From returning housewives to country crooning, we round up the top 10 shows to watch this week
1. The Rental – Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime VideoActor Dave Franco (Now You See Me) follows in the footsteps of elder brother James, making his directorial debut with this subversive little horror flick. The filmmaker casts his real-life spouse Alison Brie (Mad Men) alongside Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, Shameless’s Jeremy Allen White and Argo’s Sheila Vand, playing two couples who head off for a little getaway at a gorgeous wilderness estate, rented via an Airbnb-esque online marketplace. Alas, it turns out they’re not alone in these woods.
The setup may sound like a whole bunch of slasher flicks you’ve seen before, but The Rental distinguishes itself by spending the bulk of its runtime without much actual slashing, instead building tension by peeling back the layers of its four protagonists and their fraught relationships, until personal drama and physical trauma collide in an explosive final act.
2. Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy – Sunday, February 14, 6 p.m. & 9 p.m., CNN | Series Premiere
CNNYou’ve seen him in a truly impressive array of big screen roles. Now, get to know the real Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy to uncover all the best regional cuisines in this new series—from creamy carbonara in Rome to silky risotto in Milan, to the world’s best pizza in Naples.
3. Grand Ole Opry: 95 Years of Country Music – Sunday, February 14, 9 p.m., NBC
NBCThere are few places more revered to country fans—or the crooners themselves, for that matter—than Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. This two-hour special gathers the industry together to celebrate its 95th anniversary.
4. Masterchef Canada – Sunday, February 14, 9 p.m., CTV | Season Premiere
CTVIn the new season, subtitled “Back to Win,” things get cooking as judges Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile invite 12 former competitors to take back their aprons for a second chance at the title, $100,000 cash prize and a new “Chef’s Culinary Package” courtesy of Miele, putting experienced cooks to the test as they face the toughest challenges ever seen in the MasterChef Canada kitchen.
5. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver – Sunday, February 14, 10 p.m., HBO Canada | Season Premiere
HBO CanadaGiven that host John Oliver has been off the air since November, we can’t even begin to imagine just how much vitriol he’s got stored up for his return, given everything that’s happened since.
6. Young Rock – Tuesday, February 16, 8 p.m., City & NBC | Series Premiere
NBCDuring the recent Television Critics Association panel for his sitcom, Dwayne Johnson was asked outright how much of the pitch for the series involved the now-infamous photo of a teenage Johnson wearing an impossible-to-miss fanny pack. “That was the entire pitch of the show,” said Johnson, laughing. “It was just me and the fanny pack, and NBC said, ‘We’re in. That’s all we need. Now let’s work backwards from there.’ ” The series uses the framing device of Johnson in the future as a candidate for president of the United States, telling a journalist—Randall Park, playing himself—stories from three key periods of his life: the pre-teen years, when his dad was wrestling alongside guys like André the Giant and the Iron Sheik; the high-school years; and the college—and college football—years. Trust us: it’s a must-see.
7. Kenan – Tuesday, February 16, 8:31 p.m., City & NBC | Series Premiere
NBCAre there any sitcom stars who’ve got it better than Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd? Thompson’s new NBC sitcom, cleverly titled—you guessed it—Kenan, stars Thompson as a widowed father who, from what we can tell by the pilot episode, used to star in a sitcom with his late wife but has since transitioned into becoming the host of a morning show in Atlanta.
At the same time, however, Kenan (his character shares his real name) is also playing the part of a single dad to two cute little girls: Aubrey and Birdie, played by real-life sisters Dani and Dannah Lane. Understandably, that’s a lot of effort for one person, particularly when that person is still working through his grief to some extent, so it’s convenient that he’s also got a few family members around to assist him: his father-in-law (Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame), a saxophone player who missed out on much of his late daughter’s childhood and is determined not to make the same mistake with his granddaughters; and his brother, played by Redd.
So why do we say that they’ve got it good? Because even as they launch into this new primetime endeavour, they’re also both still current members of Saturday Night Live. “I’m just having fun being able to create with one of my best friends and also be able to still go and do sketch,” said Redd, during the show’s virtual panel for the winter edition of the Television Critics Association. “I don’t really see it as an exit strategy [from SNL]. I just kind of see it as another way to create.”
Thompson agreed, explaining that the show business landscape has changed significantly, particularly when it comes to SNL. “There used to be a time when people would leave the show and go into their careers. I think you can kind of do both as long as you can.”
8. Workin’ Moms – Tuesday, February 16, 9 p.m., CBC | Season Premiere
CBCWhen Catherine Reitman created Workin’ Moms, a sitcom about women balancing not just motherhood with ambition, but marriage, friendships and their sense of self, what she didn’t know was that the love story that her core audience would feel most invested in was that between Reitman’s character Kate and her best friend Anne, played by Dani Kind. This made it understandably distressing, when in the season-four finale, Reitman decided to separate the two by having Anne move to Cochrane for her husband Lionel’s (Ryan Belleville) job. “We took a big risk out the gates,” Reitman admits. “But it is something that really excited all of us, to see this no-nonsense character in a world that had a lot of manners over content, which drives Anne crazy.”
On a series where so many of the challenges faced by the four leads come from the real-life experiences of its creator, shipping Anne away to Alberta wasn’t just for the sake of a shocking plot twist. “I moved at 30-something to Toronto, after growing up in Los Angeles, and all my friends were out [in California],” says Reitman, daughter of legendary Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman. “To move as an adult, after you have children and have to reacclimate to what that world looks like, is incredibly challenging. And to make friends at this age and to try to redefine who you are in a new city is really tough. It was really interesting to see a character like Anne go through that.”
While not an easy transition for Anne, the move is a way to take stock of how far the character has come since season one. “I think she’s a different woman, in a lot of great ways,” says Kind. “Her three core relationships really are Lionel, Alice [Sadie Munro] and Kate, and I think all of those relationships have been challenged, from deciding to have an abortion with your partner, to your daughter having a gun, to Kate and Anne pulling apart and coming together. Seeing vulnerability come out for that kind of character has been her biggest journey, and now she’s just vulnerable in a completely different way, being in a brand-new city with no one to lean on.”
The pandemic, which the show deals with swiftly, has also done this core friendship no favours. Much like everyone else that quickly grew bored of Zoom happy hours, the full plates of Kate and Anne have made the distance between them feel even greater. “When our characters reconnect, so much has happened that it becomes awkward,” says Reitman. “To sift through the guilt and shame that comes with that, it’s really potent and relatable.”
Meanwhile, in Toronto, Kate gets a glimpse into what life could have been had it taken a different turn, when she gains a new client in publishing exec Sloane Mitchell, played by Rookie Blue’s Enuka Okuma. “Kate is working with a really dangerous, exciting, sharp new mentor,” says Reitman. “I can’t wait for the audience to get to know Sloane, because Kate and Sloane are like these two ships in the night. This could have been Kate if she hadn’t settled down and had kids, this woman who chooses pleasure over responsibility and gets to be fully selfish—which is a bad word for many, but we’re starting to accept it as a good word.”
9. The Real Housewives of New Jersey – Wednesday, February 17, 6 p.m. & 9 p.m., Slice | Season Premiere
SliceRemember back when the most shocking thing to happen on this reality-TV trash-tacular was Teresa Giudice flipping a table? Yeah, that pales in comparison to the drama that’s expected to go down on the 11th season when it debuts this week. Teresa and Joe may be over, (she makes it pretty clear she’s looking to have her “peach kissed” already), but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still feeling heat from her ex’s activities when it comes to her friends and family back home. That action is front and centre in the season trailer, when her brother Joe Gorga begins pounding on a dinner table and screaming at Teresa for defending the father of her children. That isn’t the only pearl-clutching moment in store this year either. There are accusations of cheating and alcoholism (aimed mostly at Jennifer Aydin, who flat-out falls on her face at one point), not to mention new flames, vibrator-filled swag bags and a whole lotta salacious girl talk. In other words, these ladies are ready to bring it Jersey-style when the new season is unleashed.
10. I Care A Lot – Friday, February 19, Netflix
NetflixIt’s fitting that TV Week recently covered a documentary focusing on the shady practice of court-appointed guardians swiping funds from the elderly (The Guardians), only for this dark comedy to emerge about that exact same topic. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) plays Marla Grayson, one of those guardians who, along with her lover Fran (Eiza González, Baby Driver), has successfully bilked more than a few senior citizens out of their assets and life savings, leaving them destitute in their golden years. Things go awry with their usual methodology, however, when Jennifer Peterson (Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest), their latest target, has a particularly shady secret of her own under wraps. Meanwhile, it turns out that Jennifer has ties to an unpredictably angry mobster, played by Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage—and who among us would want that guy on their bad side?
Unfortunately, the only way to deal with the maniacal mobster is for Marla to kick things up a notch and match him move for larcenous move in a criminal battle of wits. While there’s little doubt that the clever and devious con artist has more than enough self-assurance to compete, will she really be able to walk away victorious? And by “victorious,” of course, we mean “not dead.”