Beginning of the End for ‘This Is Us’ and ‘black-ish,’ New Tuesday Comedies (‘Abbott Elementary,’ ‘American Auto,’ ‘Grand Crew’), Judge Steve Harvey
The first Tuesday of 2022 is jam-packed with premieres, including the openers for the final seasons of This Is Us and black-ish—with Michelle Obama guesting on the latter. New comedies Abbott Elementary, American Auto and Grand Crew, all previewed in December, settle into their regular time periods on ABC and NBC. Steve Harvey’s latest gig is as a TV judge, cracking us up as he weighs in on wacky real-life cases in a comedic courtroom.
This Is Us
Like in previous seasons, the hit tearjerker launches its final run with the “big three” marking another birthday—their 41st—with several callbacks to the various turning points during which we first met the Pearson family six years (and countless crying jags) ago, plus an update on an event that sent Randall (Sterling K. Brown) into a more recent emotional tailspin. In present time, we find Kevin (Justin Hartley) maintaining a civil co-parenting relationship with Madison (Caitlin Thompson) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) making the best of Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) long-distance employment, while they’re all grappling with the realities of mother Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) worsening condition. No episode would be complete without triggers from the past, when beloved father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) was still among them, and the premiere episode revisits a doozy of a day of tragic American history that resonates among the family.
Guess who’s coming to dinner? To kick off the seventh and final season of the groundbreaking family comedy, the Johnsons welcome Michelle Obama into their home—though Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) are trying to keep it a private dinner, banning the rest of the family from intruding on their friendly powwow. Good luck with that. The fun begins when Bow drags Dre to a When We All Vote fundraiser, where they make the former first lady’s acquaintance. Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
The terrific new workplace mock-doc comedy set at an underfunded Philadelphia public school settles into its regular time period, showcasing series creator/star Quinta Brunson as well-meaning second-grade teacher Janine. Ignoring advice from the more experienced Barbara (a sublime Sheryl Lee Ralph) that she should “just worry about what can be controlled,” Janine takes it upon herself to fix the flickering hallway lights that spook her students. Soon everyone’s in the dark, and another life lesson is learned.
NBC, which aired no comedies in the fall, adds two new sitcoms to its Tuesday lineup—starting with a workplace satire that’s the tonal opposite of Abbott, laced with cynical bite, where no one ever learns from their mistakes. Echoing a similarly disastrous investors’ event on Succession, this episode is built around an earnings call that quickly goes south, when fatally uninspired new CEO Katherine (Ana Gasteyer) vamps about a “big announcement” to distract from the latest bad publicity, and her executive team of empty suits scrambles to close a labor negotiation.
The least promising of the night’s new comedies is a low-concept sitcom about a group of Black friends in L.A.’s trendy Silverlake district who bicker and bond over wine—usually in bars. But when a local wildfire displaces them, they hang at househusband Wyatt’s (Justin Cunningham) home, where we’re introduced to his lawyer wife, Kristen (The Unicorn’s Maya Lynne Robinson), who initiates a competition with her partner about who’s the better host. Complications ensue, and like in the episodes that aired in December, it looks like they’re having more fun than we are.
Judge Steve Harvey
Watch out, Judge Judy. The ubiquitous entertainer Steve Harvey applies his brand of humor to the TV courtroom in a comedic twist on a time-honored genre. He’ll have the last word—and it will probably be a sarcastic one—as he presides over cases involving sour grapes, unpaid bets and debts and the inevitable family feud. Survey says: His fans will dig this.
“Christmas is over,” declares the hospital’s new medical director Veronica Fuentes (Michelle Forbes), who in the six weeks since her idealistic predecessor Max (Ryan Eggold) decamped to London to start a new life with Helen (Freema Agyeman) has shown herself to be the Grinch who stole hope. Making one mercenary decision after another, Veronica has alienated all in her employ—except maybe the new chair of holistic medicine (Good Girls Revolt’s Genevieve Angleson). As a secret insurrection looms in the New York hospital, things aren’t much rosier for the London transplants, as they’re introduced to the inequities in Britain’s National Health Service. (You’re free to make wagers on how long it will take before Max heads back to NYC.)
Inside Tuesday TV:
- Finding Your Roots (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on an eighth season of tracing the family histories of celebrated guests with back-to-back episodes. First, he uses DNA to help actress/director Rebecca Hall (Passing) and director Lee Daniels (The Butler) solve family mysteries. Then he welcomes restaurateur David Chang and actor Raúl Esparza to examine their ancestral roots.
- FBI (8/7c, CBS): An all-new night of FBI franchise action begins with Tiffany (Katherine Renee Turner) becoming personally involved with a 16-year-old foster child after he’s linked to a series of jewelry-store robberies that end in murder. Followed by new episodes of FBI: International (9/8c) and FBI: Most Wanted (10/9c).
- Gordon Ramsay’s Road Trip (8/7c, Fox): The TV host’s wanderlust continues with a two-hour excursion in Greece. Got to admit: a getaway to Mykonos sounds pretty good any time of year.
- Eggs Over Easy (9/8c, OWN): Keshia Knight Pulliam is producer and narrator of a documentary that addresses the sensitive topic of infertility and reproductive issues within the Black community.
- Murder Under the Friday Night Lights (10/9c, Investigation Discovery): A new true-crime series tackles troubling cases involving the volatile world of high-school football, starting with the account of a football player in a small Texas town who is revealed to be the serial rapist of the team’s cheerleaders. What would Coach Taylor think?
- American Insurrection (10/9c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Frontline teams with ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program for an update on the series’ April report about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath.