearily monotonous way

The Emmy telecast had been on for 73 minutes Sunday, before an American won an award.
The entire first hour on ABC (yes, the American Broadcasting Company) was spent giving prizes to Canadians. “Schitt’s Creek” (shown here) swept all seven of the awards given on-air for comedies – best series, plus four acting awards and ones for directing and writing.
It was a remarkable – and monotonous – stretch for a pleasant little show that is usually ignored. Having finished its run on the obscure PopTV channel, “Schitt’s Creek” is now confined to the CW Seed streaming service. The Emmy voters had ignored it for years … then showered it with those seven on-air wins and two more (costumes and casting) before the telecast.
When all of that finally ended, it was time for the award for the best variety talk series … which went to John Oliver, an Englishman.
Eventually, the Emmys did find some Americans and revert to their traditional state … which involves HBO winning everything. That included Emmys for best: Read more…

The new TV season has started … sort of

(This is an updated version of a story from the previous week.)
We finally have an answer to TV’s peskiest question: When will the season start?
It started (sort of) on Sept. 21, with Fox’s “L.A.’s Finest” (shown here) and “Filthy Rich” and CBS’ “Manhunt.” It will be smaller than past years, but there will be lots of new shows on the five commercial broadcast networks.
Fox is the most thorough. With one exception – it has to wait a couple weeks for Thursday-night football – it will be rerun-free. Read more…

“The Choice”: This time, it’s a chasm

For the ninth time, Michael Kirk faced an imposing task:
Create simultaneous profiles of both presidential candidates. Interview everyone (except the candidates); ask everything. Hope there are differences between them.
The result – “Frontline: The Choice” – debuts Tuesday (Sept. 22) on PBS and reruns twice. Compared to Kirk’s eight previous “Choice” films, it was:
– Harder, with the interviews – usually two-hours-plus – done long-distance. “I shoot it remotely, with high-quality cameras,” he told the Televisions Critics Assosciation – in a remote press-conference with a high-quality camera. Interviewees “know we are in it for the long haul.”
– Easier. These two candidates have ample contrasts. “Their lives have been sort of weirdly contradictory,” Kirk said. Read more…

Best-bets for Sept. 22: Finalists for “Talent” and presidency

1) “Frontline: The Choice,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. Even “America’s Got Talent” finalists (shown here)  can’t match the impact of the America’s-got-politics finalists. This is biography at its best, bouncing between the lives of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and finding huge contrasts. Biden faced immense troubles, from boyhood stuttering to the death of his wife and two of his children; Trump was sent to military school, where he savored being in command. Biden made big mistakes, including plagiarism; he apologized and adjusted. Donald Trump had bankruptcies, divorces, rants and more; he admits no mistakes. Read more…

Teen years are tough (and funny) the second time

The first time they were teenagers, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle  found life was tricky.
“You’re hiding all of the freaky parts of yourself,” Erskine said.
And what’s it like, now that they’re teens again, in Hulu’s “Pen15” series? The more she gets into it, Konkle said, “the more confused I get about who I was.”
In “Pen15,” the actresses (both 33) play 13-year-old versions of themselves. (They’re shown here, with Erskine at the back of the bike.) Read more…

These movies captured Ginsburg’s wonderful life

(If you happen to be reading this tonight — Sunday, Sept. 20 — please note: In a late change, CNN has scheduled the terrific documentary “RBG,” described below, for 10 p.m. ET today.)
Two movies captured opposite ends of Ruth Ginsburg’s wonderful life.
There was the early Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex” (2018) – struggling to get a job, to get a foothold, then to change the world. At 39, she started the Women’s Rights Project.
And there’s the later Gingsburg of the “RBG” documentary (also 2018). At 85, she was a Supreme Court justice with a string of triumphs.
Ginsburg (shown here) died Friday (Sept. 18) at 87, but her story lingers in those films. Both are available via Amazon, iTunes and YouTube. “RBG” is also on Hulu; “On the Basis of Sex” is on the Showtime streaming service and the Showtime add-on for Amazon Prime; it’s also scheduled on Showtime2, at 9 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 20), 1:20 p.m. Sept. 25 and 4:15 p.m. Sept. 29. Read more…

Best-bets for Sept. 21: The season starts (sort of)

1) “L.A.’s Finest” debut, 8 p.m., Fox. The fall TV season gets off to a quick, slick start. “Finest” – which aired previously on the Spectrum system – is descended from the “Bad Boys” film and has a big-movie look. Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba (shown here) play police detectives. The opener has clever dialog and big chase scenes and shoot-em-ups – so big that the show often strains believability. Read more…

ABC’s dramas return; CBS sets movie night

The wobbly plans for the new TV season have received a couple boosts lately.
One is a temporary step: Next month, CBS will revert to making Sunday an old-movie night.
And the other is more thorough: ABC will have most of its dramas return in November.
One ABC drama (“The Good Doctor,” shown here) returns on Nov. 2; five more arrive Nov. 12-19. That includes “Big Sky” from David E. Kelley (“L.A. Law,” “Ally McBeal,” “Big Little Lies”); its arrival on Nov. 17 should make it the season’s first new, scripted show on the five commercial broadcast networks. Read more…