What's Worth Watching: Frontline, This Is Us, The Middle, NCIS and more for Tuesday, January 17
Frontline (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): In gripping and grim detail over two nights (concluding Wednesday), PBS's signature public-affairs program dissects the polarization and disaffection with government that has led the country to the events of this week, when the ultimate outsider will take the oath of office. In "Divided States of America," Frontline stalwart Michael Kirk reaches back to President Obama's first presidential campaign and first term—the bailout, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the rise of the Tea Party—to depict a climate of intransigent Washington gridlock and angry anti-elite groundswell that found its first champion in Sarah Palin. Her challenge to the establishment rocked the GOP and, the program argues, manifested in the improbable rise of Donald Trump. Watch, listen, learn, and ponder where we go from here.
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): This winning family drama takes us back to "the big day," with the impending birth of the triplets causing great stress for Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). It's not a walk in the park for a grieving Dr. K (Gerald McRaney), either—and we even get some insight into the firefighter responsible for bringing baby Randall to the hospital.
Comedy Tonight: Among the sitcom highlights, Axl (Charlie McDermott) freaks on ABC's The Middle (8/7c) when he realizes he hasn't sent out job resumes with only four months until graduation. Just as world-changing, Brick (Atticus Shaffer) gets an ultimatum from weirdo girlfriend Cindy (Casey Burke) that if he doesn't cut down on his compulsive reading, she'll dump him. … Louis is in for it on ABC's Fresh Off the Boat (9/8c) when he wins a "Small Businessman of the Year" award and forgets to thank wife Jessica (Constance Wu) during his speech. … Coming out was easy compared to telling the parents you now have a steady boyfriend, as Kenny (Noah Galvin) learns on ABC's The Real O'Neals (9:30/8:30c). … Netflix takes a new approach to stand-up comedy in Neal Brennan's 3 Mics (streaming Tuesday), during which the comedian uses three different microphones to deliver three forms of humor: the traditional stand-up, the one-liner and the more dramatic confessional monologue. … truTV's Billy on the Street (10:30/9:30c) enlists Keegan-Michael Key to "Name 10 Gay People" and navigate another of Billy Eichner's signature obstacle courses, while a man on the street plays "Walking Dead or Talking Dead?" The fun never stops on this show.
Inside Tuesday TV: Gibbs (Mark Harmon) goes undercover using his former alias to infiltrate an anti-government militia on CBS's NCIS (8/7c). … The CW's No Tomorrow airs its season, and possibly series, finale (9/8c) in which Xavier (Joshua Sasse) learns that his apocalyptic asteroid theory has been validated. How will that impact (so to speak) his relationship with Evie (Tori Anderson)? … Snark alert, as TV Land adapts the podcast and Funny or Die web series Throwing Shade into a weekly series, with hosts Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi reacting to events of the day, from the sublime to the ridiculous—as if there's a distinction anymore.