Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, July 17. All times are Eastern.
Power (Starz, 9 p.m.): In our Q&A lamenting the shows we couldn’t make room for on our Best TV Of 2015 list, Joshua Alston was full of praise for Power’s second season, praising Omari Hardwick’s “sociopath par excellence” Ghost for holding together the show’s clockwork complexity of quadruple-crosses, and calling it “the rare crime drama that skews decidedly female without condescending to its audience or sanding down its hard edges.” In the third season, Ghost is trying to go legitimate as a nightclub owner, but the allure of the criminal world still haunts him—as does his former partner Tommy, who’s been ordered to kill him by drug kingpin Lobos. We’ll have to see if Ghost can keep it together or if it all falls apart around him, a fate that Power often skirts in its ambitious-bordering-on-exhausting storytelling.
Ballers (HBO, 10 p.m.): Tonight’s season two Ballers premiere is called “Face Of The Franchise,” which is a welcome excuse for us to remind you that Dwayne Johnson referred to himself as “franchise Viagra” for his gift of rejuvenating properties by virtue of showing up in them. (Please consult your doctor for Johnson film marathons lasting longer than four hours.) And that in turn is a welcome excuse to remind you that according to our reviewers, Johnson is the only thing keeping Ballers remotely watchable, between Kyle Fowle’s indictments of “underdeveloped character[s], sexist bit[s] of dialogue, and horrifically paced plot” and Dennis Perkins chastising it for “facile storytelling and consequence-less drama.” This season is shaking up the formula by adding Andy Garcia as Johnson’s adversary, and we’ll have to see if he’s brought paper or scissors to take down The Rock.
Vice Principals (HBO, 10:30 p.m.): If the consequence-free bro-tastic lifestyle of Ballers is a callback to the days of Entourage, its new timeslot partner (replacing the late and wholly unlamented The Brink) is a callback to the days of Eastbound And Down. Eastbound creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride are moving from professional baseball to public education, as McBride and Walton Goggins play a pair of vice principals hungry for the chance to replace the former principal. (Said principal is played in the trailer by Bill Murray, who we assume turned down a bigger role because it didn’t fit his late career-coasting agenda.) Danette Chavez audited the first few classes, and handed in an evaluation that says there’s more to this feud than you’d expect:
In tone and setting, it’s a spiritual sequel to the duo’s previous premium-cable outing… There’s even a blustering man-child at the center of the story. But while the profanity reliably reaches virtuosic levels, it rarely ever does so at the cost of more meaningful discussion. What Hill and McBride end up with, after the LSD-laced shenanigans, is as much a meditation on disillusionment one’s life as it is a clash of would-be titans.
With a confirmed run of only two seasons, this feud is guaranteed to heat up quickly. Kyle Fowle’s registered for the first day of school and will have his weekly coverage ready by fifth period.
Premieres and finales
Basketball Wives LA (VH1, 9 p.m.): For those who are annoyed at the predominantly male focus of Ballers, VH1 has you covered with its reality show about the women involved with NBA players. Season five introduces two new wives to the mix, Angel Love and LaTosha Duffey. Duffey is introduced as a professional DJ, and it looks like tracks aren’t the only thing she’s spinning as punches and drinks are tossed at veteran member Tami Roman.
Hell Below (Smithsonian, 9 p.m.): This new series explores the evolution of submarine warfare during World War II, as Axis and Allies powers attempted to gain the undersea advantage. Now we wish we hadn’t used our Yellow Submarine joke a few months ago.
Ride With Norman Reedus (AMC, 10 p.m.): It’s the last ride for Norman Reedus—at least until the return of The Walking Dead, because there’s no way Daryl is joining Negan’s batting average—with the first season finale. Reedus rides from Naples to Key West, and it’s sure that his experience fending off hordes of zombies will serve him well as he deals with the only population more unwashed and deranged, the local Florida men.
My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding (TLC, 10 p.m.): Given that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 made $88 million, it shouldn’t surprise us that anything with “My Big Fat” in the title continues to succeed, and this reality show proves the rule by entering its fifth season tonight. Your What’s On Tonight correspondent is going to try that out. Coming next week, My Big Fat Sunday What’s On Tonight.
Life’s A Beach (Travel, 11 p.m.): The fallow summer release schedule means that there’s not a lot of new shows to fill this category with on a weekly basis, but seriously, how many new shows does Travel have? It seems like every week we’re writing about a journey to some exotic locale. How does Travel expect to keep our attention with this new one? Oh, it looks like the title of this first episode is called “Tacos, Brews, and Views.” All right Travel, those are three of our favorite things. You got lucky.
Stranger Things (Netflix, 12 p.m.)
Preacher (AMC, 9 p.m.)
The Night Of (HBO, 9 p.m.)
Catastrophe, “Episode One” (Amazon Prime): The Emmy nominations dropped this week, and while there are still some problems with them (No nods for Show Me A Hero? Come on!), there was a lot to like this year. One of the most pleasant surprises was Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan scoring an Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series nomination for the Catastrophe pilot. Perfect excuse to visit this gloriously profane and unexpectedly sweet show.