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Our Staff Picks: TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 9, 2017

Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter, offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV.

Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s TV schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch it. This week, new series debuts star Tom Hardy, Jude Law and Bryan Cranston.

Taboo,” FX, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

Variety critic Sonia Soraiya wasn’t high on the series, writing in her review that the period drama is “ponderous and heavy-handed” and “wastes its talented actors on chiaroscuro and angst.” Still, other staffers in our newsroom have screened the first episode and were intrigued — plus, it’s Tom Hardy.

“Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America,” ABC, Thursday, 9 p.m.

Just a few days before the inauguration, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will make one of their final public appearances while in office at this televised event. Hailing from Don Mischer Productions, the two-hour star-studded special that celebrates African-American contributions to our culture through four centuries will welcome the likes of Tom Hanks, Angela Bassett, Dave Chappelle, Samuel L. Jackson, Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones, Jangle Monae, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Octavia Spencer, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder and more.

Sneaky Pete,” Amazon, Friday (CRITICS PICK)

Sneaky Pete” is both crime and caper, walking a fascinating and ultimately successful line between grit and hijinks. The show’s murderous sense of timing makes it feel like a Rube-Goldberg machine of episodic storytelling, where the audience is constantly imagining the many ways this precarious construction will fall to pieces. It’s a style that befits “Sneaky Pete’s” lead Marius (Giovanni Ribisi), a smooth-talking con man who is always extemporizing, adding frills to a con that is always on the verge of coming apart. Much like Marius, “Sneaky Pete” so throws itself into the art of selling the story that it is mostly convinced itself of every emotional beat; it lives in the moment with precise doling out of suspense and monologue, keeping the audience hooked.

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” Netflix, Friday

Neil Patrick Harris stars in Netflix’s latest series, which Variety critic Sonia Soraiya calls a “fantastic adaptation” of the original Lemony Snicket children’s books. In her review, she continues to rave about the “weird, wonderful masterpiece,” though she notes that Harris, who plays the villainous Count Olaf, falls a bit short with the tricky role. However, with the overall cast, the set pieces and performances, the series comes together for one “complete, considered vision.”

The Young Pope,” HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.

Jude Law counts as the latest A-lister to head to TV. In this 10-part miniseries, he plays an American who is elected to be the Pope, and our critics says he “delivers the goods” with the “intelligently meaty role.” Our review says the Paolo Sorrentino-directed project has a “delicious conceit and a more soap opera-ish narrative than previously seen, balancing outlandishness with trenchancy.”

Homeland,” Showtime, Sunday, 9 p.m.

Variety TV team staffers who have screened the first two episodes of Season 6 say the new episodes are better than ever. This season will cover a presidential election and will see the return of Quinn. To watch the official trailer, click here. To find out 10 things about Season 6, click here.

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