Tune in Tonight: ‘Idol’ returns; ‘Night Country’ concludes

Once the most dominant show on network television, “American Idol” (8 p.m., Sunday, ABC, TV-PG) slips into its 22nd season. A staple of the early stages of reality television in the beginning of the 21st century, “Idol” still puts the focus on unknown talent. Unlike other series and even game shows, it has resisted the impulse to create a “celebrity” edition or flog an “all-star” round, concentrating on finding random strangers with talent, or at least a penchant for exhibitionism, particularly in the audition rounds of “Idol” that begin tonight.

That said, much of the news surrounding the series involves its hosts, judges and soon-to-be former participants. Katy Perry returns as a judge this year, along with Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan — but Perry will leave after this season.

Paula Abdul, a fixture of “Idol” back when it was on top of the ratings world, recently accused the show’s longtime producer Nigel Lythgoe of sexual assault during her “Idol” tenure.

Ryan Seacrest, the one constant that links “Idol” to its first season, has continued to expand his hosting empire. Already host of “Idol,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and “American Top 40,” he is preparing to take Pat Sajak’s place on “Wheel of Fortune” come September. Assuming roles long associated with Clark, Casey Kasem and now Sajak, Seacrest has become the Silly Putty of TV hosting. Can the Miss America Pageant be far behind? That pop culture relic has never really recovered from the loss of Bert Parks.

— “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (11 p.m. Sunday, HBO) returns for its 11th season of snarky news digests and commentary. Oliver returns the same week that his old colleague Jon Stewart came back to “The Daily Show.”

Some see these men and their caustic take on events as a smart antidote to a world gone mad. Others, myself included, have begun to think that treating serious matters like democracy as grist for comedy may be at least partially responsible for the rise of a reality TV star as the spokesman for American authoritarianism.

— “True Detective: Night Country” (9 p.m., HBO, MAX, TV-MA) concludes Sunday. Not to give too much away, but the action moves to an Arctic variation on “the upside down” from “Stranger Things.”

I am not the only viewer or reviewer to have a “meh” reaction to this season of the franchise. It’s great to see Jodie Foster in a feisty role some 30 years removed from “The Silence of the Lambs.” And her partnership with Navarro (Kali Reis) had an interesting dimension of mutual loathing about it. They formed an exotic pair of un-buddy cops who didn’t let the fact that they are enemies of long standing get in the way of the job — even when it takes them to icy worlds of mystical malarky.

For me, the greatest mystery about this series has been its reported budget. I read in several places that it cost some $60 million. Divide that by six episodes and you get $10 million per hour. Where did all that money go? I can understand shows like “The Crown” or Apple TV+’s new epic “The New Look” costing a fortune, what with opulent sets and elaborate costumes and period details.

“Night Country” is shot mostly in the dark. And anybody with the slightest knowledge of film noir knows that hiding details in dark shadows is the best way to save money. And as for locations, we have a lab or two, a couple of police stations, modest homes, a high school gym, trailers and shacks and lots of snow and ice. They didn’t exactly rebuild Versailles here.

So where did the money go?

Perhaps these are the kinds of questions you amuse yourself with when you’re a bit underwhelmed by the story.

— Hardcore awards season fans can stream Sunday’s BAFTA Awards, Britain’s version of the Oscars, on Britbox, the streaming service dedicated to U.K. content.

— John Quinones hosts the 16th season premiere of “What Would You Do?” (10 p.m. Sunday, ABC, TV-PG), the hidden-camera series that captures people’s behavior when faced with surprising and ethically challenging citations, pondering the great moral question of how we behave when we think nobody is watching.


— Michigan hosts Michigan State in college basketball (8 p.m., Fox).

— The New Jersey Devils host the Philadelphia Flyers in NHL hockey (8 p.m., ABC).

— A novelist becomes a murder suspect after her one-night stand is found slain in the 2024 shocker “The Beach House Murders” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

— A librarian is transported to the world of her favorite author in the 2023 romance “An American in Austen” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

— “48 Hours” (10 p.m., CBS) examines the murder of Las Vegas investigative reporter Jeff German and the emergence of a local politician as a suspect.

— Jacob Elordi hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Renee Rapp. A repeat from last month.


— Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): Red Sea tensions; possible criminal charges arising from Trump’s bogus claims of electoral fraud; an interview with Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”).

— Simu Liu hosts the 2024 People’s Choice Awards (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

— A cash-strapped couple rent out their garage apartment to a tenant who turns into a nightmare in the 2024 shocker “The Man in the Guesthouse” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).

—Hired to find a missing man, Colter runs afoul of a cult on “Tracker” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

— Home for the holidays on the two-hour season finale of “All Creatures Great and Small” on “Masterpiece” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings).

— Jake Tapper hosts “United States of Scandal” (9 p.m., CNN). First Up: an interview with disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

— Phillippe’s deal to trade for the mysterious boy does not end well on “Monsieur Spade” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).

— Clara shows increasing interest in Stephen on “Belgravia: The Next Chapter” (9 p.m., MGM+).

— Lorna and Colman join forces on “The Woman in the Wall” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).


Professional thieves set out to steal a dazzling jewel from an opulent Istanbul palace in the 1964 thriller “Topkapi” (8 p.m. Sunday, TCM, TV-PG), starring Peter Ustinov in an Oscar-winning role, Melina Mercouri and Maximilian Schell. The movie’s use of a high wire in a heist predates Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” stunt by more than 30 years.


Death in shallow waters on “NCIS: Hawai’i” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … “America’s Got Talent: Fantasy League” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … Out for revenge on “The Equalizer” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).


McCall’s old colleague puts the team in danger on “The Equalizer” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … Homer and the Peter Principle on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … House of the Dragon on “Krapopolis” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

Beef and the blind item on “The Great North” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Real crime vs. true-crime on “Grimsburg” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Folsom’s stuck in prison on “CSI: Vegas” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).