Tune in Tonight: ‘Ren Faire’ arrives; Nicole Brown Simpson recalled

It’s been a while since I read or studied Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” but I recall the part about the ailing monarch dividing his realm among his three daughters and their husbands. Two of them (Goneril and Regan) butter him up with florid speeches, while Cordelia replies quite modestly that she simply loves him as a daughter should. Lear falls for the flatterers and mistakes Cordelia’s reticence and reluctance to lay on the praise as an insult, a decision with tragic results.

The lessons of “Lear” loom large in two of this weekend’s offerings. “Celebrity IOU” (9 p.m. Sunday, HGTV, TV-PG) continues its seventh season. In this show, rich and famous people are documented as they “pay back” old friends and relatives for the help and love they’ve provided over the years.

On many levels, this is feel-good programming, but it also strikes me as primarily self-promotion for those who have already won life’s lottery. Are simple acts of gratitude really worthy of such hype? Isn’t making a big production out of thanking a friend or relative kind of crass? Again, as in “Lear,” it’s the obsequious who get the credit.

The new documentary spoof series “Ren Faire” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO, TV-14) wears its “King Lear” inspiration on its ruffled sleeve. “Faire” follows the travails of George Coulam, who has run a Texas-based medieval theme park for the past half-century. Having reached his golden years and eager to settle down with a female companion — or at least a willing sex partner — he has announced that he will choose one of his employees to take over his over-the-top kingdom. Let the rivalry begin!

“Ren Faire” does not limit its inspirations to Shakespeare. Like many docuseries, it seems assembled from a collection of other popular shows. Coulam’s caustic and foul-mouthed character would not be out of place in Netflix’s much-binged hit “Tiger King.” And it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to detect hints of “Succession” and “Game of Thrones” at work here as well.

Like anything to do with a renaissance faire, this series blends the earnest with the ridiculous. The real mystery is why HBO and MAX are sending up their two biggest recent hits to concoct a goofy throwaway.

With “Ren Faire,” it seems the battle for the soul of the combined HBO and Discovery has finally been decided. And it was won by the tackier half of the combination. “Succession” and “Thrones” ranked among the last of the great HBO shows that made viewers long for Sunday nights and justify the cost of their premium cable subscription. Now they are being parodied by something with all the subtlety of “Naked and Afraid.”

“Ren Faire” would make more sense if dropped into Netflix’s bottomless pit of programming. On HBO, it stands out. And not in a good way.

— MGM+, the premium cable channel and app formerly known as Epix, will dedicate the weekend to classic Westerns to promote the second season of “Billy the Kid” (9 p.m., Sunday).

— TCM continues its Saturday night double feature programmed by filmmakers and actors. This week, Ethan Hawke serves up “The Gunfighter” (8 p.m., TV-PG), starring Gregory Peck as the fastest gun in the West, and the 1950 low-budget noir classic “Gun Crazy” (9:45 p.m., TV-PG), about a disturbed couple who go on a criminal shooting spree. While the film’s script was credited to Millard Kaufman, it was actually produced by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, who would team up with Peck in the 1954 romance “Roman Holiday,” co-starring Audrey Hepburn. Trumbo was not credited for that screenplay or the Oscar it received until after his death.

— Lifetime, the network best known for women-in-peril programming, observes a dark anniversary. Airing over two nights this weekend, “The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” (8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Lifetime, TV-14) attempts to return the focus of the “trial of the century” to one of the victims, O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife and the mother of his two youngest children.

“Life” interviews more than 50 family members and friends and includes a wealth of home movies and videos as well as a frank discussion of Nicole’s personal diary that cataloged years of abuse and presents chilling reminders of how her cries for help were ignored.

It has often been said that the trial of O.J. Simpson offered a tabloid shorthand for so many American tragedies: race and racism, celebrity worship, the relationship between law enforcement and stars and finally, the ability of the very wealthy to assemble a “dream team” of lawyers to keep out of prison. Then and now, 30 years later, the symbolism of Nicole Brown Simpson as a victim of spousal abuse appears to have been overlooked or ignored.


— The Philadelphia Phillies host the St. Louis Cardinals (7 p.m., Fox) in MLB action.

— The Florida Panthers host the New York Rangers in NHL action (8 p.m., ABC).

— On a trip to Malta, a fetching beekeeper attracts the attention of a handsome archaeologist by unearthing an ancient fresco in the 2024 romance “For Love & Honey” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).


— Scheduled on two hours of “60 Minutes” (CBS): fake electors; Americans held prisoner in Iran; sports agent Rich Paul (7 p.m.); Canada’s Fogo Island; Caligula’s gardens; Africa’s Gorongosa Natural Park (8 p.m.).

— U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Championships (7 p.m., NBC), live from Fort Worth, Texas.

— The Memphis Showboats host the Houston Roughnecks in United Football League action (7 p.m., Fox).

— The highly conceptual 2015 feature “Inside Out” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) represents an 11-year-old girl’s emotions as five animated characters.

— “Dick Van Dyke 98 Years of Magic” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) salutes the star of his eponymous CBS sitcom as well as “Mary Poppins.”

— “All Creatures Great and Small: Touring the Dales” (9 p.m., PBS, r, check local listings) presents a travelog of the rebooted series’ bucolic setting.

— Violent tales of a vampire family unspool from a Dubai skyscraper on “Interview With the Vampire” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).


Channeling the folk tales of the “Arabian Nights” and some visual elements from Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, the 1992 animated musical “Aladdin” (7:20 p.m. Saturday, Freeform, TV-PG) marked the final collaboration of lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken. The story was Ashman’s idea, but Tim Rice was hired to help complete the score after Ashman’s death from AIDS in 1991.


McCall helps a whistleblower on “The Equalizer” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … “The Wall” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “48 Hours” (9 p.m., 10 p.m., CBS) … “Weakest Link” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC, r).


“America’s Got Talent” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “Press Your Luck” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).