Senior Year on ‘grown-ish,’ Sophomoric ‘Gossip Girl’ Reboot, Backyard Bar Wars, Back to the ‘Heartland’
Freeform’s collegiate black-ish spinoff, grown-ish, heads into its senior year. HBO Max updates Gossip Girl with a racier reboot. truTV orchestrates Backyard Bar Wars in a comedic competition. Canada’s longest-running drama returns for its 14th season.
How time flies. In the college-set black-ish spinoff, Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is heading into her senior year, returning to Cal U after a sabbatical on the road as a professional stylist. But first, summer break beckons the crew to Mexico for fun in the sun and a considerable amount of relationship drama, including Zoey and Aaron (Trevor Jackson) becoming a couple.
How time flies. It has been almost a decade since the original series about New York’s overprivileged Upper East Side youth shut down its scandalous blog. A toxic spinoff, majoring in attitude over coherence, updates the franchise to the social-media age of Instagram and Twitter, introducing a clique of glam and diverse TikTrash poseurs whose smartphones should all be confiscated for human-rights abuse. One neat twist involves the identity of the new Gossip Girl, targeting these insufferable students who look more suited for grad than elite high school. But even that gimmick grows stale after the umpteenth noxious tweet. (See the full review.)
Backyard Bar Wars
Spoofing DIY home-renovation shows, this latest companion piece to Impractical Jokers (returning at 10/9c) hopes to have laughter on tap as neighboring builders compete to create at-home bars for a $10,000 prize while comedian/host Chris Distefano eggs them on. The opener sets up a “Magician’s Lair” against a “Village Bunker Bar” in what promises to be a spirited contest.
Now in its 14th season, this family heartwarmer set in the foothills of the Rockies is Canada’s longest-running scripted drama ever. (The show has already been renewed for a 15th season.) Now airing exclusively on UPtv, and streaming on UP Faith & Family, the show returns with a one-year time jump and opens on a jarring emotional note, as Amy (Amber Marshall) deals with a life-changing loss while Lou (Michelle Morgan) learns that being mayor of Hudson, Alberta has unexpected challenges.
The Good Fight
A controversial new client spurs the firm to take on a hot-potato issue: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social-media sites from the consequences of posting fake and/or libelous third-party content—and yes, there’s a catchy “Good Fight Short” musical interlude to help explain it). This means going after their former top client, Chumhum, in a case featuring a number of stars currently on hiatus from a shuttered Broadway: Bebe Neuwirth, Marc Kudisch, Aaron Tveit. Another provocative subplot embroils Diane’s (Christine Baranski) husband Kurt (Gary Cole) in fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, with quirky FBI agent Madeline Starkey (Jane Lynch) leading the enquiry. And why is the firm’s lobby suddenly flooded with Build-a-Bears? Blame Marissa (Sarah Steele) and her moonlighting over at wacky Judge Wackner’s (Mandy Patinkin) “little clubhouse of the law.”
Also on the Stream:
- Looney Tunes Cartoons (streaming on HBO Max): Th-th-there’s more, folks! The revival of classic Warner Bros. animation is back with 10 new episodes of gut-busting shorts featuring favorites including Bugs Bunny (playing streetball), Daffy Duck (as Porky Pig’s emotional support duck), Tweety and Sylvester, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote and many more.
- The Dog House: UK (streaming on HBO Max): Prepare to go through at least a box of tissues during the nine-episode second season of the British series set at a rural rescue center, where abandoned dogs are paired with eager humans on a first date to see if there’s a connection that could lead to adoption. This is my idea of a relationship show.
- Motherland (streaming on Sundance Now and AMC+): The acclaimed British comedy about neurotic parenting returns for a six-episode third season suitable for bingeing. In the Mother’s Day episode, Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley guests as Amanda’s (Lucy Punch) bitter mother, showing up for a passive-aggressive lunch.
Inside Thursday TV:
- Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals (8/7c, ESPN2): After sitting out the pandemic year of 2020, the whiz kids are back for the final round of spelling words most of us can’t even pronounce. (A play-along version airs on ESPNU.)
- Jimmy Kimmel Live: NBA Finals Game Night (8/7c, 8:30 pm/PT): In advance of the second game (or afterwards on the West Coast), host Anthony Anderson gets things warmed up with guests Nick Kroll, Chiney Ogwumike and Macy Gray & The California Jet Club.
- Keeping Up with the Joneses (8/7c, Lifetime Movie Network): Executive producer Vivica A. Fox stars in a three-part movie series (continuing the next two Thursdays) as the widow of a wealthy Californian whose control of the family real-estate business comes under attack from without and within.
- CMT Campfire Sessions (9/8c, CMT): Country star Kelsea Ballerini gathers friends to share music and stories around a campfire in an intimate acoustic set of her #1 hits.