‘Archer,’ Remembering John Ritter and Charley Pride, The Bob Ross Legacy, Double the TV ‘Horror’

The animated spy spoof Archer returns for its 12th season, the last featuring the great Jessica Walter as the formidable Malory Archer. ABC’s Superstar pays tribute to John Ritter, and a CMT Giants concert salutes country great Charley Pride. A Netflix documentary explores the unsavory world behind the late painter Bob Ross’ gentle legacy. A new season of American Horror Story promises a Double Feature of fright. A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:

Archer season 12 fxx
FXX

Archer

Season Premiere

A dozen seasons in, the wayward spies of the much-loved animated comedy Archer are feeling left behind, not even getting the credit they deserve for saving the world because they lack a brand identity. Or so these “dinosaurs” are told by marketing upstarts, who inform them that the “old-school spy model” doesn’t work anymore. In back-to-back episodes that mark the final season for the late, great Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) as the voice of boozy boss lady Malory Archer, the team competes as much against spy conglomerates like IIA (International Intelligence Agency) as they do the bad guys. What We Do in the ShadowsHarvey Guillén and Kayvan Novak guest in the first episode. In the second, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and his Agency join their new financial backer on a team-building mission that’s hijacked by environmental terrorists before their luxury plane even gets off the ground.

John Ritter
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Superstar

Special

John Ritter, the beloved TV actor and comedian (Three’s Company), is remembered by family (actor son Jason, first wife Nancy and widow Amy Yasbeck) and colleagues (Suzanne Somers, Kaley Cuoco, Henry Winkler) in a profile of a career cut suddenly short at 54 by aortic dissection. Archival ABC News footage, including his interview with Barbara Walters, and family home videos round out the hour.

Charley Pride
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

CMT Giants: Charley Pride

Special

The groundbreaking country-music star, who died last December at 86, gets a musical salute in a 90-minute special featuring top Nashville talent performing his iconic hits. The all-star roster includes Garth Brooks, Wynonna, Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, George Strait, Jimmie Allen, Lee Ann Womack, Luke Combs, Mickey Guyton, Gladys Knight, and his son Dion Pride. Among those sharing memories of the pioneering Black musician are Reba McEntire, Ronnie Milsap, Nolan Ryan, Neal McCoy, and Pride’s wife Rozene Pride.

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed

Documentary Premiere

Few things are more satisfying than the happy accident of stumbling across a half-hour on PBS or online of The Joy of Painting, being lulled and hypnotized by the dulcet tones of Bob Ross as the bushy-haired artist guides us through the creation of an idyllic landscape. The roughly 400 episodes he filmed from 1983-94, before his untimely death in 1995, are quite the legacy, and a new documentary explores the dark side of the story, with allegations that his business partners schemed to control his fortune and illegally license his likeness. (I now feel bad about buying that Bob Ross chia pet as a gag gift.)

American Horror Story Double Feature Evan Peters Frances Conroy
FX

American Horror Story: Double Feature

Season Premiere

As usual, mystery surrounds a new season of Ryan Murphy’s graphic horror franchise, this time teasing two distinct parts: one set by the sea (Red Tide), the other in the desert (Death Valley). Clues to the first have been appearing this week in an audio drama (on AHS’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels) styled like a late-night radio show. Finn Wittrock stars as a struggling writer who moves his pregnant wife and daughter to the beach community of Provincetown for the winter off-season. What are the odds he won’t get the peace he’s hoping for? The cast includes such past Horror stars as Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Leslie Grossman, Frances Conroy, and Billie Lourd, with former Home Alone child star Macaulay Culkin getting in on the spooky action.

Inside Wednesday TV:

  • Clickbait (streaming on Netflix): Entourage’s Adrien Grenier stars as a victim — or is he a victimized? — in an eight-part limited-series thriller told from multiple points of view. He’s Nick Brewer, a family man who suddenly vanishes, only to appear on the Internet with a card reading, “I abuse women. At 5 million views, I die.” As his wife (Betty Gabriel) and sister (Zoe Kazan) scramble to rescue him, they may end up wondering if he’s even worth the effort.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (streaming on Hulu): The jig is up on the exotic drama set at a mysterious wellness spa. “Have you been medicating us?” demanded Heather (Asher Keddie), as last week’s episodes ended. As the shock sets in, the enigmatic Tranquillum House director Masha (Nicole Kidman) insists, “You’re going to be thanking me.” And against all logic, all of the guests decide to stay. Still, Ben (Melvin Gregg) can’t help wondering about their glamorous host, “Exactly how crazy are you?” To which she purrs, “Just the right amount.” I wouldn’t be so sure.
  • Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian—Making of the Season 2 Finale (streaming on Disney+): Well-timed as Emmy voters consider the sci-fi hit that’s up for 24 awards this year, a special episode looks back at the surprise reveal of a young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the second-season finale and how they pulled it off with cutting-edge technology. Also new to Disney+: five more episodes of Behind the Attraction, taking theme-park fans inside the castles, trains, and monorails, the Hall of Presidents, It’s a Small World, and Disneyland Hotel.
  • Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens (10/9c, Comedy Central): Nora (Awkwafina) and her bestie Melanie (Chrissie Fit) try to recapture their high-school glory days when a more accomplished (and doesn’t she know it) classmate returns for a night on the town. They may not have changed much, but New York sure has — and wait till you see Nora go off on a trendy hot-dog shop — make that “sausage dispensary” — that has displaced their beloved Gray’s Papaya.