FIRE AND ICE indeed! The arrival of NHL playoffs (see highlights below) and the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO, TV-MA) have nothing to do with each other. But they share similarities.
Both attract a passionate audience who care deeply about their outcomes. At the same time, both mean absolutely nothing to a large number of non-viewers.
To listen to fans of “Game of Thrones” or its promoters, it is simply the most important pop cultural event of the year. Maybe the century! It’s certainly a big deal to HBO, and inarguably a fantastically expensive spectacle.
At the same time, it’s a show about imaginary kingdoms, made-up languages and magical dragons. Exactly the kind of material that some find extremely skippable.
The popularity of “Game of Thrones” coincides with the rise of comic books as the most common source for blockbuster films. Part of the appeal of genre fiction and Comic-Con culture is their combination of popularity and exclusivity. Readers, fans and viewers love them more precisely because so many other people don’t “get” them.
I write this, not to knock “Game” or its viewers, but to celebrate a medium that has so many choices that one can easily ignore the biggest thing around. And not miss a thing. After all, even the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting and television event of the year, is ignored by more than 200 million Americans.
• Time was, movies and television adapted blockbuster novels, books so well-read that they were said to have universal appeal. A familiar story for more than a century and a half, Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel “Les Miserables” has been adapted for “Masterpiece” (9 p.m. Sunday, PBS) by screenwriter Andrew Davies (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Bleak House” and the original “House of Cards”). Understand from the outset, this is not a musical.
Seen recently in the beautifully produced 2018 biopic “Collette,” Dominic West (“The Affair,” “The Wire”) stars as the conflicted ex-convict and fugitive Jean Valjean. David Oyelowo (“Selma”) portrays his pursuer, Javert, and Lily Collins portrays the innocent seamstress Fantine.
A tale of overlapping melodramas, “Miserables” weaves a tale of cruelty and redemption, love and indifference in post-Napoleonic France. An epic production makes the most of its settings in Paris and the French countryside. A game cast includes David Bradley (“Game of Thrones,” “Harry Potter”) and Derek Jacobi (“Gladiator”).
• The world has never been more interconnected. It’s never been easier to travel abroad or communicate with anyone a world away. At the same time, many have embraced a fear of other people, other traditions and different experiences. Frightened people think that exposure to foreigners presents a risk of crime, subversion or disease. Curious people ask, what do we have to learn from each other?
The new series “Chasing Life With Dr. Sanjay Gupta” (9 p.m. Saturday, CNN) will visit six countries over as many episodes to discover how people in other societies address aging, stress, health care and the work-life balance.
First up, Gupta travels to Japan, home of one of the world’s largest cities, to see how residents cope with stress. He’ll also visit the island of Okinawa, a place called “Land of the Immortals,” because of the longevity of its population.
Over its course, “Chasing Life” will discuss heart health in Bolivia; the Norwegian approach to happiness; the health effects of an Italian diet; Turkey’s tradition of alternative medicine; and India’s ancient yoga practices.
• “Live From the Masters” (7 p.m., Golf, TV-G).
• NASCAR action (7:30 p.m., Fox).
• Kidnappers seize a Russian ballerina on “Ransom” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins meet in Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals (8 p.m., NBC).
• A rugged fisherman discovers a bottle containing a heartfelt note from a lovelorn lady in the 2019 romance “Bottled With Love” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• A young woman’s attitude toward her casual boyfriend changes when she discovers his Singapore family’s status and wealth in the 2018 romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” (8 p.m., HBO).
• A mother worries when her daughter vanishes in the 2019 shocker “Secrets in a Small Town” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14). Not to be confused with “Girl in a Bunker” (10 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14), from 2017.
• NBA playoff action (8:30 p.m., ABC).
• “Nate & Jeremiah by Design” (9 p.m., TLC, TV-PG) enters its third season.
• Emma Stone hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest BTS.
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): a profile of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; “Game of Thrones”; the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
• The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets meet in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals (7 p.m., NBCSN).
• Henry Chase emerges on the season finale of “God Friended Me” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
• Competitors face deep cuts on “World of Dance” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
• A prison break on “Supergirl” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG).
• Villanelle seeks shelter on “Killing Eve” (8 p.m., AMC, BBC America, TV-14).
• The Super Bowl inspires a gambling geyser on the season finale of “Action” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
• Demons and binges don’t mix on “Charmed” (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
• Peter tries to rattle Diana on “A Discovery of Witches” (9 p.m., AMC, BBC America, TV-14).
• Elizabeth prepares her candidacy on “Madam Secretary” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
• Ruby pushes boundaries on “Good Girls” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Jonah’s choice of words invites scrutiny on “Veep” (10:30 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
A desperate press agent (Tony Curtis) handles the personal dirty work of a powerful columnist (Burt Lancaster) in the quotable 1957 drama “Sweet Smell of Success” (6 p.m. Sunday, TCM, TV-PG).
“NBA Countdown” (8 p.m., ABC) ... Fellow Marines become opposing counsel on “The Code” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “48 Hours” (10 p.m., CBS).
“American Idol” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Love hurts on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) ... A wayward guidance counselor on “Bob’s Burgers” (8:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG).
Sam vows to help a fellow SEAL on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... On two helpings of “Family Guy” (Fox, r, TV-14), gender confusion (9 p.m.), a health scare (9:30 p.m.) ... A game inventor enters the “Shark Tank” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).