CHICAGO - The TV landscape grows more crowded by the day, but never fear: We’re here to help. Here’s our rundown on the weekend in TV for Aug. 20-22, 2021.
Friday, Aug. 20: ‘WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown’ prepares for SummerSlam and Sandra Oh takes a seat in ‘The Chair ’
Left: Sandra Oh in "The Chair" (Eliza Morse/Netflix). Right: Roman Reigns looks on during the WWE Smackdown on September 1, 2015 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ron ElkmanSports Imagery/Getty Images)
"WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown" (FOX, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CST): Happy SummerSlam Eve! Smackdown races into Saturday’s pay-per-view event with more feuds, fight, and really absurd smack talk — and it’s a fairly safe bet that John Cena, who will go toe-to-toe with Roman Reigns as part of the festivities, will show up to set the stage for an epic brawl.
"The Chair" (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., complete miniseries): Sandra Oh dazzles in this Netflix dramedy from co-creators Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, which also boasts "Game of Thrones" bosses D.B. Weiss and David Benioff among its executive producers. Oh plays Ji-Yoon Kim, the newly-appointed chair of the flagging English department at a fictional liberal arts college. The first woman to chair the department (and the first woman of color), Ji-Yoon inherits an impossible situation and begins her tenure at a fraught moment, both in her personal life and the world at large. The two collide when Bill (Jay Duplass), a close friend, colleague and potential love interest, makes a massive and thoughtless mistake in class — a mistake that’s also caught on any number of students’ cameras. Peet and Wyman’s sharp, empathetic writing alone makes "The Chair" worth taking a seat for; the terrific performances from Oh, Duplass, Holland Taylor and others push the series into can’t-miss territory. Also features Bob Balaban, David Morse, Nana Mensah and Mallory Low.
- "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+, 12:01 a.m. EST): Nate the Great (Nick Mohammed) gets coached in the art of assertiveness by Keeley (Juno Temple) and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) Also, Ted (Jason Sudeikis) will be nice to a person or persons — that one’s just a guess, though.
- "Truth Be Told" (Apple TV+, 12:01 a.m. EST, second-season premiere): Kate Hudson joins Octavia Spencer in the second season of this drama, which centers on a true-crime podcast and the true crimes it investigates.
- "Sweet Girl" (Netflix, 3:01 a.m. EST): In the grand tradition of "Alien vs. Predator" and "Godzilla vs. Kong," it’s Jason Momoa vs. Big Pharma!
Saturday, Aug. 21: Ken Jeong and friends ‘Stand Up to Cancer’
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Ken Jeong arrives to the Los Angeles premiere of FOX's "The Masked Singer" season 2 held at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills on September 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/Wir
"Stand Up to Cancer" (FOX and many other networks, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST): If you find yourself flipping channels on Saturday night, let us assuage your worries in advance: No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. The seventh biennial "Stand Up to Cancer" telecast really is on almost every channel. "Stand Up" is what they call a "roadblock" telecast, a massive cooperative effort intended to raise funds and public support for cancer research — an effort that’s more important than ever at this moment.
Anthony Anderson, Sofia Vergara, Ken Jeong and Dr. Tran Ho (Jeong’s wife) will host. Expect performances from or appearances by Common, Cecily Strong, Chandra Wilson, Ciara, Danai Gurira, Deon Cole, Ed Helms, Italia Ricci, Jaime Camil, Jennifer Garner, Kate del Castillo, Kyle MacLachlan, Matthew McConaughey, Max Greenfield, Michael Peña, MJ Rodriguez and Tony Hale, among others.
- "Do You Trust Your Boyfriend?" (Lifetime, 8 p.m.,7 p.m. CST): A Lifetime movie for the TikTok age, in which a group of friends set out to test their significant others’ loyalties by catfishing them via an alias they invented — "Heather." Then "Heather" shows up.
- "Game of Talents" (FOX, 11 p.m./10 p.m. CST, encore presentation): Host Wayne Brady looks on as two teams attempt to guess at the hidden (and sometimes deeply surprising) hidden talents of mystery performers, in hopes of winning a fat stack of cash.
- "Eden: Untamed Planet" (BBC America and AMC, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CST): This week, the latest eye-popping nature docuseries from BBC America travels to the Patagonia.
Related: ‘Fantasy Island’: Bellamy Young unpacks her character’s baggage
Sunday, Aug. 22: Spike Lee looks at ‘NYC Epicenters 9/11→ 2021½’
Spike Lee. Photograph by Satchel Lee/Courtesy of HBO.
"NYC Epicenters 9/11→ 2021½" (HBO, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CST, docuseries premiere): Legendary director Spike Leeconducted more than 200 interviews for this "documentary essay," which HBO calls "a rich tapestry of New York City in the 21st century, weaving together the stories, memories, and insights of those who were eyewitnesses to New York’s greatest challenges." Expect appearances from Jon Stewart, Rosie Perez, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NYFD members and machine operators from Ground Zero, among many others.
"The Simpsons" (FOX, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CST, encore presentation): Lisa Simpson and her heart of gold get a rude awakening in "Sorry Not Sorry," when Lisa calls her teacher a hack before she "learns Ms. Hoover's private pain." Lisa is good at many things, and feeling guilty is definitely one of them.
- "DC’s Legends of Tomorrow" (The CW, 8 p.m/7 p.m. CST): The Legends deal with an unwanted, unexpected guest while Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) deals with a very unusual headache. Jes Macallan, Caity Lotz, Nick Zanoand Tala Ashe also star.
- "Heels" (Starz, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST): "Arrow" star Stephen Amell leads the cast of this compelling professional wrestling drama; it only launched last week, so there’s plenty of time to catch up..
- "Work in Progress" (Showtime, 11 p.m./10 p.m. CST, second-season premiere, back-to-back episodes): Abby McEnany co-created and stars in this offbeat, intense and ultimately joyful dark comedy series. Also features Julia Sweeney, Karin Anglin and others.
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About the writer: Allison Shoemaker is a Chicago-based pop-culture critic and journalist. She is the author of "How TV Can Make You Smarter," and a member of the Television Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. She is also a producer and co-host for the Podlander Presents network of podcasts. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allisonshoe. Allison is a Tomatometer-approved Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes.