L.A. Times TV critic Robert Lloyd highlights the week's television:
"Drunk History" (Comedy Central, Tuesdays). A great and terrible idea that yields hilarity pretty consistently: Heavily intoxicated narrators (comics, comic actors) retell episodes from history as accurately as they can manage; other comic actors (and assorted ringers), costumed and bewigged, mouth the speaker's words as dialogue in what might be called ahistorical reenactments. Offering actual drunkenness rather than play-drunkenness as something to laugh at feels a little fraught, morally, and, indeed, there will be those for whom the whole enterprise (originally created by Derek Waters, who hosts, for the website Funny or Die) will seem distasteful and very wrong. Nevertheless, I did laugh. A lot. The debut episode (of eight) includes inebriated takes on the Watergate scandal (by Matt Gourley), the Lincoln assassination (Allan McCleod) and that time that Elvis met Nixon (Eric Edelstein), with Bob Odenkirk as Nixon, Stephen Merchant as Lincoln, Will Forte and Adam Scott as Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and Jack Black as Elvis. Also present: Jonathan Ames, Dave Grohl. Coming up: Kristen Wiig as Patty Hearst.
Friday Night Spotlight: François Truffaut (TCM, Fridays in July). Some of my fellow pensioners may remember Z Channel, an L.A. cable movie network that from 1974 to 1989 was the closest thing (local) TV had to a repertory art house -- a living-room cinematheque, and an education. (Alexandra Cassavetes made a whole film about it and its troubled chief, Jerry Harvey, the 2004 "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.") The closest thing TV has to Z Channel nowadays is Turner Classic Movies, whose programming is at once more catholic -- as it apparently owns almost every movie made in America before 1970 -- and less adventurous, which is also a function of owning the rights to so many films. (You get around to the arty ones less often.) But this month the channel is getting its French on, devoting every Friday to Francois Truffaut -- the most lovable of Nouvelle Vague directors, to be sure -- and showing nearly every one of his feature films. (Only "Small Change," his study of children, and "Fahrenheit 451," his excursion into English, are missing.) The series will also include the short "Antoine and Collette" (the second film in the Antoine Doinel cycle, after "The 400 Blows") and the 1961 "A Story of Water," quickly made to take advantage of a flooded Paris, and whose directing credit Truffaut shares with Jean-Luc Godard, who also narrates.
"Moone Boy" (Hulu). Chris O'Dowd (currently starring in Christopher Guest's "Family Tree," on HBO) co-created, co-writes and stars in this charming and fanciful but distinctly unsentimental memory piece -- something like a small-town Irish "Wonder Years" or "Everybody Loves Chris" crossed with something like a family-friendly "Wilfred," minus the psychosis. (Still, when I say "family friendly," I do not mean "G-rated.") O'Dowd narrates and plays the supportive imaginary friend of his dreamy and put-upon -- when not ignored -- yet self-contained and clever 12-year-old self (a marvelous David Rawle), whose notebook drawings also come to animated life. Steve Coogan, whose Baby Cow Productions has a hand in this, will appear. Streaming starts Wednesday.
"Endeavour" (PBS, Sunday). The "Inspector Morse" prequel, which floated a single movie-length episode at just this time last year, returns to "Masterpiece Mystery" with four more. Shaun Evans stars as the younger version of the older man played by the late John Thaw, a stripling police detective in mid-1960s Oxford, as yet only semi-irascible but already addicted to puzzles and opera and acquiring a taste for ale. The new episodes add the great Anton Lesser as a flinty, rule-hugging superior for Morse and his mentor, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam, wonderfully substantial), and also introduce Sean Rigby as Police Constable Strange, who in "Inspector Morse," will be, or rather was, Chief Superintendent Strange. The mechanics of the plots are occasionally a little difficult to buy, but the atmosphere (moody without making a fetish of it) is effective, the dialogue well-wrought and the players first-rate.
"Legends of Chima" (Cartoon Network, Wednesdays). Based on a new series of Lego toys, which is to say, also an ad for them, "Chima" is a sort of "Game of Thrones" for small fry, sprinkled with essence of "Avatar" and with a wad of "The Return of the King" stuck to its shoe. If anything is ripe for CGI animation it is painted plastic figures -- they look oddly "authentic" in this mode -- and their toyness keeps things light here even after total war breaks out between the talking Lions and the talking Crocodiles, Wolves and Ravens. Its pre-teen protagonists speak the youthspeak of 10 minutes ago, with a vaguely California twang, saying things like "cool," "awesome" and "duh!," and there is a lot of racing around on scooter-things whose real-world Lego-kit counterparts your own kids can beg you to buy. What is notable here -- notably weird -- is the extended Drugs Metaphor the series seems to contain. (I say "seems.") Central to the story are the magic waters of "chi," which first turned the characters from ordinary animals into Lego pieces and form orbs that they press into their chests for a hit of energy. (This is called "plugging chi.") "What's it like?" a young wolf asks a young croc, who has sneaked a taste before reaching "the age of becoming." "Mother of mud!" exclaims the reptile. "It's the best thing ever -- like being born all over, but with superpowers." Or as one rhino declares when he receives his monthly (legal) allotment of orb: "Sweet! Got me some chi! Tonight's gonna be a goood night." I mean, what?