Looking for smart, rewarding television?
“Canterbury Tales” offers four character studies over four weekends, very loosely based on Chaucer’s 14th-century poem.
Julie Walters (“Billy Elliot”) is nothing short of brilliant as “The Wife of Bath” (8 p.m. tonight, BBC America). In this modern retelling, she’s Beth Craddock, the 53-year-old star of a popular soap opera.
Brash, bawdy and never shy about her voracious appetites, Beth believes she has finally found Mr. Right in her fourth husband, James (Bill Nighy).
But when she discovers that he has betrayed her, she takes solace in the arms (and in the bed) of her much younger co-star. Viewers who complain that actresses of a certain age are not given juicy roles should slip into this hot “Bath.”
‘Tis the season for complex espionage dramas. The campy comic-book drama “Alias” entered its fourth season on Wednesday. “24” (see below) is back, and the third season of “MI-5” (10 p.m. tonight, A&E) offers a decidedly British take on the murky amoral universe of cloak-and-dagger derring-do.
“MI-5” picks up where the second season concluded, with Tom Quinn (Matthew MacFadyen) on the lam after being accused of killing a defense department bigwig. A cabal of top-secret types uses this shootout as a pretext for cleaning house in Britain’s intelligence agencies and setting up a powerful new agency.
For the third consecutive season, “24” (8 p.m. Sunday, Fox) has agent Jack Bauer battling terrorists who threaten national security as well as a fetching female near and dear to the beleaguered J.B.
Can Jack provide for the defense and ensure domestic tranquility? Can you miss a single thrill-packed episode? Not me. “24” opens with a four-hour, edge-of-your-seat helping, tonight and continuing Monday.
With the debut of “Unscripted” (10 p.m. Sunday, HBO), the network is now suffering from a full-blown case of “insiderosis.” This series combining elements of scripted drama and documentary follows a group of aspiring actors and actresses as they audition for bit parts in movies and on TV shows.
Humanity fights for survival in the 2003 TV movie “Battlestar Galactica” (8 p.m., NBC); the pilot for the new series beginning on the Sci Fi Channel on Thursday.
The San Diego Chargers host the New York Jets in the AFC wildcard playoff game (5 p.m., ABC).
Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9:30 p.m., CBS): new evidence about the death of a Seattle star; in a story with a Spokane connection, a prominent surgeon’s wife is shot to death through her own kitchen window.
Luke Wilson hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guests U2.
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