'Mad Men' returns with a question
This weekend, Don Drapers just one face in a Sunday crowd that includes Jesus, Frank Sinatra, Henry VIII and Lizzie Borden.
* MAD MEN. 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.
"IS THAT ALL there is?" sings Peggy Lee as AMC's "Mad Men" returns for its final seven-episode run on Sunday.
Maybe it's a little too on the nose, but the question hangs over "Severance," an episode that finds more than one character facing the limits of his or her choices.
For those who've chosen to stick with ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) for seven seasons, this last one spread over two years, it's too late to be asking now.
Even I want to know what's going to happen to these people and I'm still in the crotchety minority that believes there's always been a little less to "Mad Men" than meets the eye.
Though what meets the eye is frequently fabulous.
This first episode's marked by some interesting guest casting - I do love how "Mad Men" uses once-familiar faces and makes it seem as if they'd always existed in this world - and a callback to a guest from an earlier season.
Yes, that's vague.
This will be the last time I can't even list all the things "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner is asking critics not to mention, though as usual, he'd prefer to surprise you with "the year the story takes place."
Let's just say it takes place in a year before Google existed. You should be fine.
A Sunday of premieres
"Mad Men" is definitely not all there is.
Maybe it's the confluence of holidays - or the absence of "The Walking Dead" - that's emboldened programmers, but Don Draper couldn't have returned on a busier night.
Here's some of what else is premiering:
* AMERICAN ODYSSEY. 10 p.m. Sunday, NBC10.
If television's any indication, trust in our miltary-industrial complex is so low "The X-Files" may be returning to a world in which Agents Mulder and Scully will seem like cockeyed optimists.
In NBC's "American Odyssey," Anna Friel ("Pushing Daisies") stars as U.S. Special Forces Sgt. Odelle Ballard, who survives an attack in Mali that wipes out the rest of her unit, but may not live to tell what she knows about the people behind it.
Or maybe she will, because she, after all, is the one on the odyssey to get home to her husband and daughter. Somehow knowing that doesn't make this thriller any less tense. I don't need any more conspiracies in my TV life, but I'm hooked.
Peter Facinelli ("Nurse Jackie") plays a former U.S. attorney and Jake Robinson an activist who are also getting dangerously close to the secret that threatens Sgt. Ballard, though it's Friel and Omar Ghazaoui, the young Moroccan playing her traveling companion, who are most responsible for making "American Odyssey" stand out from the conspiracy crowd.
* MASTERPIECE: WOLF HALL. 10 p.m. Sunday, WHYY12.
Hilary Mantel's thoroughly modern novels of Tudor England become a beautifully filmed six-part miniseries with Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis ("Homeland") as his demanding boss, Henry VIII.
Rylance is everything anyone could ask of an actor whose character's rich interior life can't safely be on display: subtle, watchful and supremely watchable.
* SINATRA: ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL. 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, HBO.
HBO marks the centennial of Frank Sinatra's birth with this hard-to-resist two-night documentary from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (who also directed last week's Scientology doc, "Going Clear").
"All or Nothing at All" draws from hours of Sinatra interviews and performances, as well as others' reminiscences, for a piece that's particularly effective in showing the singer as a young striver from New Jersey who, as Gibney told reporters in January, "willed himself to a prominent position at the center of our culture, and . . . stayed there for a long period of time."
* A.D. THE BIBLE CONTINUES. 9 p.m. Sunday, NBC10.
"Survivor" producer Mark Burnett and his producing partner and wife Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel") follow up their History Channel blockbuster "The Bible" with a sequel series that begins, on Easter, with the politically charged events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Juan Pablo Di Pace).
If you saw NatGeo's "Killing Jesus," which covered this ground pretty well only last week, you might want to wait for subsequent episodes, which deal with the crucifixion's aftermath and the less-traveled early days of Christianity.
* HAPPYISH. 10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime.
Hoping to capitalize on the season finale of "Shameless" - and ignoring the considerable competition - Showtime's offering a "sneak preview" of a show whose premiere is officially scheduled for April 26.
Steve Coogan ("Philomena," "The Trip") replaced the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a show I haven't yet seen. If you manage to find the time, let me know what you think.
* THE LIZZIE BORDEN CHRONICLES. 10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime.
What happened after Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the 1892 hatchet-killings of her father and stepmother?
Don't look for the facts in Lifetime's blood-spattered "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles," which, like the Lifetime movie from which this cheesy limited series is spun off, assumes that Lizzie (Christina Ricci) did it - and suggests she didn't stop there.
If only Ricci had. Because she's better than this.
On Twitter: @elgray