Bradley Whitford (“West Wing,” “Studio 60”) has made a career of playing successful, if insecure, guys with a penchant for talking just a tad too much, often about Mr. First Person Singular. That makes him all too perfectly cast to play the title character in “Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith” (8 p.m., ABC).
As the TV movie begins, Albom is returning to the synagogue of his New Jersey youth and encounters his old rabbi, Albert Lewis (Martin Landau), a man who both inspired him and filled him with fear.
So Mitch is a little surprised when the rabbi asks him to write his eulogy. Albom spends the next 20 minutes wondering aloud to his wife and friends, “Just why would he ask me, of all people, to do that?” Could it be because he knows you’re Mitch Albom, author of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” a man who has spun sentimental quasi-spiritual schmaltz into best-selling publishing gold? And speaking of quasi- spiritual schmaltz, Landau’s turn as a breezy, casual rabbi who occasionally spritzes us with fortune cookie profundity, will not go down as one of his finest performances.
Happily, “Faith” also stars Laurence Fishburne (“CSI”) as Henry Covington, a former street criminal and drug dealer who turned his life around, and who, along with his wife, Annette (Anika Noni Rose), founded a church to help Detroit’s homeless. Flashbacks to Convington’s bad old days feature many scenes with Fishburne in a period Afro wig, reminding us that “Hallmark Hall of Fame” dramas are never very strong on gritty urban realism.
“Faith” allows these very different men to impart truths about the relationship between the human and the divine. Unfortunately, both lessons must be refracted through the prism of Albom’s well-patented spiritual schtick.
• If the new auction and appraisal series “Real Deal” (8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., History) sounds a bit like a game show, that’s because it’s meant to. Folks present their items to a down-home, country-fried appraiser, who, after gimlet-eyed evaluation, whips out a wad of cash to show what he thinks the stuff is worth. Some folks take the deal, while others opt for the excitement and risk of a rapid-fire auction more akin to a livestock sale than the action at Christie’s or Sotheby’s.
One hopeful comes in with a Spider-Man pendant from the 1950s that he’s convinced is worth $20,000. When he’s offered only $300, we go on to the auction, where he risks everything to the power and wisdom of the marketplace.
Today’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): homeless families living in cars, the science of flavor, Angelina Jolie.
• Kansas City hosts Pittsburgh on “Sunday Night Football” (7 p.m., NBC).
• “Being Chaz” (7 p.m., OWN) chronicles Chaz Bono’s life post gender-transformation surgery.
• Hershel remains in denial on “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC).
• Nucky’s new product source challenges the Commodore’s compatriots on “Boardwalk Empire” (8 p.m., HBO)
• Debra has a breakthrough in therapy on “Dexter” (8 p.m., Showtime).
• Tanya feels snubbed on “Hung” (9 p.m., HBO).