Pacino, ‘Paterno’ and ‘Howards End’

April 7, 2018



TUNE IN TONIGHT by Kevin McDonough


Has Al Pacino ever played a nice guy? Pacino stars in the title role of “Paterno” (7 p.m. Saturday, HBO, TV-MA), the latest in a string of portrayals of deeply flawed men, including Roy Cohn, Jack Kevorkian and Phil Spector. And that’s just on HBO.

Here, Pacino plays a beleaguered lion in winter, a man worn down by his 84 years, withering away behind his glasses and oversized sweaters. But just because Penn State coach Joe Paterno has become a pitiable figure does not mean he’s not culpable. And (spoiler alert) the transformation of Paterno from aged hero to victim to callous and indifferent enabler is essentially the arc of this ripped-from-the-headlines film.

Pacino’s understated performance is as remarkable as it is generous. It allows the rest of the cast to shine. Kathy Baker stars as Paterno’s long-suffering wife, Sue, whose reticence disguises a spine of iron. When, in a particularly memorable scene, a shambling Paterno is fired with a phone call, it is Sue who calls the Penn State bureaucrats back, shaming them and declaring after 61 years, he deserved better.

If the film has a heroine, it is Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), a local journalist who persistently followed rumors of abuse at the hands of Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky (Jim Johnson), only to confront a wall of institutional silence. The university, and its compartmentalizing denial and hero-worshipping authoritarianism, might be the most powerful and troubling character in the film.

In a telling narrative device, an ailing Paterno is shown in several scenes left alone with his thoughts and memories as he submits to an MRI body scan. These reflections introduce many of the flashback scenes in “Paterno,” and offer glimpses of the very private hell he has entered.

-- “Roseanne” isn’t the only old show returning. Once the most watched and binged time-waster on basic cable, “Trading Spaces” (7 p.m. Saturday, TLC) returns for a ninth season, 10 years after it left the TLC schedule.

-- “Howards End” (7 p.m. Sunday, Starz) is no “Downton Abbey.” But for fans of that series, it just might have to do.

Actress Hayley Atwell (“Agent Carter”) stars as Margaret Schlegel, the eldest sister in a family of orphans, forced by fate to be a de facto mother to her siblings, the headstrong and beautiful Helen (Philippa Coulthard) and the eccentric, precocious and effete young Tibby (Alex Lawther).

She runs her household as a kind of academic salon. The family’s dinner table resounds with talk of feminism, socialism, Beethoven and Brahms, much to the chagrin of older and buttoned-down Aunt Juley Mund, played with counterintuitive restraint by manic comic Tracey Ullman.

Based on a novel by E.M. Forster, “Howards End” also features the parallel household of the Wilcox family, who owns the estate that gives the story its name. The Wilcoxes are as solid, sporty and business-minded as the Schlegels are romantic.

While the Schlegels survive on some dwindling inheritance similar to characters in a Jane Austen novel, the Wilcoxes are captains of industry and oversee a rubber plantation in colonial Africa. Naturally, political and romantic tensions arise, as well as a very personal bequest at the heart of the story.

Look for Julia Ormond as Ruth Wilcox, the slightly overwhelmed matriarch who is both enchanted and slightly frightened by Margaret’s way of thinking and living.

Set in 1910, the time of the book’s publication, this miniseries adaptation has a refreshingly contemporary feel to its depictions of strident and opinionated women venturing to carve out identities in an uncertain world. As Margaret observes, she feels as though she’s “chattering at the edge of an abyss.”

-- Sandra Oh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) returns to episodic television in the spy thriller “Killing Eve” (7 p.m. Sunday, BBC America, TV-14).

-- A body in a basement leads to questions and investigations on the new “Masterpiece” mystery series “Unforgotten” (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS, check local listings).

-- “Aerial Cities” (7 p.m. Sunday, Smithsonian) presents a six-part glance at American cities as seen from the sky. First up, a bird’s-eye view of Las Vegas.


-- Eric faces a gruesome ordeal after his daughter’s kidnapping, as the drama “Ransom” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14) returns for a second season.

-- First-time parents-to-be have no idea that their OB-GYN is an “Evil Doctor” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

-- Chadwick Boseman hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Cardi B.


-- Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Oprah Winfrey visits Montgomery, Alabama’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, honoring victims of lynchings; a profile of the legendary Harvard Lampoon.

-- The FBI bumps Reinhart and Needham off a case on “Instinct” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

-- Aaron continues diplomatic efforts on “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).

-- Ugly revelations about Ramon’s adoption on “Here and Now” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

-- Carrie’s domestic woes on “Homeland” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

-- Talks with Iran face roadblocks on “Madam Secretary” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

-- The kidnapping plan unravels on an episode of “Trust” (9 p.m., FX, TV-MA) shot very much in the Fellini style.

-- Axe hatches a secret scheme on “Billions” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

-- Dinesh has a roommate crisis on “Silicon Valley” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

-- A CIA scientist who may have known too much ends up dead on “Deadly Intelligence” (9:04 p.m., Science, TV-14).

-- An assignment comes between Barry and his acting class on “Barry” (9:30 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).


Al Pacino (“Paterno”) played ice-cold gangster Michael Corleone in three “Godfather” films and deranged hothead Tony Montero in the ludicrously watchable “Scarface.” All four of those films now are streaming on Netflix.


Driven to distraction on “Will & Grace” (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) ... Surf and turf on “MasterChef Junior” (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) ... “NBA Countdown” (7 p.m., ABC) ... Amnesty inspires confessions on “Superstore” (7:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) ... Torres’ partner vanishes on “NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (8 p.m., NBC) ... The audience rules on “Showtime at the Apollo” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... “48 Hours” (9 p.m., CBS) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).


Tiny talents on “Little Big Shots” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-G) ... Solo performances on “American Idol” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Between the covers on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Amy encounters her idol on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Weapons traffickers on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Kids tackle brain teasers on “Genius Junior” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-G) ... Bulls and bears on “Family Guy” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Todd and Erica bicker on “The Last Man on Earth” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... The bunker houses blunt truths on “Timeless” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... A street artist pulls a heist on “Deception” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

(Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com.)

** ** **

EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Gillian Titus at gtitus@amuniversal.com.