Tuning in: On TV this week.
Sunday April 18
Spartacus: Part I (USA, 8-10 p.m.): Based on the novel by Howard Fast, and a rather tame remake of the Kirk Douglas spectacle of 1960, this rewrite emphasizes that revenge undermines the moral order of a community. As word reaches Rome that Spartacus has instigated an uprising of former slaves, the evil Crassus (Angus Macfadyen) and the more or less honorable Agrippa (the late Sir Alan Bates) agree on one thing: Spartacus's rebellion must be subdued. In the title role, Goran Visnjic gives the rebellious gladiator more than muscle and machismo - he makes Spartacus soulful. Part 2 continues Monday.
Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness (PBS, 9-11 p.m., Part II April 25, 9-11 p.m.): Helen Mirren is back! The lady sleuth sets her hounds on a Bosnian mass murderer this time - a war criminal who assassinates two Muslim women, who are refugees, on British soil. To say more is to give too much away - except that this is edge-of-the-seat viewing for all mystery and political conspiracy buffs. Most of the gore is off screen, although one autopsy is unsettling.
State of Play (BBC America, six one-hour episodes, Sundays through May 23, 9-10 p.m.): An ambitious member of Britain's Parliament becomes a suspect when the police investigate the death of his research assistant. The distraught man turns to an old friend, an investigative journalist, for help in finding the young beauty's killer. The story unspools, twisting and turning, from a smidgen of evidence into a giant web of villainy. Political conspiracies are back (this Sunday, at least), and this one is taut, intelligent, and thrilling.
The Long Shot (Hallmark Channel, 9-11 p.m.): Marsha Mason stars as famous horsewoman and breeder who hires a young woman proficient in dressage. Annie (Julie Benz) has been deserted by her husband, and all she has left in the world is her young daughter and her horse. But Annie has a rare gift with horses and, after a little help from her friends, she starts to rebound. It's a sweet family film, based on a true story.
The Restaurant (NBC, 10-11 p.m.): With cameras rolling 24/7, the very real strategies, personalities, and financial challenges involved in opening a restaurant turned into fascinating television last season. Friday night begins the second season of the hit reality show, composed of six episodes. It's high drama from the start for chef Rocco DiSpirito and his eatery as corporate backers move in like birds of prey to take over the strapped operation. Will the chef fight back or lie down for the steamroller?