What's On: Ben Platt on ‘Will & Grace,’ return of ‘Scandal,’ Oscar winner aboard ‘The Orville,’ ‘Better Things’
A critical checklist of notable Thursday programming:
Will & Grace (9/8c, NBC): After last week’s frenzied political farce, the successful revival of the “must-see-TV”-era favorite settles down with what feels like a truly classic episode. Once again with its finger on the pulse of the pop-culture zeitgeist, W&G recruits Tony-winning Broadway sensation Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) as special guest star, playing 23-year-old Blake, an adorable millennial who develops a crush on Will (Eric McCormack). Initially flattered, Will becomes rattled when he realizes Blake is a “new gay,” seemingly unappreciative of the struggles of earlier gay generations. “How’s it supposed to get better if it was always fine?” Will fumes. But that’s nothing compared to Jack’s (Sean Hayes) misadventures in dating today’s youth, which involves donning a “compression garment” resulting in some inspired physical comedy. Remember when it was still cool to go for the big laugh?
Scandal (9/8c, ABC): We’re almost afraid to ask if this over-the-top political potboiler can top itself in its seventh and final season. The beginning of the end takes us 100 days into President Mellie Grant’s (Bellamy Young) administration, with chief of staff Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) obviously the real power behind the throne, running the free world. As an international incident beckons, we also check in on Olivia’s old office digs, now billed as Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) & Associates, which is thirsty for new clients.
The Orville (9/8c, Fox): Here’s one way to get attention on a busy night: bring an Oscar winner on board your derivative spaceship. Which explains the presence of Charlize Theron as Pria Lavesque, the statuesque captain of a stranded ship whose rescue by The Orville leads to Capt. Ed (Seth MacFarlane) developing a cosmic crush. In a subplot that sounds like the sort of bad idea that is muddling this show’s uncertain hybrid identity as a sci-fi quasi-comedy, Lt. Gordon (Scott Grimes) tries to teach the robotic Isaac (Mark Jackson) how to pull off a prank.
Better Things (10/9c, FX): With so much TV happening this time of year, don’t let Pamela Adlon’s brilliant behavioral comedy get by you. This week’s episode is titled “Sick,” and what’s ailing Sam (Adlon) is a rare bout of happiness. To be specific, romantic happiness—call it lovesickness—with her new and imperfectly perfect beau (Henry Thomas), which puts her in such an existential panic she calls in her gay bestie Rich (American Housewife’s Diedrich Bader) for a consult: “I don’t want it to be real,” she mopes, followed by a “Why am I being such a loser?” chaser. Back home with her girls and an unexpected dinner guest, Better Things reaffirms its status as one of the warmest yet most melancholic studies of domestic life. I never want these episodes, or this season, to end.
Inside Thursday TV: Now that Amelia (Caterinsa Scorsone) has been diagnosed with a monster brain tumor—perhaps accounting for some of her odd behavior over the seasons—will she try to operate on herself? Stranger things have happened on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (8/7c), but even this show probably won’t go that far. … On NBC’s The Good Place (8:30/7:30c), Michael (Ted Danson) pleads to team up with his victims in the afterlife to save his own skin, so why does he call them “Team Cockroach?” … From the streaming world: SundanceNow presents the three-part true-crime drama Rillington Place, starring Tim Roth as multiple murderer John Christie and Samantha Morton as wife Ethel. … Another overseas import, the eight-episode French political revenge thriller Baron Noir, premieres on Walter Presents. … For those who can’t get enough horror in their diet this month, Syfy delivers a weekly Thursday double feature, with the return of vampire-apocalypse romp Van Helsing (9/8c) for a second season, and the new Ghost Wars (10/9c), set in a remote Alaska town besieged by the paranormal, where only repressed psychic Roman (Avan Jogia) may be able to save them. The eclectic cast includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Battlestar Galactica’s Kandyse McClure, Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates and Meatloaf.