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

Get to know a literary giant in American Masters—Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

Amy Tan
Amy Tan
Photo: KPJR Films

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Monday, May 3. All times are Eastern. 


Top pick

American Masters—Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (PBS, 9 p.m.): “I am not the subject matter of mothers and daughters or Chinese culture. I am a writer compelled by a subconscious neediness to know, which is a perpetual state of uncertainty, and a tether to the past.”

PBS’s reliable American Masters turns its gaze to acclaimed novelist Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, The Hundred Secret Senses) in Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, the last film from director James Redford. It premiered at Sundance back in February, but will make its way to PBS tonight for a debut timed to Asian American And Pacific Islander Heritage Month. But Viewers Like You are likely to find added relevance in Redford’s portrait of Tan as we face down a global mental health crisis. The film explores how Tan’s writing career began as a mental break from a taxing job, as the writer “opens up to Redford with remarkable frankness about traumas she’s faced in her life and how her writing has helped her heal,” per a press release.

Regular coverage

Wild cards

Pray, Obey, Kill (HBO, 9 p.m., docuseries finale): “The series attempts to understand and untangle the tight-knit Pentecostal congregation of a community where abuse of power led to devastating losses. The drawn-out storytelling dulls the vitality of this real-life tragedy, but the case, which garnered international attention, and the bizarre town where it took place (at one point, a police officer dubs it as their version of Twin Peaks) is enough to keep viewer interest.” Read the rest of Saloni Gajjar’s capsule review.

Inside The Tower Of London, “Lady Jane Grey” (Smithsonian, 8 p.m.): Look alive, history nerds! (It’s us, we’re the history nerds.) This series on the history (much of it bloody) of the centuries-old prison/palace/executioner’s paradise/fancy jewelry repository spends an hour on the short life of the “Nine Days’ Queen.” The video below isn’t a trailer for the episode, but it is a video in which kids tell the story of her brief reign and execution with construction paper figures, so, you know, similar.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls, “Danny Trejo in the Moab Desert” (NatGeo, 9 p.m.): Danny Trejo alert!

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!