TV Picks: 'Olive Kitteridge,' 'Elementary,' 'Death Comes to Pemberley'

TV Picks: 'Olive Kitteridge,' 'Elementary,' 'Death Comes to Pemberley'
A scene from "Olive Kitteridge." (Jojo Whilden / HBO)

"Olive Kitteridge"

Starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins, HBO's two-part, four-hour adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning book is the best thing on television this year, last year, probably next year, possible ever.


Following the mid- and later years of Olive, an astringent New England teacher (McDormand) and her gentle pharmacist husband Henry (Jenkins), "Olive Kitteridge" is a masterfully restrained but unexpectedly passionate contemplation of love, age, marriage, parenthood and the glue that holds people together.

Olive is a character of ruthless beauty, stubborn and steadfast, a woman who values intelligence over happiness and is saved from real meanness by an essentially kind heart and a dry wit.

Sunny, amiable and open, Henry is her precise opposite. Against the finely drawn backdrop of small-town life, they each surrender to longing, warily circle disruption and choose instead to soldier on together for reasons neither chooses to articulate.

To watch McDormand and Jenkins bring these people to life is pure joy; to see them do it together is astonishing. Bill Murray shows up in the second half to take your breath away and "The Newsroom's" John Gallagher Jr. delivers a wonderfully multi-layered performances as Olive and Henry's adult son, and ... why are you still reading this? Go watch/record "Olive Kitteridge."

HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.


The CBS take on a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, played by Jonny Lee Miller, returned Thursday with all manner of promising plot developments.

After Watson (Lucy Liu) told Holmes in the Season 2 finale that it was time for her to move out, Sherlock took all his marbles and moved back to London. But he couldn't stay away, and Season 3 opened with his return to New York and a very chilly Watson, who has spent the time building her own detective franchise.

It doesn't help that Sherlock has a new pupil, Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond) or that he doesn't seem to understand why his disappearance was about more than just him. Not surprisingly, by premiere's end, Sherlock and Watson have reconnected professionally, if not emotionally, with Kitty offering the possibility of a nice long back story to frame the weekly crime-solving.

Obviously, we can't get enough of Sherlock Holmes, but it's the chemistry between Miller and Liu, along with some very clever crimes, that make "Elementary" one of those shows this critic watches more for pleasure than for business.

CBS, Thursdays, 10 p.m.

"Death Comes to Pemberley" 

Do not miss the second part of this adaptation of a P.D. James sequel to "Pride and Prejudice."

A tense and smart murder mystery gives the cast plenty to do. And what a cast it is: Anna Maxwell Martin ("Bleak House") as Elizabeth Darcy nee Bennett, Andrew Rhys-Davies ("The Americans") as Mr. Darcy, Jenna Coleman ("Doctor Who") as the flighty Lydia and Matthew Goode ("The Good Wife") as that infamous ne'er-do-well Wickham.

"Death Comes to Pemberley" is a joy from start to finish, theorizing about the past, present and future of the famous characters, while keeping a wary eye on the realities of their times. Indeed, my only complaint with the two-part series is that once you've watched the second part, it's over.


PBS,  Nov. 2, 8 p.m.