BY DEAN ROBBINS
In 16th century France, the virginal Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane), is swept up in palace intrigue. Her fiancé (Toby Regbo) cares less for her than he does for France, nattering on about the political advantage of their union. An evil queen (Megan Follows) plots against her, while her ladies-in-waiting indulge in Elizabethan-style naughtiness. All the French characters worry about English plots, even though, puzzlingly, they all speak with English accents.
The new drama Reign (8 p.m. Thursday, CW) is basically Gossip Girl in doublets and puffy sleeves — a soap opera about beautiful young people and their transgressive behavior. But it has an advantage over Gossip Girl, in that transgressive behavior was much more dangerous in the 16th century than it is in our own permissive times.
Great Performances 40th Anniversary Celebration 9 p.m. Friday (PBS)
Great Performances takes a night to remember four decades’ worth of broadcasts, from plays to ballets to operas to musicals to symphonic concerts. As Julie Andrews points out, such art forms have no place on commercial TV, making this PBS series quite a public service. Rarely does the phrase “your tax dollars at work” have such a pleasant ring to it.
Audra McDonald, David Hyde Pierce and other guest stars testify that they watched Great Performances as kids and thought, “I’d like to be a performer, too.” No doubt a new generation of kids is watching the celebration tonight. I hope I’m around in 40 years to see what it inspires them to do.
Masters of Sex 9 p.m. Sunday (Showtime)