Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, February 28. All times are Eastern.
The 88th Annual Academy Awards (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): “We all dream in gold” is the saying that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been trying to associate with tonight’s Oscar ceremony. This color-based reference may or may not be an attempt to distract from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that’s embroiled the awards since the nominations, with the sad and longstanding tradition of a remarkably non-diverse slate of acting and directing nominees finally reaching a boiling point.(Also, the Academy could have done better regarding queer cinema too. We’re just saying.) It spurred a string of boycotts, forced the notoriously hidebound Academy to institute some major changes, and led to a few respected actors running their mouths and giving their publicists angina.
And that’s not even getting into the issues going on in our parallel universe, where the discussion is about “We all dream in black” and “#OscarsSoBlue.” (This bad joke brought to you by the one-year anniversary of that time we all lost our minds over a goddamned dress.)
Anyway, while host Chris Rock is certain to call attention to the controversy throughout the show, we’re expecting the nervous chuckles greeting his sharp lines to be overwhelmed by the usual pomp and circumstance that dominates the evening. There’ll be the usual overlong speeches, presumptive favorites, montages honoring classic films and those we lost, and all the usual things that we tune into the Oscars for. This year the best picture nominees are an interesting collection of films, and ones that we had a lot to say about over the last couple of weeks. There’s The Martian (the rare Hollywood blockbuster for adults), The Revenant (which squeezes the frontier for a new look at the Western), Room (where emotional impact is a matter of perspective), Bridge Of Spies (the story of a man who puts the cold in Cold War), Spotlight (a success even more remarkable when you remember its director also gave us The Cobbler), The Big Short (where the viewer is the only character who matters), Brooklyn (which lost its bearings once it got out of the titular borough), and Mad Max: Fury Road (which is amazing but might have been even better if it starred Mel Gibson).
As always, The A.V. Club will be there to guide you through the night, both with our live-blog here on the site and through the hashtag #AVCOscars on Twitter. You’ll be able to identify your What’s On Tonight correspondent’s comments as the histrionic curses for every award that Mad Max: Fury Road fails to claim. You may dream in gold, Oscars, but we ride eternal, shiny, and chrome.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9 p.m.): “Rick comes to the realization that Alexandria might not be as safe as he thought.” So, the zombies getting through the walls, the Wolves slaughtering a majority of the population, and the abusive husband with the katana didn’t convince of that already? The good news for you is that Zack Handlen knows a guy who can sell you the perfect security system.
Vinyl (HBO, 9 p.m.): Last week Dan Caffrey introduced a regular feature to his reviews called “It’s Mostly Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)” in an effort to keep the near-endless musical cues of the show straight. With Alice Cooper coming onto the scene tonight as Clark attempts to sign him to a solo deal, we’re betting even money that “No More Mr. Nice Guy” will find its way onto that list before the evening’s over.
Girls (HBO, 10 p.m.): The unlikely friendship of Adam and Jessa continues as the two spend the day together after an encounter at an AA meeting. Joshua Alston just hopes you’ll be careful, Jessa. Adam might be a mean hand with the guitar, but he’s known to have a bit of a dark side.
Togetherness (HBO, 10:30 p.m.): We’ve always believed that “poor sportsmanship” and “barely disguised contempt” are the ingredients to make any family get-together one for the ages. And it looks like we’re heading for a similar event on Togetherness, as a welcome home bash is thrown for Alex after his movie shoot in New Orleans. Gwen Ihnat is bringing the spinach dip for the party and some popcorn to munch on as as things fall apart.
The Venture Bros. (Adult Swim, 12 a.m.): “A criminal genius tries to arch Dr. Venture.” Which could mean one of two things: Either they’re trying to fill the void left by the Monarch (who’s no longer in Dr. Venture’s league now that the doc is higher up on the Guild foodchain) or are they trying to bend the good doctor into just the right curvature for some sick construction project? We’ll leave it to Zack Handlen, a wiser man than we, to answer these questions.
It’s always good to welcome someone new to the TV Club family, and we’re pleased to have Sarah Kurchak joining us for the first time with an installment of our 100 Episodes series, looking at A&E’s true crime series City Confidential. Also, Joshua Alston has a TV Review of ABC’s drama The Family ahead of its premiere one week from today, and Molly Eichel checked out HBO’s documentary on the life of R&B/gospel singer Mavis Staples.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO, 11 p.m.): Oliver has roared into 2016 in top form. If his show’s not trying to answer why on Earth Hollywood continues to engage in whitewashing, it’s calling to light the states whose abortion laws have become so restrictive they’re on par with sex offender laws. If he keeps on this course, the old saying “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” should be rewritten to “If you’re not outraged, you’re not watching Last Week Tonight.”
Talking Dead (AMC, 10 p.m.): Tonight’s guests include Lauren Cohan, musical artist Kid Cudi, and that ever-present favorite category of “surprise cast member.” We never get these guesses right, so we’re going to go outside the box and put all our chips on Irone Singleton. T-DOG! #NeverForget
E! Live From The Red Carpet (E!, 5:30 p.m.): As always, with award shows comes a good three hours of fawning over the various suits and dresses worn by their attendees, and E!’s coverage spearheaded by professional celebrity glad-hander Ryan Seacrest continues to lead the charge of said fawning.
More Manners Of Downton Abbey (PBS, 9 p.m.): Last week’s episode was technically the finale of Downton Abbey, which we failed to acknowledge appropriately (apologies to Emily L. Stephens and the Granthams). However, the yet-to-air-in-the-States Christmas special is the official end of the series. Not wishing to bury said finale alongside the Oscars, PBS is pushing it out a week and airing another special on 1920s social protocol. Best to check in and get ready for your series finale party.
Love In Paradise (Hallmark, 7 p.m.): In films that have no chance of ever getting within spitting distance of the Oscars, get a load of this one: “An actor popular in Western movies is sent to a dude ranch to revive his career, but this trip exposes his secret: He’s really a city slicker who has no skills resembling a real cowboy.” It sounds like wacky misunderstandings are ready to ensue!
Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge (CMT, 8 p.m.): It’s hard to think of counter-programming more drastic to the Academy Awards. And tonight’s episode strikes a blow for gender equality with the participation of eight female military veterans.
My 600-lb. Life: Fan Favorites (TLC, 5 p.m.): We don’t know what’s sadder about this: that there’s a show about the morbidly obese, or that said show has enough episodes and fans to power a few hours worth of “fan favorites.”
All-Star Academy (Food Network, 8 p.m.): “The mentors face off in two art-inspired dessert challenges presided over by Duff Goldman.” Your What’s On Tonight correspondent took a course in college about the philosophy of art, which mostly consisted of sitting around a table for three hours every week talking about what constitutes art. It makes us wonder if this episode will get bogged down in a similar discussion before a single ingredient is mixed.
Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network, 10 p.m.): The Shat is in the house as William Shatner serves as the guest judge of man cave-appropriate meals.
Space Jam (VH1, 7 p.m.): As always, an airing of this film allows us to remind you that the original Space Jam website still exists online, and remains a testament to all that is good in humanity and mid-’90s web design.
San Andreas (HBO, 7 p.m.): It’s a little mind-boggling and a little depressing that in a film where rocks are the bad guy, Dwayne Johnson didn’t bill himself as The Rock. You’ll always be The Rock to us, Mr. Johnson, stop running away from it.
The Fifth Element (BBC America, 8 p.m.): Leeloo Dallas multipass!
Olympus Has Fallen (TNT, 8 p.m.): Of the two films that ripped off Die Hard and set the action in Washington D.C., it’s baffling to us that this is the one to get a sequel, while the more entertaining White House Down languishes in single film purgatory.
The Rock (Sundance, 8 p.m.): With the Oscars tonight, it’s worth reminding everyone that this Sean Connery/Nicholas Cage classic was nominated back in 1996 for Best Sound Mixing, meaning by law it must always be referred to as “Academy Award nominee The Rock.”
Ted (NBC, 8:30 p.m.): Seth McFarlane puts his own spin on the idea of TED Talks with a wisecracking teddy bear who sounds almost exactly the same as Peter Griffin and gets drunk with Mark Wahlberg. This film must also be referred to as “Academy Award nominee Ted” due to a Best Original Song nomination.
Last Vegas (CBS, 9 p.m.): Thankfully this film does not need to be referred to as an Academy Award nominee, but it’s worth noting that its four lead actor all have Oscars for either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor, and frankly should be doing much better things at this stage of their careers.
X Games Oslo 2016 (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
Women’s Basketball, Minnesota at Maryland (ESPN2, 5 p.m.)
College Basketball, Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m.)
NHL Hockey, Lightning at Bruins (NBC Sports, 6:30 p.m.)
College Basketball, Southern California at California (Fox Sports, 8 p.m.)
College Basketball, Oregon at Washington (ESPNU, 8:30 p.m.)
NHL Hockey, Kings at Ducks (NBC Sports, 9 p.m.)
Fuller House: Joshua Alston made it through six episodes of Netflix’s latest reboot so you didn’t have to. We encourage you to respect his sacrifice and not watch a show that according to him “isn’t just bad, it borders on the obscene, as much an affront to those bemused by a reboot of the sitcom that anchored ABC’s once-mighty T.G.I.F. comedy block as those receptive to it.” We’ll be skipping this and watching Too Many Cooks again to scratch our nostalgic itch.