The final season of the engrossing dramatization of Britain’s royals is being presented in two halves: the first four episodes confronting the death of Princess Diana (doe-like stunner Elizabeth Debicki) and the tragedy’s aftermath. After a necessary pause, the series returns December 14 with the remaining six episodes ending the saga of Queen Elizabeth II (currently played by Imelda Staunton) and her fractious family. Impending sorrow looms over Part 1 of Season 6, as the divorced Diana courts tabloid controversy and more royal disdain as she vacations with her young sons in the Riviera with wealthy Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla), shown as a puppet of his socially ambitious mogul father Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Daw). The media frenzy surrounding the couple will turn deadly, and series creator Peter Morgan makes some melodramatic narrative choices before and after the fatal accident in Paris that’s bound to create a stir. But only The Crown would find an ingenious way to frame one episode, from the perspective of two very different photographers: a risk-taking Italian paparazzi and a traditional Scottish portraitist, crystallizing the two disparate worlds in which Diana and her ex, Prince Charles (Dominic West), exist.
You may feel a sense of déjà “boo” when CBS begins pairing repeats of its hit supernatural comedy (at 8:30/7:30c) with back-to-back episodes of the British comedy (2019-23) that inspired and often echoes it. Even die-hard (so to speak) fans are in for a treat when they compare the spooks, several feeling like near-duplicates—most obviously the chipper scoutmaster with a fatal arrow in the neck (co-creator Jim Howick as Pat in the U.K., Richie Moriarty as Pete on CBS). And yet the differences are substantial enough that each series offers its own distinctive delights. I’m especially fond of the British ghosts with no direct American parallel, including series co-creator Mathew Baynton (who once guest-starred on the CBS show) as the Romantic poet Thomas Thorne, who spends much of the series pining for the haunted estate’s new owner, Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), who’s a bit pricklier than Rose McIver’s eager-to-please Sam on CBS. Competing for Alison’s attention—like Sam, she sees the spirits—is the heartbreakingly naïve Kitty (Lolly Adefope), a Georgian-era Black woman who yearns for a sister figure. Factor in a hilarious caveman (co-creator Laurence Rickard as prank-pulling Robin) and a more prominent headless ghost (Rickard again as a decapitated Tudor squire) and you’re sure to find new ghosts to love.
The wonderful Sarah Lancashire returns as the legendary Julia Child in Season 2 of the dramedy about the French Chef star’s rise to fame. She beautifully captures Julia’s robust enjoyment of every sensory pleasure life has to offer—especially food and human company—though the series makes the odd choice of isolating her and husband Paul (David Hyde Pierce) in Europe for the first three episodes (available now), comprising nearly half of the eight-episode season. Her absence is sorely felt in Boston at the struggling WGBH station, which is scrambling to create anything nearly as popular as French Chef. The tone in those segments leans too heavily to broad, unconvincing comedy. Like them, we can’t wait for Julia’s comeback for a new season of culinary delights.
Bebe Neuwirth, who co-stars in Julia as the chef’s BFF Avis DeVoto (striking up an acquaintance with existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in Paris), does double duty this week—returning to the role that won her two Emmys for supporting actress in a comedy, as frosty Dr. Lilith Sternin, ex-wife of Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). It’s no accident that her appearance makes for the reboot’s most laugh-out-loud episode yet, as she trades withering barbs with Frasier. (Sample: “If you’re here,” wonders Frasier, “Who’s minding the children you’ve lured to your gingerbread house?”) Their son Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) is less amused, only reluctantly allowing the squabbling exes to attend his birthday party—at a bowling alley. Can they be civil? Don’t count on it, especially once cousin David (Anders Keith) initiates a game that asks “Who Knows Freddy Best?”
The Golden Bachelor
And then there were two: Leslie from Minneapolis and New Jersey’s Theresa, each hoping they’ll be “the one” when Gerry Turner finally makes his choice (for which fans will have to wait until November 30, thanks to the Thanksgiving break). But first there are the infamous “overnight dates,” which are set in exotic Costa Rica. Let’s hope the fantasy suites have plentiful Kleenex to absorb all the tears likely to be shed.
INSIDE THURSDAY TV:
- Son of a Critch (8/7c, The CW): Young Mark (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) hopes to impress Fox (Sophia Fox) by ditching school to hang with her brothers, but his plan goes off the rails when they urge him to drink his first beer. (Of note: The CW has inexplicably pulled the new British comedy Everyone Else Burns off the Thursday lineup along with Run the Burbs, replacing them with repeats of Whose Line Is It Anyway? at 9/8c and The Great American Joke-Off at 9:30/8:30c. This despite a recent announcement that The CW had ordered a second season of the hilarious Burns.)
- A World Record Christmas (8/7c, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries): Veering from the meet-cute formula, this holiday film centers on autistic teen Charlie (Aias Dalman, himself autistic) as he attempts to set a Guinness World Record by building a Jenga tower of 1,400 blocks. Rooting him on are his mother (Nikki DeLoach) and stepdad (Lucas Bryant), whose relationship is rekindled in the process.
- Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1 (8/7c, CNBC): With F1 racing debuting on the Las Vegas Strip this month, Squawk on the Street’s Sara Eisen takes an under-the-hood look at the sport’s rapid rise in popularity in the U.S.
- Transplant (9/8c, NBC): While Bash (Hamza Haq) treats a diabetic woman who’s too dependent on her teenage son, overwhelmed lead nurse practitioner Claire (Torri Higginson) has an ultimatum for new emergency chief Dr. Devi (Rekha Sharma).
- Little Bird (9/8c, PBS): The Canadian drama’s finale brings Esther “Little Bird” (Darla Contois) a new sense of identity in her season-long search for her Indigenous roots.
- Dateline NBC (10/9c, NBC): Keith Morrison reports on the 2010 murder of USAF Airman Nathan Paet, shot inside his garage, with the investigation revealing a secret love affair.
ON THE STREAM: