Eric Deggans

As expected, viewers who woke up early in America to watch NBC's first live morning telecast of an Olympics opening ceremony Friday were greeted with a subdued presentation, kicked off by an explosion of fireworks erupting around a nearly empty Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

They may be two of the most influential notes in funk-rock history: the soaring, plaintive start to guitarist Eddie Hazel's legendary solo in Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain."

Right about now is when many people would start to hate Ted Lasso.

The show's first season was a come-from-nowhere hit on Apple TV+ last year — an amusing ode to the power of niceness which got a serious viewership boost thank to pandemic lockdowns.

One thing is obvious after watching Naomi Osaka, Netflix's three-episode docuseries tracking the life of the increasingly press-shy tennis champion.

Naomi Osaka worries. A lot.

This year's Emmy nominations cover a time when the coronavirus pandemic turned the TV industry upside down. So it makes sense that the shows and performances announced Tuesday might include some choices that are a bit ... unconventional.

From the funky, opening groove of the film's first song, Stevie Wonder's slinky jam on the Isley's Brothers' "It's Your Thing," it is obvious the new documentary Summer of Soul (...or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) will be packed with little-seen, landmark live performances.

But watch a little longer, as Wonder sits behind a drumkit to whip off a crackling drum solo. As he works the kit, clips of news reports and pundits surface talking about the crucial political and social issues facing Black people in 1969. And you realize you're seeing something more.

As a critic who loves glitzy awards shows and celebrations of great work, I find the Emmy season feels a bit like Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one, glorious package. But it can be ruined if the folks handing out the big awards make the wrong picks.

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Conan O'Brien keeps saying this goodbye is a good thing.

David Simon created two of TV's most groundbreaking series about the failure of the war on drugs, set in the neighborhoods of Baltimore: HBO's The Corner and The Wire.

Still, even as he allows that those shows — with their visceral look at the intersection of race, policing, violence and tragedy — may have helped people question five decades of failed drug policy, Simon says he remains a "cockeyed pessimist" on the question of whether the war will ever end.

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First, I must note how much I love Tom Hanks as a performer, Hollywood citizen and all-around stand-up guy.

In nearly twenty years hosting the different dating series in The Bachelor franchise, host Chris Harrison has handled everything from confronting rule-breaking contestants to chasing down Bachelor star Colton Underwood after he hopped a fence and tried to quit the show.

But today it is Harrison who is leaving. ABC and producers of The Bachelor and its spin offs, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, have confirmed that the host is gone for good after fumbling a race-related controversy from the mothership program.

(Ed. Note: This review tries to avoid big spoilers, but drops details about the first two episodes of Marvel's Loki.)

There are a lot of TV genres and tropes I suspect inspired Marvel's highly anticipated superhero series for Disney+, Loki. But after watching the first two episodes of the new show, I realized producers came up with the one thing I didn't expect: a Men in Black-meets-48 Hours-style buddy cop comedy adventure.

If all you know about the Tulsa Race Massacre is the re-creations of the attack featured in HBO series like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, prepare yourself for a serious education over the next few weeks.

First, we must acknowledge that the third season of Netflix's Master of None, on some level, feels like a dodge.

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"Master Of None" returns on Sunday. It's an Emmy-winning series by Netflix. The third season centers on a character played by Lena Waithe, who's also the writer and producer. Our TV critic Eric Deggans says this is a change in focus with an off-screen backstory.

Cher felt powerless.

This is not an admission you expect from a woman who has been a superstar since the mid-1960s, with 100 million records sold and 3.9 million Twitter followers.

But when the pop star got involved in helping save an elephant stuck in a zoo in Islamabad under terrible conditions, Cher also had to fight an uncomfortable feeling.

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(Warning: This column contains descriptions of racialized violence and discusses some plot points in The Underground Railroad series.)

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Watching Elon Musk slouch his way through a stint hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live, I had one thought: Lorne Michaels, gentleman provocateur, has done it again.

Michaels, the sketch show's longtime executive producer and guru, does many things well. But his talent for poking the zeitgeist with attention-getting hosting choices may be one of his least appreciated talents — and his secret weapon for keeping SNL in the national conversation.

From this TV critic's perch, with a few exceptions, 2021 hasn't yet provided a great deluge of outstanding shows. I suspect we're enduring the lingering impact of the industry's pandemic-inspired slow downs and shut downs. But there are signs of change.

As May gets underway, I've identified four shows to watch now (except for the first one, which you can't see until Monday). They are bold, incisive, entertaining and impactful — a great harbinger for a TV industry starting to regain momentum.

Here's the list:

The Crime of the Century (HBO)

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It was this announcement that deflated a three-hour-plus broadcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: And the Academy Award for actor goes to Anthony Hopkins, "The Father."

(APPLAUSE)

As tonight's Oscars ceremony closes out the longest — and most unconventional — awards season in Hollywood history, it's worth asking: What exactly will we see during the TV broadcast of the 93rd Oscars?

Warning: There are spoilers aplenty here regarding the final episode in the first season of Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

It's tough to imagine a better week for TV fans to meet a Black Captain America.

Nearly 140 documentary filmmakers have signed onto a letter given to PBS executives, suggesting the service may provide an unfair level of support to white creators, facing a "systemic failure to fulfill (its) mandate for a diversity of voices."

Updated March 28, 2021 at 5:01 PM ET

Near the end of HBO's new documentary, Tina, the movie implies the legendary singer has made a decision: after this film rolls out, Tina Turner just might be done appearing in public and talking about her life. It's an odd message, coming from a woman whose life story and experiences have inspired at least four books, an Oscar-nominated biopic, a Broadway musical and, now, this new film.

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Soul legend Aretha Franklin received the television-miniseries treatment with Genius: Aretha, a project that works best when it lets her music do the talking.

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