Let's start, as all weekends must, with Friday. The latest news: CBS has changed its mind about moving the new Golden Boy to Fridays after its two-week Tuesday tryout. To confuse matters, a new episode of Golden Boy airs this Friday (9/8c), with rising-star Detective Clark once again facing threats from his nemesis Arroyo. But next week, the Boy is back on Tuesdays (10/9c), displacing Vegas, which remains on ice for the rest of the month. When it returns, Vegas will move to Fridays (9/8c), starting April 5. Place your cancellation bets now.
Returning from its own deep freeze, NBC's fantastical Grimm (9/8c) airs its first original episode since mid-November, with Nick still reeling from what he's learned about Juliette and Capt. Renard. If ever a show deserved a lengthy "previously on..." recap, it's this one. ... Another NBC comeback: Fashion Star returns for a second season (8/7c), but this time the celebrity mentors (Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, John Varvatos) are divvying up the designers into teams they'll oversee - how original! Whatever happened to judging? The premiere is a frantic mess of product placement and corporate brandsmanship in which it's nearly impossible to tell who's who, let alone who's on whose team, and the critiques are so fleeting and simplistic you wonder why they bother. Best part of the contest: When the designers step in front of the big-name department-store buyers after the runway show, and we wait to see if they get an offer, or possibly even spark a bidding war, for their clothes. It's not as thrilling as The Voice's blind auditions, but little is.
Friday's reputation as a graveyard for doomed network shows (hi, Touch, how's it going?) is reinforced by The CW's move of the tragically convoluted meta-thriller Cult - aka "Do Not Watch This" - to the death slot of 9/8c. This episode revolves around a role-playing game called "Being Billy," inspired by the fictional show Cult and its menacing cult leader Billy (Robert Knepper). ... An hour earlier, Nikita (8/7c) provides a more compelling reason to tune in, as Amanda plots to kidnap Ari's son (played by Dylan Minnette, who you might recognize as the son in last midseason's NBC cult experiment Awake).
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In the harrowing and often bloody world of Friday's high-octane pay cable, Starz' Spartacus: War of the Damned (9/8c) finds the slave hero finally coming face to face, albeit briefly, with his cunning adversary Crassus, as the rebels retreat from their stronghold when the Roman legions storm and reclaim the city. While the victors celebrate with their usual cruelty and arrogance, God-of-the-Arena Gannicus is left behind and must scramble to save himself and several damsels in extreme distress. With Spartacus regrouping, Crassus pauses to reflect on the nature of an enemy who "fights for what he believes is just." Speaketh the noble Roman: "Each believes himself the hero, the other villain. It is for history to decide who is mistaken." Given whose name is in the title, there's little doubt where our rooting interests lie.
The primal battle between good and evil is even more starkly portrayed on Cinemax's graphic rural noir Banshee (10/9c). The first season's penultimate episode picks up in the immediate aftermath of last week's epic and horrifyingly brutal battle between Carrie and her vengeful father's henchman Olek. (Blow for blow, week to week, Ivana Milicevic and The Americans' Keri Russell are vying for 2013's Warrior Goddess medal.) Bruised, bloodied and besieged by her wronged husband's who-are-you queries, Carrie only has one thought on her panicked mind: how to protect her children from the encroaching threat of her Ukrainian gangster father, Rabbit (a fierce Ben Cross). And lest you think this show can go a week without a grueling fistfight, faux sheriff Lucas is now being badgered by town villain Kai Proctor over the spoiling of his newly Amish-shunned niece Rebecca. "(Bleep)ing small towns," grumbles Lucas as the slugfest commences. Banshee may be small, but there's nothing puny about the violent chips on these characters' shoulders.
THE SATURDAY GUIDE: The headliner: Justin Timberlake, returning for his fifth gig as host/musical guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c), where he has won four Emmys over the years for his comedic and musical contributions. His appearances are a highlight of any season, and coming off a triumphant Grammy show-stopper, expectations are higher than usual. ... Wrapping its first season, BBC America's gritty Ripper Street (9/8c) tackles a case involving white slavery, while Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) fends off personal demons. ... Like something conjured from Mad Libs in a category for quintessentially Lifetime movie titles, Restless Virgins (8/7c) is the exceedingly earnest, based-on-a-true-story cautionary tale of sexual shenanigans run amok at a New England prep school populated by oversexed arrogant rich kids. "It was like a Greek tragedy, only without heroes," observes the movie's wry narrator (Switched at Birth's Vanessa Marano), a scholarship student dubbed one of the "hysterics" by the "elites," who lives up to her reputation by whistle-blowing about the existence of a sex tape. Kiss the Ivy League goodbye, you little creeps. ... Like something conjured from Mad Libs in a category for "you-know-it-had-to-become-a-Syfy-movie," Flying Monkeys (9/8c) is the touching tale of a dad (Vincent Ventresca) who buys his daughter a pet monkey with deadly extras. And your little dog, too!
Page 3 of 6 - THE SUNDAY GUIDE: Returning to an already overstuffed night: two of Lifetime's most successful series, including Army Wives (9/8c) for a seventh year, with so many new cast members enlisting you might think you were watching a different show. But first, Fort Marshall must say goodbye to one of its own. After you've dried your eyes, lather up for a second season of the saucy The Client List (10/9c), with Jennifer Love Hewitt as Riley, the popular hands-on spa worker whose feelings for her hunky brother-in-law got a lot more complicated when her absentee husband suddenly showed back up into her life.
How wrenching was last week's brilliant episode of AMC's The Walking Dead (9/8c), with Lennie James' outstanding (guest-actor Emmy-worthy) return as the broken Morgan? That encounter seems to have snapped Rick out of his hallucinatory haze, enough to allow him to attend a quietly intense war council on neutral ground with Woodbury's cagey Governor, while their deputies wait outside, awkwardly assessing each other in a game of macho posturing against a common enemy (the "walkers," or "biters" as they're known in Woodbury). With Andrea desperately trying to provide some sort of moral compass, the leaders square off warily. Is the Governor truly negotiating in good faith? Will Rick compromise for peace, or start preparing his troops for combat? It's a pivotal hour, setting up the conflicts for the precious remaining few hours of this excellent third season.
As expected, History mined ratings gold last Sunday with the greatest-story-ever-sold miniseries The Bible (8/7c) and its more promising new dramatic series charting the grisly adventures of 8th-century Vikings (10/9c). This week, The Bible stays in the Old Testament for the battle of Jericho, the story of Samson and Delilah, and the rise of David (which means the fall of Goliath). In Vikings, the momentum picks up as Ragnar & Crew take Floki's boat on an exploratory voyage West, landing in Northumbria, where they make their first acquaintance with the mysteries of the Christian religion as they sack a monastery and encounter a terrified monk who speaks their language.
Page 4 of 6 - Before The Following, there was the maddeningly elusive Red John and his murderous acolytes on CBS' The Mentalist - none foxier or more lethal than Lorelei Martins (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who returns this week (10/9c) to lead Patrick Jane, his CBI pals and exasperated Homeland Security agents on a chase for clues in and around a woman's shelter, as she seeks to confirm whether and how Red John killed her sister. The show always gets a lot darker when this serial killer's presence haunts the action, and this episode is no exception. If Jane's behavior towards the loose-cannon Lorelei seems unusually passive, it's because, as he explains to Lisbon, "I will do anything I can to get to Red John." Tell us something we don't know. And if you think this is the end of that persistent story, you don't know Red John.
In brief: Did Hannah's OCD behavior on HBO's Girls seem to come out of nowhere? It may only get worse this week (9/8c), as her publisher inflames her mental stress with deadline pressure for her e-book. ... The guest stars just keep coming on CBS' The Good Wife (9/8c), with Broadway star and Private Practice alum Audra McDonald playing a classmate from Alicia's law school, and the impish Wallace Shawn appearing as a deceptively milquetoast lawyer working with Alicia on drug kingpin Lemond Bishop's latest trial. ... ABC's Revenge returns (9/8c) to lay the faux Amanda to rest, which only intensifies her namesake Emily's crusade for (this episode's title) "Retribution." ... Tune in early to Fox's The Simpsons (8/7c) for an evocative film noir-inspired couch-gag opening from Bill Plympton, and stay for guest-voice Tina Fey's turn as a substitute teacher who has it in for Lisa, of all students. ... After a successful run at film festivals including Sundance, the feature-length documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare premieres on CNN (8/7c). ... Ovation reprises its Song By Song series (8/7c) with a study of some of Dolly Parton's greatest songwriting hits, including "I Will Always Love You" and the Oscar-nominated "9 to 5."
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