Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

All roads lead to Lovecraft Country

Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country
Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Sunday, August 30. All times are Eastern.


Top pick

Lovecraft Country (HBO, 9 p.m.): Last week’s gripping episode of Lovecraft Country ended on a humdinger of a scene. Here’s Joelle Monique on the terrific final act of “Whitey’s On The Moon”:

In the final scene of splendid horror, Lovecraft Country careens back into allegory as Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey’s On The Moon” plays over a scene of mystic horror. The song articulates the distance Black Americans feel they must travel to reach equity with their white neighbors. Atticus agrees to try to open the door to the Garden Of Eden in exchange for saving George and Leti’s lives. Surrounded by the wealthy elite, too high up the food chain to associate with Klan, George’s body is ripped asunder by an electrical current. George is dealing with some form of PTSD, he’s trying to make amends with a father who is completely lost to the world, and his only real companions are his books. Yet he must pay with his body a toll for Samuel to enter the garden where Samuel might live forever. No one even thinks to explain the possible damage that could befall Atticus.

This week, Leti tries to make things right with her sister, Atticus struggles with feelings of guilt, and Joelle Monique recaps while hoping against hope that we haven’t seen the last of Courtney B. Vance’s George.

Regular coverage

Wild cards

Time for another wild card lightning round.

Love Fraud (Showtime, 9 p.m., docuseries premiere): This excellent four-part docuseries from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) manages the neat trick of somehow creating a slow-burn narrative that’s immediately arresting. Ewing and Grady’s cameras follow a group of women ruthlessly defrauded by the same conman as they take steps to fight back. Expect to be riveted, furious, and deeply frustrated that you can’t watch part two until next week.

United Shades Of America (CNN, 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., back-to-back episodes, fifth-season finale): W. Kamau Bell wraps things up for the year with “Iranian-Americans In NY” and “The Homeless Crisis In LA.”

Helter Skelter: An American Myth (Epix, 10 p.m., docuseries finale): “Charles Manson may have been a product of the American penal system, but many people grow up under similar circumstances and don’t start deranged cults. Presenting Manson as a symptom of a diseased culture is where Helter Skelter indulges in some myth-making of its own, as well as in its frequent use of Manson’s music, sometimes accompanied by blurry re-enactments of women adoringly watching him play guitar—unintentionally hilarious, given how mediocre the music actually is.” Read the rest of Katie Rife’s pre-air review.

2020 MTV VMAs (MTV and The CW, 8 p.m.): This year’s sure-to-be-extra-surreal Video Music Awards will broadcast simultaneously on both MTV and The CW. Host Keke Palmer will introduce outdoor performances (with small or no live audiences) from artists like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, BTS, Doja Cat, and others. There’s also a pre-show thing at 6:30 on MTV, if you want to watch people who crave attention attempt to get some when there are no crowds around.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO, 11 p.m.): A lot is happening right now. John Oliver, as usual, has thoughts, and will share them from his strange white void.