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McNamara's Picks: 'Parks and Rec,' Muhammad Ali, 'Revolution,' more

October 03, 2013|By Mary McNamara
  • Anti-government city employee Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and middle school vice principal Diane Lewis (Lucy Lawless) get even closer in last week's Season 6 premiere of "Parks and Recreation."
Anti-government city employee Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and middle… (Colleen Hayes / NBC )

"Parks and Recreation." Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is married! Again! What can it mean? Well, for last week's season premiere it meant a double episode including a trip to London that was among the best the show has aired. Andy (Chris Pratt) met his sweet and goofy match in a wealthy nobleman and philanthropist who hired him for a three-month gig, which means April (Aubrey Plaza) will be on her own for a while. Leslie (Amy Poehler), who went to London to accept an award in the hopes the citizens of Pawnee would stop trying to recall her, has returned with her spine and spunk back.

Despite chronic worry over viewership, the writers refuse to abandon their signature choice of wit over cheap laughs and cheek over snark. This show should be a big fat hit, because it's one of the best comedies on TV. NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m.

FALL TV 2013: Watch the trailers

"Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight." You would be forgiven for thinking that the event of the title occurred in a boxing ring, or even the media. But Stephen Frears' documentary is instead a behind-the-scenes look at Clay v. United States, in which the Supreme Court decided whether Cassius Clay, recently renamed Muhammad Ali, would go to jail for draft dodging. When he was drafted in 1967, Ali had recently become a Black Muslim, a religion, he claimed, that demanded he not participate in any war not directly ordered by Allah. Stripped of his title, kicked out of boxing and fined $10,000, he appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. There, eight justices (Thurgood Marshall recused himself because he had already adjudicated in an early portion of the case) debated the merits of the appeal as well as, in Frears' version, the tension between law and politics, racism and patriotism, power and personality. With Frank Langella as Chief Justice Warren Berger and Christopher Plummer as key player Justice John Harlan, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" is a surprisingly small and subtle film that sometimes seems to ignore its central figure (Ali appears only in film clips), but is fascinating nonetheless. HBO, Saturday, 8 p.m.

"Revolution." The lights went on (at the end of last season) and then they went out again, leaving the tattered and certainly no longer united states of America even worse off than before. Atlanta and Philadelphia were horribly destroyed, for one thing, and our scrappy band of surivors dispersed to face a slew of perils on their own. Miles (Billy Burke) has been captured by a blood-draining, pedophile/cult leader, Charlie (Tracey Spiridakos) is still trying to kill Monroe (David Lyons) (no luck so far), Aaron (Zak Orth) has been raised from the dead, Tom (Giancarlo Esposito) is trying to kill the "president" and Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) is, well, trying to not be crazy.

PHOTOS: Hollywood Backlot moments

More important, Season 3 has been salted with humorous cultural references -- the second episode was called "There Will Be Blood" and mentioned both "Ghostbusters" and "Walker: Texas Ranger." So while "Revolution" continues to take its apocalypse seriously, it's also having a bit more fun. NBC, Wednesays, 8 p.m.

"Homeland." Things got a little crazy at the end of Season 2 of Showtime's intense spy thriller, what with Langley being blown to bits and Carrie (Claire Danes) helping Brody (Damian Lewis) to escape. Not surprisingly, things stay a little crazy, albeit in a slightly calmer way. If that makes any sense, which it should to fans of "Homeland." Instantly distancing themselves from the love story that dominated much of Season 2, the writers choose to go at least two full episodes without even a glimpse of Brody. Bad for Lewis fans, good for the story, which seems to be settling into the story of two families -- the wife and two children Brody left behind and Carrie's competing fathers, her real one and her boss.

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