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McNamara's Picks: 'Ripper Street,' 'Downton Abbey,' 'The Americans'

"Ripper Street": The BBC’s Victorian-era crime procedural set in London’s East End during the years following the grisly Jack the Ripper murders returns to BBC America on Saturday. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) are still prowling the grim and haunting streets of Whitechapel,  with only their wits and the rudimentary forensic expertise of  former U.S. Army surgeon and Pinkerton agent Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) to aid them. Much has changed since the first season-- Reid has lost a wife while Drake has gained one and both have a new green detective to train -- but the series continues to blend history with fiction and more colorful period detail than the eye can absorb in one sitting.

Joseph Merrick, a.k.a. the Elephant Man, has a multiple episode arc, Chinese immigration is dealt with as is the London match girls' strike. More important, Reid now has a nemesis, Jedediah Shine (Joseph Mawle), a corrupt inspector from another district. Poetic liberties are taken with history, but “Ripper Street” remains a vivid and entertaining depiction of a world where Oliver Twist could have easily encountered Sherlock Holmes. BBC America, Saturday, 9 p.m.

"Downton Abbey": The drawing room epic comes to its third-season close with an episode that is all that and a bag, er, plate of chips. Visually sumptuous -- Lady Rose is presented to the king at Buckingham Palace! -- and narratively exciting -- a missing letter threatens the monarchy! -- it also showcases the return of Cora’s mother, Martha (Shirley MacLaine), this time with her son, Harold (Paul Giamatti), in tow. Both breathe new life into Downton, Martha providing tart to the Dowager Countess’ (Maggie Smith) acid and Harold bridging the gap between the old world and the new in an unexpected and most affecting way. PBS, Sunday, 9 p.m.

PHOTOS: The "Downton Abbey" cast without their costumes

"The Americans": A tangled web of sex, lies and espionage, “The Americans” posed the question: What if the lovely suburban couple next door were really Soviet agents?  Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) share two children and a mission, but it wasn’t until we met them in Season 1 that they were beginning to have feelings for each other. This despite Phillip’s increasing infatuation with the United States and Elizabeth’s obsessive dedication to “headquarters.” As Season 2 premieres, they have a suspicious FBI agent next door and children old enough to realize that something isn’t quite right. These “Americans” need to either double-down on deceit or come clean in some way. As long as Margo Martindale keeps playing their ruthless handler, Claudia, I’m in. FX, Wednesday, 10 p.m.

"Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics": A chance to bid farewell to Sochi, Russia, and to fix the glitches of the opening ceremony -- the fifth snowflake will become a ring and Billie Jean King, who missed the opener to tend to her dying mother, will be there. NBC, Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

ALSO:

Cast Interviews: The women of 'Downton Abbey'

Sochi Olympics TV: Yuna Kim, Gracie Gold and the figure-skating chase

'Once Upon a Time': Creators talk of wicked witches and choices made

PHOTOS, VIDEOS & MORE: PHOTOS: TV shows and their spinoffs Overrated/Underrated 2014 PHOTOS: 101 best-written TV shows of all time

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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