Alan Cumming in 'Instinct,' 'Genius Junior' Premiere, 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Returns, a Commercial-Free 'Family Guy'
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Instinct (Sunday, 8/7c, CBS): Those pining for Elementary (which doesn’t return on CBS until April 30) will find elements of that high-end procedural in the DNA of this breezily formulaic light crime drama, inspired by the prolific writings of James Patterson. Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) makes a welcome return to the network in the high-concept role of Dr. Dylan Reinhart, who has a checkered past in the CIA and currently is a showman of a professor specializing in abnormal behavior. Which makes him a natural when the NYPD needs a consultant, and prickly Detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic) needs a partner. The crimes in the first episodes verge on the outlandish, the better to pique Dr. Dylan’s interest. But what’s most interesting in Instinct is the matter-of-fact presentation of Dylan’s personal life as an openly gay married man, whose husband Andy (Daniel Ings), a former corporate lawyer who now happily operates a bar, isn’t thrilled that Dylan is going back on the field. If he didn’t, of course, there’d be no show.
Genius Junior (Sunday, 9/8c, NBC): The recent fad of spotlighting gifted children in reality/game shows (Fox’s MasterChef Junior, ABC’s Child Support, NBC’s Little Big Shots, returning Sunday at 7/6c) finds its peak expression in a brain-teasing quiz show that makes Jeopardy! look like child’s play. Neil Patrick Harris, who knows a thing or two about playing prodigies, hosts and produces this showcase for teams of pint-sized smartypants who compete in brain-bowl challenges. Watching them spell long words backwards, compute complicated math equations and perform astounding feats of memorization is humbling yet also entertaining. And in the first hour, the teams rise above TV’s usual pettiness, cheering each other on even when money’s at stake in the final round. Good sportsmanship will take these kids a long way.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Sunday, 8:30/9:30c, Fox): As the sharp-witted cop spoof returns from hiatus on a new night, a special shout-out to Marc Evan Jackson, a master of the deadpan (i.e., Shawn, the frosty supervisor on The Good Place), who takes center stage as Kevin, the endangered and compatibly stuffy husband of Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher). When a threat from MIA criminal Seamus (Paul Adelstein) sends Kevin into hiding, it’s left to Jake (Andy Samberg) to keep him company in a safe house for weeks on end under Capt. Holt’s over-the-top security protocols. Kevin and Jake are hilariously strange bedfellows, to put it mildly, and a running gag involving Nicolas Cage DVDs leads to a memorable meltdown.
Family Guy (Sunday, 9/8c, Fox): In what amounts to an almost half-hour monologue from a neurotic Stewie, Family Guy breaks form in an uninterrupted episode (ads bookend the show) focusing on the loquacious infant. He finds himself spilling tears, snot and his metaphorical guts to a child psychologist (guest-voiced by a droll Sir Ian McKellan) who gets Stewie to open up about his loneliness and feelings of otherness, which run very deep.
The Good Fight (Sunday, CBS All Access): This season’s theme of “kill the lawyers” hits home when an envelope addressed to Diane (Christine Baranski) at work reveals a mysterious powder. Unfortunately for Marissa (Sarah Steele) and Maia (Rose Leslie), who’ve been contaminated, they stay behind while the firm evacuates. Fortunately, the hazmat hunk who comes to their rescue takes an interest in these distressed damsels. In an entertaining subplot, Rob Reiner guests as a judge impatiently trying a case involving a Bachelor-style reality star who claims she was sexually assaulted while under the influence.
Inside Weekend TV: Emmy-nominated Bill Hader returns to NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c), and let’s hope he brings Stefon with him to Weekend Update. Hader will soon be seen in HBO’s smashing dark comedy Barry. … The search for the source of fake-news information warfare occupies Saul (Mandy Patinkin) in another taut episode of Showtime’s Homeland (Sunday, 9/8c). It’s followed by the first-season finale of the gritty urban drama The Chi (Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime), in which Kevin (Alex Hibbert) stars in The Wiz at school—though it’s hardly a charmed yellow-brick road for Brandon (Jason Mitchell) as he tries to finance his business, or Emmett (Jacob Latimore), seeking full custody, and especially Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), whose past crimes come back to haunt him. … In a timely and topical episode of CBS’s Madam Secretary (Sunday, 10/9c), Kat (Sara Ramirez) teams with Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) to help foreign LBGTQ citizens escape persecution.