Viewers prone to panic attacks should probably avoid the new “War of the Worlds” (9 p.m. Sunday, Epix, TV-14) adaptation. Hardy souls in search of compelling television might stick around.
H.G. Wells’ tale of an invasion from Mars has been updated once again. Set in Europe, this dystopian tale begins in subtitled French at a radar installation in the Alps, where scientists detect a steady, unnatural pulse emanating from a distant galaxy.
Before we know it, and before the pilot ends, an alien force arrives with savage intent. But before this terrifying moment, we’re introduced to a series of minor subplots and soap operas. Gabriel Byrne lends his Irish accent to occasional voiceovers. He’s also Bill Ward, a brilliant neurosurgeon whose life has been upended by divorce and the loss of his wife, Helen (Elizabeth McGovern). Tales of an estranged teen daughter, a wandering husband, an illegal immigrant and others give us stories to hang on to as (spoiler alert) the number of humans left on Earth dwindles to a precious few.
As stated above, “War” offers a startling look at a city gripped in fear as thousands try to flee, even as word of imminent attack arrives. It’s heart-pounding stuff, artfully presented.
— Sporting a pedigree including “Parks & Recreation” (Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones), “The Simpsons” (Mike and Julie Thacker Scully), “Modern Family” (Ty Burrell) and the animation team behind “Bob’s Burgers,” the new Fox cartoon “Duncanville” (8:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox, TV-14) arrives to replace “Bless the Harts.”
Over its three-decade run, “The Simpsons” has occasionally offered a view of a grown-up Bart. It’s never been pretty. All of the anarchy and energy that make him impish as a child tend to curdle in his later years. It’s hard not to think of Duncan (Amy Poehler) as a teenage Bart. Instead of Bart’s treehouse, his friends gather in an abandoned trailer. Only the innocence, energy and ignorance of childhood has given way to smug muttering and lame sexual innuendos.
The worst part of “Duncanville” is that it’s almost entirely about Duncan. His sad dad, Jack (Burrell), is seen as a delusional, pony-tailed sensitive type desperate to have a “moment” with his lazy progeny. Unlike Homer Simpson, who is every bit as selfish as his son, Jack is a one-note boomer joke seen dropping Springsteen references and cradling his Kansas LPs while singing “Dust in the Wind.”
While it’s never fair to compare any cartoon series to “The Simpsons,” this effort lacks that show’s broad cast of characters and bizarre yet consistent community. Duncan has no foil, no Lisa to his Bart. As the title implies, “Duncanville” is all about the boy. And he’s decidedly uninteresting.
— After a hospital mishap, an ambitious coder (Jane Levy) can suddenly hear the songs running through other people’s heads, turning her life turns into a Karaoke machine on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
This series borrows everything from “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” except originality. A rerun of the pilot (8 p.m., TV-14) precedes this time slot premiere.
— Blending interviews, historical re-enactments and a soundtrack of contemporary songs, History celebrates Presidents Day weekend with a three-night “Washington” (8 p.m. Sunday, TV-14) miniseries.
— The Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche meet in NHL action (8 p.m., NBC).
— A neurotic stereotype (Jake Borelli) encounters the guy (Niko Terho) who bullied him in high school, only to discover that his former tormentor has come out of the closet, opening the door to a potential rom-com-type encounter in the 2020 comedy “The Thing About Harry” (8 p.m., Freeform, TV-14).
— Raped by a casual acquaintance, a law student decides to give birth to her attacker’s baby in the 2020 shocker “You Can’t Take My Daughter” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
— In New York to appear on a reality show, a small-town baker reconnects with her ex in the 2020 romance “The Secret Ingredient” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
— “Seven Worlds, One Planet” (9 p.m., BBC America, AMC, Sundance, IFC) explores the biodiversity of Europe.
— Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): Ukraine and impeachment; Australia’s wildfires and a Broadway revival for “West Side Story.”
— “American Idol” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) enters its 18th season.
— “A Very British Romance With Lucy Worsley” (8 p.m., PBS) recalls the social and economic forces that shaped 19th-century ideas of courtship and marriage.
— The 2020 NBA All-Star Game (8 p.m., TNT).
— Adopted canines work the catwalk on the 2020 American Rescue Dog Show (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
— Nostalgia doesn’t get much more morbid than “Autopsy: The Last Hours of Florence Henderson” (8 p.m., Reelz, TV-14).
— “Outlander” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA) returns for a fifth season.
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson hosts the reboot of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (9 p.m., HGTV).
— Confusion continues on “The Outsider” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
— Carrie encounters an old sidekick on “Homeland” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
— Beth makes a new friend on the third season premiere of “Good Girls” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
— A convict becomes his own lawyer on the repeat pilot episode of “For Life” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
— Max needs Oskar’s help on the season finale of “Vienna Blood” (10 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
— The six-part series “Slow Burn” (10 p.m., Epix) adapts the podcast history of the Watergate saga.
— “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (11 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) returns for a seventh season.
— Nazi cruelty inspires a heartbroken cynic (Humphrey Bogart) to join his former lover’s (Ingrid Bergman) husband’s (Paul Heinreid) cause in the 1942 wartime propaganda romance “Casablanca” (8 p.m. Saturday, TCM, TV-PG), arguably the most quoted movie of all time.
With benefits on “God Friended Me” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … Professional boxing (8 p.m., Fox) … On three helpings of “The Rookie” (ABC, r, TV-14), sophomore year (8 p.m.), this old house (9 p.m.), graveside manner (10 p.m.).
Pride goeth on “NCIS: New Orleans” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) … “48 Hours” (10 p.m., CBS).
A soulmate checkmate “God Friended Me” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … STEMing the tide on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … Sob sisters on “Batwoman” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
A poetry project on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … Gym dandies on “Bob’s Burgers” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … Choices on “Supergirl” (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG) … The unkindest cut on “Family Guy” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … Undercover as a new recruit on “NCIS: New Orleans” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).