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Big news on the small screen

8/20/2014

I was going to start talking about the overrated shows nominated for this year’s Emmy Awards (Monday, 7 p.m., NBC), as I don’t understand why critics have fallen for “Masters of Sex,” “Homeland” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

But I got sidetracked by the much bigger list of nominated shows that are among the wonders of the world.

Am I dreaming, or does TV really have this many brilliant comedies (“Veep,” “Girls,” “Silicon Valley,” “Episodes”), dramas (“True Detective,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Americans”), miniseries (“Treme,” “Luther”), actresses (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julianna Margulies), actors (Andre Braugher, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bryan Cranston), sketch series (“Key and Peele,” “Inside Amy Schumer”), reality series (“Survivor,” “Top Chef”), fake news programs (“The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report”), specials (“Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays,” “Sarah Silverman: We Are All Miracles”) and even cartoons (“South Park,” “Archer”)?

“Intruders”

Saturday, 9 p.m. (BBC America)

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IntrudersIf you’re the kind of person who likes hanging out in the “Twilight Zone,” you’ll love this eerie new series. Heavy on ominous sound effects and light on dialogue, it’s about a secret society that takes over people’s bodies as a way of ensuring immortality.

The plot comes together in fragments: The wife (Mira Sorvino) of a troubled ex-cop (John Simm) vanishes; an assassin (James Frain) mows down victims on the trail of a 9-year-old runaway (Millie Brown). What emerges is a multifaceted conspiracy that will keep you busy until next month’s fall premieres start rolling out.

“Great Performances at the Met”

Sunday, 1 p.m. (PBS)

I admit I was getting tired of a summer’s worth of tawdry TV, full of infidelity, pranks and chauvinist pigs. So I looked for some high art to swoon over and found Mozart’s “Così fan tutte,” presented by the Metropolitan Opera under James Levine. Imagine my surprise to find the plot full of infidelity, pranks and chauvinist pigs, as a pair of friends decides to test their fiancées’ faithfulness.

Host Renee Fleming admits that the politically incorrect libretto will raise eyebrows in the 21st century. But, she says, “With music so divine, who’s going to argue with Mozart?”

“The Essentials Jr.”

Sunday, 7 p.m. (TCM)

I love this TCM series, which is designed to introduce kids to classic movies. But I question this week’s choice: “The Maltese Falcon,” the 1941 film noir in which Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) falls in with a group of grotesques chasing after a jewel-encrusted statuette. This is one of the most cynical stories ever told about greed, double-dealing and man’s inhumanity to man.

In short, if you let your 7-year-olds watch the screening, they’re liable to become more jaded and world-weary than you’d like. If the kids start walking around with a fedora pulled down over one eye and a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Video Music Awards”

Sunday, 8 p.m. (MTV)

Last year’s ceremony became a sensation due to Miley Cyrus’ raunchy performance of “We Can’t Stop,” complete with unwholesome-looking bears and a naughty foam finger. The spectacle was either a travesty or a triumph, depending on which hyperventilating cultural critic you listened to.

Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” is up for Video of the Year, and it’s hard to imagine how she’ll top herself. But I’m pretty sure she will, given her track record as a provocateur. I hope the hyperventilating cultural critics have their oxygen masks at the ready. CV     

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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