Tune in Tonight: ‘The Zone of Interest’ and ‘The Sympathizer’ on HBO

Nominated for five Oscars and based on a 2014 novel by Martin Amis, the 2023 drama “The Zone of Interest” (8 p.m. Saturday, HBO, streaming on Max) stars Christian Friedel as Rudolf Hoss, a Nazi commandant who tries to create a domestic family life with his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller), while living right next door to the Auschwitz extermination facility.

Both the novel, based on research into real people and events, and the film were praised for trying to separate the history of the Holocaust from two-dimensional portraits of “human monsters” and explore how characters could seek to lead “normal” lives while dwelling within earshot of mass slaughter.

German actress Huller also received praise for her performance in the 2023 drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” now streaming on Hulu.

The film’s themes of selective sympathies and dehumanization of “others” struck a nerve. Controversy ensued when producer Jonathan Glazer, in a speech at this year’s Academy Awards, cited the hijacking of Holocaust’s memory in an effort to overlook atrocities taking place in Gaza.

— Selective memory and the editing of history also loom large in the ambitious miniseries “The Sympathizer” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO, TV-MA). Based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, it recalls the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime in April 1975 and the chaos that ensued.

Hoa Xuande stars as the Captain, an agent for the Communist forces in North Vietnam who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army as a spy. He’s first seen after the war in a Communist reeducation camp being forced to revise his memories in a forced written confession, giving the following narratives a dubious quality.

From the outset, “The Sympathizer” casts recollection of “real” events as a kind of cinematic experience. The Captain is accompanied by an American CIA agent (Robert Downey Jr.) to a Saigon movie theater, where a Communist agent (secretly associated with the Captain) is being tortured on stage. As they enter, the billboard-sized posters for the French erotic adventure “Emmanuelle” are being taken down and replaced with ones for Charles Bronson’s vigilante thriller “Death Wish,” a film the CIA agent praises for its Herbie Hancock score.

As in the novel, “The Sympathizer” will play with themes of memory and narratives shaped by Hollywood’s depiction of the war. While it was a military defeat, America’s mythmakers seized upon the war for their own ends. Vietnam and its aftermath happened to coincide with a Hollywood renaissance of sorts. In the decade following the fall of Saigon, you could see any number of ambitious films, from Hal Ashby’s “Coming Home” to Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” to Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” and reexperience the war entirely from an American perspective. As both enemies and allies, the Vietnamese were reduced to the role of extras.

“The Sympathizer” reverses that perspective, putting the focus squarely on the Vietnamese navigating their way through a historical tragedy, as pawns in a war, refugees desperate for rescue or immigrants to America, home to the cockeyed pop culture that fuels this weird house of mirrors.

Downey Jr. pops up in these memories as a number of malignant characters. First seen as a pop-saturated CIA agent, he looks like a dissipated version of Michael Keaton impersonating James Caan with a bad perm. After his Oscar-winning turn as a back-stabbing bureaucrat in “Oppenheimer,” it’s safe to say that Downey is on a creative roll.


— The Memphis Showboats and Birmingham Stallions meet in United Football League action (8 p.m., Fox).

— The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins in National Hockey League play (8 p.m., ABC).

— A fling with a pool boy sends tongues wagging around the vicarage in the 2024 shocker “Secret Life of the Pastor’s Wife” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

— An antiques dealer searches for an enchanted accessory in the 2024 romance “Legend of the Lost Locket” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

— Ryan Gosling hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Chris Stapleton.


— Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): How hackers blackmailed Vegas casinos; an interview with Salman Rushdie; the Tasmanian Tiger.

— A woman’s unexpected labor disrupts a town fete on “Call the Midwife” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings).

— The count makes a rash move on “A Gentleman in Moscow” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-14).

— “The 100th: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden — The Greatest Arena Run of All Time” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) celebrate a half-century of the pop singer’s songs. Look for Sting and Jerry Seinfeld to join the festivities.

— Several in Parliament become sympathetic to the cause on “Mr Bates vs The Post Office on Masterpiece” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings).

— Mixed allegiances on “Parish” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-14).

— Harsh news overshadows a reunion on “Alice & Jack” on “Masterpiece” (10 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings).


Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles document a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, former socialites reduced to squalid poverty in the ruins of their Long Island estate in the 1975 documentary “Grey Gardens” (10:45 p.m., Saturday, TCM, TV-PG). The Maysles Brothers showed up as slightly fictionalized characters in the recent FX miniseries “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.” In this deeply uncomfortable film, they succeeded in doing what Capote failed to accomplish in his uncompleted (or never begun) novel “Answered Prayers”: portray an American aristocracy in sordid, even grotesque, decline.


A morning newscaster is murdered on the set on “So Help Me Todd” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … “The Wall” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “48 Hours” (9 p.m. r, and 10 p.m., CBS) … “Weakest Link” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “Saturday Night Live” (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).


A dockworker vanishes just weeks before his wedding on “Tracker” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … “The Voice” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … Bart and Homer become barstool sports heroes on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) … A library cleanse sparks controversy on an hour-long episode of “The Great North” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

Excuse me while I disappear on “Grimsburg” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC, r).