Conan Signs Off, ‘Clarice’ and ‘Al’ Finales, ‘The Good Fight’ and ‘Making It’ Return, RuPaul’s ‘All Stars’
Conan O’Brien ends his decade-long run in late night on TBS, but he’ll be back—on HBO Max. Clarice, the struggling sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, ends its first season with no clear path to a second, while the sitcom United States of Al, also wrapping for the season, has already been renewed. NBC brings back its heartwarming crafts competition Making It, delightfully hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. Change is afoot on a new season of The Good Fight on Paramount+, which also launches a new round of the campy RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.
What a wild ride it has been for Conan O’Brien in the turbulent world of late-night TV. He succeeded despite a rocky start with his breakthrough Late Night with Conan O’Brien, then graduated—briefly—to The Tonight Show in what is now seen as a corporate debacle for NBC, and finally landed on cable as the funky outlier he has always proudly been. In the finale of his TBS show, he looks back over his 11-year run in a retrospective hour, with Jack Black as his scheduled guest. But we haven’t seen the last from Conan. He’s already gearing up for a weekly variety show that will stream on HBO Max. It’s good to know that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will still have a home.
This has not been an easy season for network series that cut against the formula grain. The Silence of the Lambs sequel, starring an impressive Rebecca Breeds as work-in-progress FBI Agent Clarice Starling, is darker and more complex than the typical CBS procedural, and prospects of a second season on streaming are looking iffy. Which is too bad, because the finale goes to extremes in its violent, creepy conclusion to the Alastor Pharmaceuticals “River Murders” case. Once again, Clarice is in peril when she becomes a captive of mad mogul Nils Hagen (Peter McRobbie) and his conflicted son Ty (Douglas Smith), finding herself caged alongside trafficked women in an abandoned animal-testing facility. She and Ty are both damaged from serious daddy issues, but Clarice takes strength from facing her bitter truth, leading to a memorable showdown.
United States of Al
Nowhere near as daring, but awfully well-meaning, the sitcom from Chuck Lorre’s hit factory has already been guaranteed a second season. Al wraps its first with the former Afghan interpreter Al (Adhir Kalyan) teaming with his buddy’s estranged ex, Vanessa (Kelli Goss), to convince Marine veteran Riley (Parker Young) to accept the benefits from his military service so he can move on with life.
“We’re all about fun this year,” crows Amy Poehler as a third season of the lovable crafting competition gets underway. It’s the rare show where you’ll hear a contestant say, “I’m not here for competition. I’m here to make friends.” And indeed, the celebration is genuine when any one of them scores a win in the Faster Craft and Master Craft challenges, which in the premiere are deeply personal and often very moving. “We love crying on this show,” Amy insists, and her co-host Nick Offerman seems to agree. Even gruff Nick gets misty-eyed when he learns one of the makers is related to one of his baseball idols. Making It is guaranteed to make you smile.
The Good Fight
The fifth season of the playfully sophisticated and politically charged legal drama gets off to a rousing start with an extended “previously on …” recap. Not about what happened on the show last year, but what happened to all of the members of this Chicago law firm while we were otherwise occupied in the challenging year of 2020. It’s a year of transition, with COVID-19, the George Floyd national trauma, the death of RBG, the November election, up to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. In the wake of these events, and the departure of some of the firm’s top talent, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Liz Lawrence (Audra McDonald) are now running things, but a corporate identity crisis leaves them wondering if they should identify as a woman-led company or a Black firm, which could leave Diane on the outside looking in.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Sashay your way to a sixth season of the Emmy-winning drag competition’s all-star spinoff, launching with two episodes including a variety-show extravaganza that features a cameo appearance by Miss Piggy. Each episode also includes an “Untucked All Stars” after-show. The competition is fierce, with fan favorites from past seasons including All Stars vets Ginger Minj, Pandora Boxx and Yara Sofia.
Inside Thursday TV:
- When Nature Calls with Helen Mirren (8/7c, ABC): The silly summer season gets even sillier with the premiere of a nature-series spoof hosted by the Oscar winning actress (who has parodied a presenting gig before, on Documentary Now!). She narrates documentary footage of animals in their habitat, with comedians giving voice to these creatures. If the preview clips are any indication, expect groaners, not howls.
- Legacies (9/8, The CW): The fantasy series’ third season ends with Kaleb (Chris Lee) and MG (Quincy Fouse) going on their first official superhero mission.
- Good Girls (9/8c, NBC): Still awaiting news of a fifth-season renewal, the comedic thriller moves to a new night with back-to-back episodes, as our ladies of larceny try to figure out how to smuggle the fake cash, a scheme that takes another turn when Stan (Reno Wilson) gets involved.
- Reunion Road Trip (9/8c, E!); It’s a college homecoming for A Different World alums including Sinbad, Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy, Dawnn Lewis, Darryl M. Bell and Cree Summer as the cast of the fondly remembered Cosby Show spinoff looks back on the issue-oriented sitcom. Executive producers Debbie Allen and Susan Fales-Hill join the conversation.
On the Stream:
- LFG (streaming on HBO Max): An in-your-face documentary (the letters stand for “Let’s F—ing Go”) follows the U.S. women’s soccer team’s very public campaign to fight for equal pay.
- Innocent (streaming on Sundance Now): A second season of the twisty British drama anthology stars Katherine Kelly as a teacher convicted five years earlier of murdering a student and accused of sleeping with another. Now freed after the discovery of new evidence, she tries to put her life back together after losing her job and her husband (Jamie Bamber), whose fiancée falls under suspicion.
- Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell (streaming on Peacock): A three-part investigative documentary explores the sordid relationship between the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who’s currently awaiting trial on multiple sex-trafficking charges.
- Sisters on Track (streaming on Netflix): An uplifting sports documentary profiles Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard, young sisters from a tight-knit Brooklyn family who achieved fame (and a Sports Illustrated Kids cover in 2016) when they scored wins in track and field at the Junior Olympics.
- Yellowstone Supervolcano: American Doomsday (streaming on discovery+): Seven miles below the iconic national park lies a potential natural disaster: a supervolcano that could unleash a global crisis should it ever erupt. Geologists and other experts use CGI to imagine the worst-case scenario while also revealing technology being used to help avert the threat.