by Matt Roush
Some like it rough — and TV doesn’t get much rougher or darker than BBC America’s brutally compelling crime drama Luther, mining new depths of depravity and tragedy in its third cycle (airing as a four-night miniseries this Tuesday through Friday at 10/9c, except Wednesday, when it airs an hour earlier as the lead-in to the even more shattering Broadchurch). Once again, Luther‘s Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning star Idris Elba attacks his signature role of the tormented, damaged London detective John Luther with raw magnetism. He has a way of absorbing others’ pain and isn’t afraid to inflict some of his own, but Luther’s history of explosively reckless behavior has made him the target of a relentless Internal Affairs cop (the excellent David O’Hara), who tries to turn Luther’s loyal partner Ripley (Warren Brown) against him.
“Do you really think he’s innocent?” the dogged Detective Superintendent Stark badgers poor conflicted Ripley. “Think he’s just some kind of lightning rod? Somebody who just gets struck again and again and again and again?” Stark has a point — everything and everyone Luther touches seems to eventually turn to blood — but this is not the distraction Luther needs as he confronts some of his most horrific villains yet, including (in the later chapters) a vigilante who makes Luther reconsider his own maverick past.
The suspense is considerable, with Luther once again desperately trying in vain to keep those he loves (including new girlfriend Sienna Guillory) out of the grisly crossfire, but the violent twists can verge on the eye-rollingly preposterous by the story’s over-the-top climax, which (in happier news) reintroduces one of his most memorably seductive adversaries. If you’re a Luther fan, you probably already know who I’m talking about, but no spoilers here.
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HEADLINE NEWS: All is right in the world of fake news, as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show (11/10c) welcomes back its star anchor/humorist, Jon Stewart, from a summer hiatus during which he directed his first feature film, Rosewater. It will be great to have him back, but kudos to John Oliver for keeping his seat warm in such grand and hilarious style all summer. … Over at NBC, Brian Williams — not such a slouch in the quick-wit department when he’s of a mind — returns to his duties in the NBC Nightly News anchor chair after recovering from knee surgery.
IN MEMORIAM: Respect will be paid to a grande dame of daytime TV as CBS’s The Young and the Restless presents a two-day memorial service for the show’s indomitable matriarch Katherine Chancellor (played by the late Jeanne Cooper), starting today and continuing Wednesday (check tvguide.com listings for broadcast times). Adding resonance to this sentimental milestone, Cooper’s own son Corbin Bernsen returns to conduct the ceremony as Father Todd, and the occasion brings back former cast members including Lauralee Bell, Tricia Cast, Beau Kayzer, Adrienne Frantz, Patty Weaver and Michael Damian, who will sing That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You, a song heard on the show during May’s earlier tribute episode to Cooper.
FILM SCHOOL: It’s not too late to enroll in Turner Classic Movies’ mesmerizing 15-part seminar of cinema history The Story of Film: An Odyssey, which began Monday with replays on Tuesdays through December, each night’s chapter accompanied by classics from whatever period is under discussion that week. You’ll probably need to set the DVR to replay Irish critic Mark Cousins‘s first installment (4 am/ET) of what he calls “a global road movie to find the innovators, the people in films that give life to the sublime and ineffable art form: cinema.” Entertaining, absorbing, impressionistic and idiosyncratic, Cousins’ expansive survey revels in images and ideas, discovering motifs that link fabled directors from Carol Reed to Godard and Scorsese. Cousins starts his history in the years 1895-1918, as the medium is born in locales as disparate as New Jersey and Lyons, France, before the establishment of Hollywood: “a fantasy name, because one of the things that won’t grow here is … holly.” With trenchant visual analysis that connects a pioneer like D.W. Griffith to George Lucas, Cousins describes the development of the movie star, the close-up, the power of editing and the art of light. Tuesday’s movie line-up includes Griffith’s monumental epic Intolerance at 8/7c and Way Down East at 11:30/10:30c, followed by influential Swedish silents Haxan and The Phantom Carriage in the wee hours.
FRIENDS, FOOTBALL AND MORE: Showtime has been very, very good for Matt LeBlanc, once again Emmy-nominated for his work in the terrific inside-TV satire Episodes (returning in January). He’s currently moonlighting on his Friends co-star Lisa Kudrow‘s improvisational comedy series Web Therapy (11/10c, Showtime) in the first of two guest appearances as a compulsive online gambler who makes the terrible decision to seek Fiona’s advice. … With the start of the official NFL season looming, HBO airs the season finale of Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cincinnati Bengals (10/9c), as the team prepares for its preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts. … We’re down to the final four dancers on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, and as viewers use this week’s performance finale (8/7c) to decide whether Jasmine or Amy and Fik-Shun or Aaron will be “America’s favorite dancers,” Paula Abdul and Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabby Douglas will join the judges to cheer them on and possibly (though probably not) critique. … As my favorite night of USA Network summer drama nears its fall finish, Covert Affairs (9/8c) finds Annie using the deep-undercover Teo to try to take down her nemesis Henry Wilcox, while Ava’s murder trial begins on Suits (10/9c). … In a new true-crime series that feels like a roving real-life version of Cold Case mixed with a dash of 48 Hours Mystery, TNT’s Cold Justice (10/9c) introduces a former prosecutor (Kelly Siegler) and crime-scene investigator (Yolanda McClary) who in the premiere reopen a 2011 Texas case that was declared a suicide. It boils down to “Murder They Hope (to be able to prove),” or there wouldn’t be much of a show. … A week before FX launches a new season of Sons of Anarchy, History takes a lighter if not higher road in We’re the Fugawis (10/9c), the latest Duck Dynasty wannabe, about an Upstate New York motorcycle club of lifelong buddies.