David Bianculli

The rollout plan for the new TV series The Romanoffs is unusual for Amazon — just as the drama series itself is an unusual experiment for the show's creator, Matthew Weiner.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Last week the dramatic Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh made headlines and also made for riveting television. Over the weekend, two of TV's most tenured series, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and CBS's "60 Minutes," returned with season premieres reacting to that fast-breaking news. Our TV critic David Bianculli has these reactions.

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Back in the '70s, when Sean Penn was a teenager and his dad, director Leo Penn, was working in television, Leo got Sean small roles in a few shows, including a pair of episodes of Little House on the Prairie. But since becoming a movie star, Penn hasn't starred in a TV project — until now, when he headlines a new, eight-hour drama series called The First, launching Friday on Hulu.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Next week, we'll be featuring interviews with some of the actors, writers and producers who have been nominated for Emmy awards this year, including comedy host John Oliver from HBO's "Last Week Tonight," supporting actor Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Paper Boi on FX's "Atlanta" and writer-producer Scott Frank, creator of the Netflix Western series "Godless."

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Tonight, HBO presents a biographical documentary called "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind." Our TV critic David Bianculli says it's very funny but gets even better when it turns serious.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

By now, James Corden has set a very high standard with his Carpool Karaoke TV pieces. Only a million or two viewers watch him on CBS' The Late Late Show when it's broadcast, but YouTube and other social media sites extend Corden's reach phenomenally.

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The legend goes like this: On Valentine's Day 1900, at a remote prep school for young women outside Melbourne, Australia, several students and their teacher slipped away from a holiday picnic, ventured to a steep and storied landmark named Hanging Rock — and vanished.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Benedict Cumberbatch, the deep-voiced, strikingly handsome actor whose roles have ranged from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, once said there were only two roles on his long-standing acting "bucket list."

One was Hamlet, a role he played in 2015. The other? Patrick Melrose, a role he tackles — and conquers — in a new Showtime miniseries beginning Saturday. Parts of it are wickedly funny; other parts are searingly dramatic. But all of it is riveting, and excellent.

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