'The Conners' Minus Roseanne, 'Kids Are Alright,' 'Rookie'
This is a big night of premieres for ABC, so much of today’s column will focus on these.
The Conners (8/7c, ABC): The more things change, the more they stay the same — which could be good news for the Roseanne spinoff that was necessitated by its former title star’s immolation-by-tweet. The lovingly biting tone of the working-class family comedy remains much the same without the presence of Roseanne Barr/Roseanne Conner, as Sara Gilbert picks up the snarky slack as her “scary little tyrant” of a daughter, Darlene, now a struggling single mom. “Are we horrible for laughing?” she wonders aloud, and the answer of course is no. This fictional family from Lanford, Illinois, is known for finding humor in the toughest and darkest of times. And with control freak Jackie (the invaluable Laurie Metcalf) wreaking havoc in the family kitchen, and an angry Dan (John Goodman) coping with empty-bed syndrome, there are plentiful opportunities for laugh lines amid the tear streaks.
The Kids Are Alright (8:30/9:30c, ABC): The ABC family-sitcom brand may have another winner in Tim Doyle’s (Last Man Standing) affectionate if derivative memoir about growing up in a rambunctious Irish-Catholic family of eight boys in the 1970s. (This is basically The Goldbergs with more testosterone and priests.) Doyle narrates as the adult version of “needy middle child” Timmy (Jack Gore), whose child-star aspirations are dismissed by his overwhelmed tough-love mom, Peggy (the great Mary McCormack): “We do not have the wherewithal in this family for any of you kids to be special.” The pace is as frenetic as the house is crowded, and when eldest son Lawrence (Sam Straley) returns from the seminary with long hair and no intention of returning, it sets off a domestic crisis for machinist dad Mike (The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz).
The Rookie (10/9c, ABC): Unless the network TV audience has completely had its fill of police dramas (unlikely, though understandable), it’s hard to see how this could miss. Castle’s Nathan Fillion returns to the network in a tailor-made role as 40-year-old John Nolan, who seeks a fresh start in life as a newbie on the LAPD police force. He’s mocked by his superiors — especially watch commander Sgt./ Grey (Richard T. Jones), who sees him as a “walking midlife crisis” — and while he may not be as fit as his fellow trainees, this is one gung-ho dinosaur. The pilot episode presents Nolan with a ridiculous amount of action in his first days on the beat: a child in peril, a deadly domestic dispute, a violent shootout and hostage situation. Yet Fillion grounds The Rookie with just enough wry humor and low-key charisma to lift the formula, and he gets yeoman support from a diverse ensemble of rookies, training officers and bosses. It’s no NYPD Blue (which held down this time period for 12 years), but what is?
Five more reasons to check out Tuesday TV:
NBA Basketball (8/7c, TNT): The regular season tips off with the Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. In the second game, the Oklahoma City Thunder take on NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, including Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
NCIS (8/7c): There’s no such thing as a quiet getaway for Gibbs (Mark Harmon), whose vacation to his cabin in the woods suddenly becomes crowded, when Fornell (Joe Spano) and Navy Capt. Phillip Brooks (Don Lake) show up. And then there’s that robber hiding in the woods that NCIS asks for their help to find.
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black-ish (9/8c, ABC): The fifth season of the Emmy-nominated comedy opens with dashed expectations, when Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) return from dropping off Junior (Marcus Scribner) at college, only to find him back home, declaring his intention to take a gap year. (Could he be intimidated by sister Zoey’s success on the Freeform campus sitcom grown-ish?)
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): The most emotional show on TV begins to reveal more details about Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) experiences serving in Vietnam.
The Eugenics Crusade (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): A two-hour American Experience episode takes disturbing stock of a dark chapter in our history that resonates into the present. Crusade chronicles the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, which would later inspire more draconian Nazi efforts to achieve genetic superiority. The goal, fueled by a fear that an immigrant influx threatened to weaken the American gene pool, was to breed a superior race by limiting reproduction among those deemed genetically “unfit.” That’s as slippery a slope as it sounds.