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Archive for Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tune In Tonight: In “Ripper Street,” ‘Law and Order’ meets ‘Downton’

January 19, 2013

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A stylish tale of lower and upper classes in the urban underbelly, “Ripper Street” (8 p.m. Saturday, BBC America) returns to London circa 1889, when fear of gruesome serial killer Jack the Ripper grips the streets, and most notably, the women who walk them.

Matthew Macfadyen (“Anna Karenina”) stars as intrepid Inspector Edmund Reid. No stranger to the vice districts, he values forensics above all. He hires American expatriate Capt. Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), a former Army surgeon, to perform instructive autopsies. Reid also employs amateur boxer Sgt. Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) as his hardscrabble deputy. Together, these three complementary talents quarrel with superiors and a tabloid press intent on inflaming fears and blaming every new murder on Jack the Ripper.

‘‘Ripper” makes the most of its era’s emerging technology and depicts characters getting the hang of typewriters and very early motion pictures (employed in the pilot episode to make history’s first pornographic snuff film). As such, it can be appreciated as the dark, occasionally depraved opposite of “Downton Abbey,” where period characters also wrestle with newfangled gadgets.

With the exception of the overarching Ripper mystery, “Ripper” sums up its detective stories in each episode. In that way, it’s a late 19th-century take on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

Saturday’s other highlights

• A pampered rich woman loses it all and regroups at her father’s bakery in the 2013 romantic comedy “The Sweeter Side of Life” (8 p.m., Hallmark).

• Ricky Gervais, Karl Pilkington and Warwick Davis return for a third helping of the travel series “An Idiot Abroad” (8 p.m., Science). First up: Venice and Macedonia.

• The gang plays an “end of the world”-themed party on “Wedding Band” (9 p.m., TBS).

• Real life podcasters Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have semi-scripted misadventures on the new series “Stuff You Should Know” (9 p.m., Science), based on a podcast of the same name.

• Fresh from a brash acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, actress Jennifer Lawrence hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guests the Lumineers.

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