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Archive for Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday series are tried, true

May 20, 2012

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Weekends are home to four of television’s longest-running shows. “COPS” (returning to Fox in 2013) debuted in 1989. So did “The Simpsons” (7p.m. Sunday, Fox). “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC) kicked off in 1975, and “60 Minutes” (6 p.m. Sunday, CBS) dates to 1968. Of these series, “60 Minutes” is also typically the most watched. It often ranks in the top 10 programs in any given week.

‘‘60 Minutes” has endured because its correspondents and producers have respected its audience’s intelligence, and its viewers have continued watching, allowing “60 Minutes” to pretty much air whatever stories it wants to. The newsmagazine is far more likely to do a follow-up on Venezuela’s youth orchestra than profile the latest flash-in-the-pan pop music or reality television star. That editorial trend continues on tonight’s episode, which features stories on paying students for bright ideas and undiagnosed diseases.

‘‘The Simpsons” has also thrived with quirky independence and by going high and low simultaneously, mixing childlike slapstick with remarkable literary sophistication. On any given episode, violent pratfalls reminiscent of “The Three Stooges” might break out in one scene, and then Lisa will refer to an obscure novel or jazz composition in the next.

More than any other live or animated series, “The Simpsons” assumes that its audience is well read enough to get its jokes — maybe not the first time, but eventually. “The Simpsons” concludes its 23rd season with Lady Gaga (as herself) giving Lisa some help with her self-esteem.

Sunday’s finales

• Jean Smart guest-stars on “Harry’s Law” (7 p.m., NBC). This series has been canceled.

• A winner emerges on “Celebrity Apprentice” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Brian and Stewie answer viewer mail on an hour-long “Family Guy” (8 p.m., Fox).

Sunday’s other highlights

• Theon receives company on “Game of Thrones” (8 p.m., HBO).

• The search for Rosie’s key on “The Killing” (8 p.m., AMC).

• Tom Selleck returns to character in the television drama “Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt” (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS).

• Christmas descends on “Mad Men” (9 p.m., AMC).

• Standup comedy on “Aziz Ansari: Dangerously Delicious” (9 p.m., Comedy Central).

• Sforza besieged on “The Borgias” (9 p.m., Showtime).

• The blogosphere irks Selina on “Veep” (9 p.m., HBO).

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