What's On: It’s playtime with the revival of ‘The Gong Show’ and the return of ‘Hollywood Game Night,’ Stephen King’s ‘The Mist,' Scarlett J visits Actors Studio
The Gong Show (10/9c, ABC): We keep hearing that America’s got talent, so how to explain the resurrection of this schlocky, proudly cheesy celebration of outrageous novelty acts that might make a carnival barker blush. The ringleader of these cheerfully stupid human tricks, which includes a bag-piping unicyclist in a monkey suit, is a heretofore unknown British comic, Tommy Maitland, whose resemblance to Austin Powers and Wayne (Wayne’s World) Campbell must be purely coincidental. Executive producer Will Arnett sits on the opening-night panel, with fellow clowns Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis assigning random scores to these beyond-random performers. And then there’s the gong, which to my tastes was used way too sparingly in the first episode.
Hollywood Game Night (8/7c, NBC): Yet more tomfoolery in TV’s silly season, as the Emmy-winning Jane Lynch returns to host a new batch of parlor games, stepping up the talent selection in the season opener, with cast members from one of TV’s best shows (Veep) and most popular (The Walking Dead). From HBO’s political comedy: Emmy winner Tony Hale and fellow nominees Anna Chlumsky and Matt Walsh. From the zombie drama: Lauren Cohan, Christian Serratos and Josh McDermitt, each team trying to help a non-famous contestant win the match for $25,000.
The Mist (10/9c, Spike): Alternating chills and yawns, this series adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novella (which inspired a 2007 movie) is best when applying the classic rule that what’s unseen can be most terrifying. As a sinister fog enshrouds a small Maine town, bringing with it madness and quite possibly monsters, it’s unclear which will do the most damage: Mother Nature gone awry or the vagaries of human nature under adversity. Unfortunately, few in the sprawling but mostly bland cast make us care (Six Feet Under’s Frances Conroy, as a fanatical herbalist, is an exception). A shopping mall replaces the supermarket setting of the original story and movie, and since this is a 10-part series (with a presumed option for more), the action extends to other settings, including a church and hospital, where no soul or body is safe.
Inside Thursday TV: Scarlett Johansson has a Tony (for A View From the Bridge) and a BAFTA (for Lost in Translation), and a string of hit action films to her credit. Now she can add an appearance on Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio (8/7c) to her resume, with James Lipton taking her through her career. … ABC gives the music-competition format another try with Boy Band (8/7c), with thousands of young male vocalists vying for five slots in a newly formed group that will be rewarded a contract with Hollywood Records. Rita Ora hosts, with Backstreet Boys alum Nick Carter, Spice Girls’ Emma Bunton, and mega-producer Timbaland acting as “architect” mentors. … In an all-new night of summer originals, NBC brings back The Wall (9/8c) with its mix of trivia and high-stakes ball rolling, and begins a fourth season of medical drama The Night Shift (10/9c), introducing Mark Consuelos to the cast as Cain, a traveling nurse with a mysterious past. … Science Channel takes a look at homegrown products manufactured in the USA in How It’s Made: American Made (9/8c), starting with an episode timed to baseball season, with segments on baseball gloves, bats, scoreboards, hot dogs and a wristwatch made of wood from the original Yankee Stadium.