Between network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, Sept. 27-Oct. 3. Details and times are subject to change.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: CITIZEN HEARST 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Any onscreen exploration of the life of the 20th-century media mogul William Randolph Hearst has to contend with an inconvenient fact: Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” (1941) basically did that, to historically great effect. This two-part documentary on Hearst leans into that inconvenient truth, both nodding at Welles with its title and including a discussion of “Citizen Kane” itself. The focus, though, is on Hearst and his life — from his days at Harvard, where, the film notes, he was known for keeping a pet alligator, to his death in 1951 in Beverly Hills. (If you’d prefer to watch Welles’s take, you can see that on Monday night, too: “Citizen Kane” airs at 8 p.m. on TCM.)
LA BREA 9 p.m. on NBC. The first episode of this new sci-fi drama begins with a mother and her two children navigating a distinctly terrestrial horror: Los Angeles traffic. But the situation becomes otherworldly quickly when a sinkhole opens up, transporting those that fall into it to a prehistoric world. The family gets broken up; the series follows them as they work to reunite.
BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (2019) 9:45 on TCM. The director Pamela B. Green revisits the life and work of the foundational early filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché in this documentary. Guy-Blaché was born in 1873 in France, and became one of the first people to innovate with the narrative possibilities that film allows — both as a director and producer, and eventually as the head of her own movie company, Solax Studios. Green’s documentary makes a case for Guy-Blaché’s importance while exploring the ways in which she has traditionally been written out of film history. The documentary also includes a fair amount of archival detective work, following Green’s efforts to research Guy-Blaché — the difficulty of which is telling in itself. It’s a “lively and informative” documentary, A.O. Scott wrote in his review for The New York Times. “By the end of ‘Be Natural,’” Scott wrote, “you won’t only have a clear idea of who this remarkable woman was; you may well have acquired a new taste in old movies.”
CAKE 10 p.m. on FXX. Despite its title, this comedy showcase series is really more a box of semisweet comedy truffles than it is a cake. Each season mixes bite-sized animated and live-action comedy pieces from an array of creators. The fifth season, which debuts on Thursday night, includes TV versions of two cult comic series: Reza Farazmand’s “Poorly Drawn Lines” and Branson Reese’s “Swan Boy.”
PET SEMATARY (2019) 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Paramount Network. Stephen King’s 1983 novel of undead, sometimes four-legged, horrors is reincarnated in this modern movie adaptation. Following in the paw prints of both King’s novel and the 1989 film, this version stars Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz as a husband and wife who move their family to a small town in Maine. In the woods behind their new house, they discover a cemetery with supernatural traits that turn from horrific to alluring and back again. The directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer “overload the movie with arbitrary jump scares,” Glenn Kenny wrote in his review for The Times. But, Kenny added, “when they settle into a groove that aligns with the novel’s, the movie delivers great unsettling jolts that approximate the power of King’s vision.” John Lithgow co-stars as the family’s new neighbor.
THE KENNEDY CENTER AT 50 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Audra McDonald hosts this tribute to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Filmed earlier this month, the special includes performances from a formidable group of artists including the singer-songwriter Ben Folds, the soprano Renée Fleming, the jazz bass player Christian McBride and the folk quintet the Punch Brothers. Caroline Kennedy is a special guest.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE 11:30 p.m. on NBC. The continued cultural might of “Saturday Night Live” was on display earlier this month at the 73rd Emmy Awards, and not just because “S.N.L.” won the Emmy for best variety sketch series. The show’s reverberations were felt elsewhere during the ceremony. The “S.N.L.” alum Jason Sudeikis’s Apple TV+ show, “Ted Lasso,” was one of the night’s biggest winners. And the “S.N.L.” alum Norm Macdonald, who died on Sept. 14, was the subject of several tributes. Kenan Thompson was nominated in acting categories for both his work on the series and on his own sitcom, “Kenan” — a show that has surely gotten a boost from Thompson’s “S.N.L.” fame. And Bowen Yang’s silver boots were a red carpet show stealer. “S.N.L.” will return for its 47th season this Saturday, hosted by Owen Wilson. Kacey Musgraves is the musical guest.
NUCLEAR FAMILY 10:10 p.m. on HBO. The filmmaker Ry Russo-Young, known for indie movies including “Nobody Walks” (2012) and teen dramas like “The Sun is Also a Star” (2019), takes an autobiographical turn in this three-part documentary series. In “Nuclear Family,” Russo-Young revisits her childhood as the younger daughter of Sandy Russo and Robin Young. Russo-Young was part of the first generation of children raised by openly gay and lesbian parents. In 1991, her mothers were sued by the man who had donated the sperm for Russo-Young’s conception, Thomas Steel, in a case that made national news and resulted in Steel being granted legal standing as Russo-Young’s father. Russo-Young explores that history through home movies, photographs and present-day interviews. “It feels like this is my first film,” Russo-Young said in a recent interview with The Times. “Or all the films I’ve been making in my whole life have led up to this film.” The second of the three parts debuts on Sunday; the first is available now on HBO platforms including HBO Max.
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