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CONNIE BRITTON AND ERIC BANA STAR IN BRAVO’S ‘DIRTY JOHN’

November 22, 2018

A true crime saga disguised as melodrama, “Dirty John” (9 p.m. Sunday, Bravo, TV-14) proves you can find inspiration for a soap opera anywhere. Based on a popular podcast, the eight-episode series stars Connie Britton as Debra Newell, a wealthy interior decorator living the posh life in Newport Beach, California. She appears to have everything, including a gorgeously appointed apartment she shares with her spoiled daughter, Veronica (Juno Temple).

We quickly learn that creature comforts can seem empty without a special someone. So Debra embarks on a series of painful dates arranged by an online service, presented cleverly here one after the other. Only when she meets John Meehan (Eric Bana) do we get off the montage merry-go-round. But even their first date ends badly. And Veronica smells a rat.

The pilot episode throws out a garland of red flags, obvious to everybody but Debra. Along the way, we discover her need to settle down has run through four marriages and that Meehan, first seen as a doctor, is actually a nurse specializing in administering fentanyl and other powerful opioids. What could go wrong?

A ghastly Thanksgiving family gathering introduces Debra’s mother, Arlane (Jean Smart), who may be the wellspring of Debra’s many needs and neuroses.

Much of the dialogue seems intentionally soapy. Britton makes the most of her role as a woman whose refinements don’t necessarily extend to good taste or even common sense. Gosh, even the rich can be a bit dim.

Bana plays the consummate confidence man, both charming and repugnant, often at the same time. Julia Garner stars as Debra’s other daughter, Terra. She’s less petulant than her sister and more willing to indulge her mom’s boyfriend at first sight. But when she, too, becomes suspicious, we know John is apt to do something rash.

Bravo has had a spotty track record with scripted fare. Its twisty drama “Imposters” was recently canceled. “Dirty” seems more suited to the network. Not unlike Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise, the series invites us to be both envious and contemptuous of the nouveau riche, whose trappings are both expensive and pathetic.

-- Freeform presents a holiday movie with a satirical edge. Kali Hawk (“New Girl”) stars in “The Truth About Christmas” (8 p.m. Sunday, TV-14), as Jillian, a successful political consultant and adept spin-merchant working for her boyfriend, George’s (Damon Dayoub), mayoral campaign.

In the logic of holiday fables, Jillian has a weird encounter with a toy store Santa and leaves the emporium suddenly afflicted with the inability not to tell the truth. Yes, I know that’s a double negative. Simply put, she’s a political operative who cannot lie.

And if you think that makes for awkward press conferences, wait till Jillian meets her prospective in-laws at a Christmas party.

-- “The Lost Tapes” (8 p.m. Sunday, Smithsonian) recalls the scuttled flight of the Apollo 13 astronauts. After a sudden explosion crippled their April 1970 lunar mission, a successful return to Earth was anything but certain. Occurring less than a year after NASA’s triumphant moon landing, the Apollo 13 saga unfolded more like an old-fashioned radio tale of a child stuck in a well, galvanizing a global audience who awaited word of the three astronauts’ death or survival.

“The Lost Tapes” employs radio and TV footage and presents them in chronological order as they were first broadcast, recalling historical events like a breaking news story.

SATURDAY’S HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

-- CBS imports the BBC productions “Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire” (7 p.m., TV-G) and “Robbie the Reindeer: Legend of the Lost Tribe” (7:30 p.m., TV-G).

-- An angel saves a good man (Jimmy Stewart) from despair after facing ruin at the hands of the town miser (Lionel Barrymore) on Christmas Eve in the 1946 fantasy “It’s a Wonderful Life” (7 p.m., USA, TV-G). The first of several broadcasts.

-- A woman’s past, present and future pile up over the holidays in the 2018 fantasy “Every Day Is Christmas” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).

-- A sister’s sudden death adds a new meaning to the holidays in the 2018 melodrama “Christmas Everlasting” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

-- The voices of Ed Asner, Betty White and Tim Curry animate the 1996 special “The Story of Santa Claus” (8 p.m., CBS).

SATURDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS

-- John O’Hurley hosts The National Dog Show (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG).

-- College football action includes South Carolina at Clemson (6 p.m., ESPN), Notre Dame at USC (7 p.m., ABC) and Oklahoma State at TCU (7 p.m., Fox).

SUNDAY’S HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

-- Locked in a department store overnight, a shopaholic encounters her guardian angel as well as the ghosts of holiday shopping seasons past, present and future in the 2018 fantasy “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

SUNDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS

-- Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold host the 2018 Soul Train Awards (7 p.m., BET, MTV2).

-- “The Flood” (7 p.m., National Geographic, TV-PG) documents Botswana’s dramatic Okavango Delta, a place where an annual inundation is both the source of lush life and mortal danger.

-- “America in Color: Titans of Industry” (7 p.m., Smithsonian) presents footage of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison as their inventions and industries revolutionized early 20th-century life.

-- The Minnesota Vikings host the Green Bay Packers in “Sunday Night Football” (7:20 p.m., NBC).

-- A rescue mission unravels on “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).

-- Elena’s continuing education comes between her and Lila, now busy working in her family’s shop, on “My Brilliant Friend” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

-- Ray plans to spend the day with Conor on “Ray Donovan” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

-- Matt hatches a plan on “Escape at Dannemora” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

-- Haiti suffers a succession crisis on “Madam Secretary” (9:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

Faced with a murderous gelatinous creature from outer space, adults and police are still much more afraid of unruly teenagers in the 1958 shocker “The Blob” (12:45 p.m. Saturday, TCM), starring Steve McQueen.

SATURDAY SERIES

“48 Hours” (9 p.m., CBS) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

SUNDAY SERIES

“Football Night in America” (6 p.m., NBC) ... “60 Minutes” (6:30 p.m., CBS) ... Homer irks Krusty on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... One small step on “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Taking liberties on “Supergirl” (7 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Miles needs help to find a missing chess prodigy on “God Friended Me” (7:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Peer pressure on “Bob’s Burgers” (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).

Stewie and Brian battle on “Family Guy” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... On two helpings of “Shark Tank” (ABC, TV-PG), A-Rod stops by (8 p.m.), pet hair problems (9 p.m., r) ... The Earth moves on “Charmed” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Thieves steal an officer’s secret papers on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Lost in the rinse cycle on “Rel” (8:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

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