THE ANTHOLOGY series “True Detective” (9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday, HBO, TV-MA) returns for a third season. Creator Nic Pizzolatto also serves as co-writer on every episode. The first season of “True” was a revelation, profoundly literary, blending elements of pulp fiction and deeper, darker themes that had this critic comparing it to Dostoyevsky. The second season was so forgettable that cheeky promoters for FX’s “Fargo,” another novelistic series from a single writer, promised that their show would not suffer a “sophomore slump.”
Much like the first season, this “Detective” plays with our sense of time, linear storytelling and memory. Detectives Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”) and Roland West (Stephen Dorff, “Somewhere”) investigate the disappearance of two children from a broken home in a hardscrabble corner of the Ozarks. The story ricochets around the decades, from 1980, when the children go missing, to 1990, when new evidence prompts a fresh investigation, to the present day, when a documentary filmmaker probes unanswered questions.
Not to give too much away, but the case brings Wayne close to a local schoolteacher, Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo), with close ties to the missing children. By 1990, they are married and have children of their own, and Amelia has become somewhat celebrated for the book she wrote about the case. By present day, she has departed, and so have some of Wayne’s memory and mental faculties.
Like the best of the first season, this “Detective” asks us to think about the different natures of reporting, remembering and recollecting facts and memories from the recent and distant past. Not unlike the first two seasons of “Fargo,” this series also explores the unspoken impact of war on veterans.
Wayne’s prowess as a sleuth is based at least in part on his experience as a tracker during the Vietnam War, a soldier sent out on his own to hunt down and kill enemy forces, often alone for days and weeks at a time. The havoc that such experiences have played on Wayne’s conscious and subconscious life is among the more harrowing aspects of this series.
Clearly part of the prestige television revolution of the post-”Sopranos” era (now in its 20th year), “True Detective” also reflects some of the shortcomings of the long form. Not every story is worthy of eight hours of your time.
• Exploring a bygone, vanished epoch that is only 25 years in our past, the six-part miniseries “Valley of the Boom” (9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic, TV-14) profiles some of the visionaries behind the development of the internet.
Blending scripted elements and documentary-style talking-head observations from some of its surviving subjects, “Boom” looks at Marc Andreessen (John Karna), one of the coders behind the Netscape browser; Stephan Paternot (Dakota Shapiro) and Todd Krizelman (Oliver Cooper), whose TheGlobe.com chat room presaged social media giants like Facebook; and Michael Fenne (Steve Zahn), a stranger-than-fiction character who dreamed of a world where folks streamed video on the web.
The combination of retrospective interviews with scripted drama acknowledges that while the audience knows (or may have forgotten) how this story ends, it was still very much history in the making.
• Speaking of history, CNN launches the four-part documentary series “American Style” (9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday).
It takes a decade-by-decade look at how changing fashions and the evolving design of cars, homes, appliances and furniture reflected American society. It begins in the 1940s and explores how war and rationing impacted what people wore and how subsequent prosperity and confidence affected fashion.
More than most survey histories, “Style” is grounded in scholarship by a chorus of experts, designers and industry insiders, including Tim Gunn, Donna Karan, Andre Leon Talley, Christie Brinkley, Isaac Mizrahi, Vanessa Williams and Diane von Furstenberg.
• The Los Angeles Rams host the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Round playoff (8 p.m., Fox).
• On two helpings of “The Good Doctor” (ABC, r, TV-14), a grim choice (8 p.m.), airborne contagion (9 p.m.).
• After her father’s sudden death, a daughter returns home to “My Mother’s Split Personalities” (8 p.m., Lifetime).
• Delilah struggles with her big news on “A Million Little Things” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): An interview with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.); an architect who turned his blindness into a professional advantage; China’s bet on artificial intelligence.
• Daniel Radcliffe stars in the 2001 adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Taye Diggs hosts the 24th Annual Critics Choice Awards (7 p.m., CW).
• Lisa imagines life in a more cultured family on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG), featuring the voices of Broadway star Patti LuPone and NPR host Terry Gross.
• Fashion proprietors envision a charitable payoff on “Shark Tank” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
• “Victoria” on “Masterpiece” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) enters its third season, followed by a documentary look at “Victoria & Albert: The Wedding” (10 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
• Ray wraps up loose ends with his father on the season finale of “Ray Donovan” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
• Delicate negotiations on “Madam Secretary” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• John and Debra’s relationship takes a surprising turn on the season finale of the eight-part adaptation of the podcast “Dirty John” (10 p.m., Bravo, TV-14).
A wayward experiment turns a scientist into “The Fly” (8 p.m. Saturday, TCM), a 1958 shocker starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens and Vincent Price. “Help me!”
Hetty withstands torture on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... Dwayne Johnson presents “The Titan Games” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... Champions perform on “America’s Got Talent” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... Two hours of “48 Hours” (9 p.m. and 10 p.m., CBS).
Kids’ culinary mishaps on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Too many requests on “God Friended Me” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Matchmaking on “Bob’s Burgers” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Weapons of mass destruction on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Peter becomes the new White House press secretary on “Family Guy” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Rel returns to Cleveland on the season finale of “Rel” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
Automated travel on “Shark Tank” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC).