‘Top Chef Amateurs,’ Mandy Patinkin’s ‘Good Fight,’ A Month of Elvis, Martha Gets Down and Dirty, ‘No Sudden Move’
On another overstuffed Thursday, Bravo’s excellent cooking competition Top Chef signs off while adding a terrific new amateur spinoff. Mandy Patinkin joins the cast of The Good Fight as a most unusual judge. TCM names Elvis Presley its star of the month. Martha Stewart gets her hands dirty—in the garden—in a new lifestyle show.
Top Chef Amateurs
One of TV’s best cooking competitions wastes no time launching its latest spinoff. And it’s a winner. As soon as Top Chef (8/7c) christens this season’s champion in the 18th-season finale, after the finalists prepare the most important four-course meals of their lives, Gail Simmons returns to host this brisk, enjoyable Amateurs version. Superfans, each overwhelmed to find themselves in the spacious Top Chef kitchen, take on a classic challenge—usually involving two dishes with a tight one-hour deadline—working side by side with one of their Top Chef alum idols. “Imagine being a kid and watching your favorite movie, then suddenly being a part of that movie,” gushes Basil, a pharmacist and contestant in the second of a two-part premiere. Think of it as First Chance Kitchen (a play on the Last Chance Kitchen franchise, where eliminated chef-testants get to work their way back onto the show). The 30-minute episodes fly by as the newbie enthusiasts get a taste of the Top Chef pressure cooker.
The Good Fight
What’s Mandy Patinkin doing on this terrific legal dramedy? That’s what everyone would like to know as the series settles into its fifth season with the second episode. “Is this a real court?” wonders investigator-turned-legal intern Marissa (Sarah Steele) when she brings a client into the ad-hoc courtroom of the well-named Judge Wackner. His nameplate is a license plate, his court is in the backroom of a copy shop, his chambers is a supply closet, and his demeanor is no less quirky. “I like the truth that is found in sudden utterances,” Wackner declares after overruling an objection. It’s too much for Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), babbling: “What is this? I’m losing my mind. This isn’t real.” The episode also introduces the promising Charmaine Bingwa as first-year associate Carmen Moyo, whose profile at the firm rises unexpectedly quickly after an encounter with a drug-kingpin client (Tony Plana).
July is Elvis Month on TCM, which celebrates “Star of the Month” Elvis Presley with a prime-time spotlight each Thursday in July. The fun starts with two 1960s’ fan favorites: 1964’s Kissin’ Cousins, where he plays a dual role in the Smoky Mountains, and 1967’s Double Trouble (10/9c), as a rock star in London. Overnight movies include 1967’s Clambake (midnight/11c) and 1968’s Live a Little, Love a Little (2 am/1c).
Martha Gets Down and Dirty
It’s not exactly Green Acres, but Martha Stewart isn’t afraid to get in the trenches when it comes to preparing her Bedford, N.Y. farm for the summer. Launching with three episodes, Stewart’s latest lifestyle series showcases her green thumb as she removes dead trees from her property, plants with the help of a seed vibrator—is that the dirty part?—fires up the barbecue grill and visits virtually with famous friends. Early guests include Kim Kardashian West and Tiffany Haddish, each learning some gardening tips, and Today’s Al Roker, sharing his famous BBQ rub recipe.
No Sudden Move
Director Steven Soderbergh’s second film for the streamer—after last year’s Meryl Streep vehicle Let Them All Talk—is a crime caper set in 1950s Detroit, about a group of petty criminals whose mission to steal a document goes perilously sideways. The impressive cast features Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser, Succession’s Kieran Culkin, Ray Liotta, Bill Duke and The Undoing’s young breakout star Noah Jupe.
Why Women Kill
A pivotal episode of the farcical dark comedy finds housewife Alma (Allison Tolman) so provoked by her archnemesis Rita (Lana Parrilla) that she enlists her hubby Bertram (Nick Frost) in a scheme to make Rita a widow—and potential murder suspect. While Alma’s daughter Dee (B.K. Cannon) contemplates her own uncertain future, her PI beau Vern (Jordane Christie) takes on a tawdry new assignment that could blow up everyone’s world.
On the Stream:
- For the kids: HBO Max premieres Tom and Jerry in New York, an animated series inspired by the recent movie. Peacock and Hulu share streaming rights for a second season of The Mighty Ones, a fanciful toon about the misadventures of the tiny objects—a twig, pebble, leaf and strawberry—that occupy an overgrown back yard.
- Archenemy (streaming on AMC+): True Blood’s Joe Manganiello stars in an action film as Max Fist, a self-proclaimed hero from another dimension who loses his superpowers when he lands on Earth—which doesn’t stop him from taking on a deadly drug syndicate.
- The Black American Fight for Freedom (streaming on BBC Select): Producer-director Des Daniels’ documentary examines the long struggle for equal rights and racial equality through a study of key court cases, Supreme Court rulings and laws that failed to bridge the divide in areas of education, housing and criminal justice.
- Audible (streaming on Netflix): A documentary short follows Maryland School for the Deaf athlete Amaree McKenstry and his friends through the highs and lows of senior year.
- Envoy Shark Cull (streaming on discovery+): Getting a jump on Shark Week later this month, this documentary (narrated by Eric Bana) exposes the activities of Australia’s Government Shark Control Program.
- Smother (streaming on Peacock): A six-part Irish thriller deals with a new widow who uncovers dark family secrets while trying to learn what and who may be responsible for her husband going over a cliff.
Inside Thursday TV:
- Diana: 7 Days (8/7c, BBC America and AMC+): On what would have been her 60th birthday, revisit the 2017 documentary detailing the shattering week that followed Princess Diana’s death in 1997. The special includes interviews with her sons William (then 15) and a 12-year-old Harry. Followed at 10/9c by the biographical portrait Diana: The Legacy of a Princess.
- Making It (8/7c, NBC): Instead of eliminating anyone in last week’s season opener, they added two more makers to the group in this lovable crafts-based competition. The theme this week is sharing, with a challenge to create a unique type of lending library.
- Reunion Road Trip (9/8c, E!): Members of the beloved Scrubs cast close out the season of this enjoyable nostalgia wallow, when Zach Braff reconnects with Sarah Chalke and Donald Faison on a search for Rowdy, the medical comedy’s iconic stuffed dog. Co-stars Robert Maschio (The Todd!) and Judy Reyes join in on the fun.
- Impractical Jokers Awards Show (10/9c, truTV): In a mock awards special, pranksters Joe, Q, Sal and Murr celebrate the best and most mortifying moments from 200+ hidden-camera episodes. Followed at 10:30/9:30c by the network premiere of 2020’s Impractical Jokers: The Movie.