Into the Void on ‘Good Place,’ Matt Bomer on ‘Will & Grace,’ Good Eats on ‘Great American Baking Show’ & ‘Top Chef,’ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
A critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The Good Place (8:30/7:30c, NBC): Even by this sitcom’s fanciful standards, there hasn’t been an episode quite like this, with Janet (D’Arcy Carden) inviting the “Soul Squad” foursome into her void to escape the big bads on Earth. (This means they’ll all die on Earth, but… been there, mourned that.) What happens next must be seen to be disbelieved, and it’s a tour de force for the terrific Carden, managing four restless “inter-dimensional fugitives” in her suddenly crowded void, each grappling philosophically with a conception of the self. Which is funnier than it sounds.
Will & Grace (9/8c, NBC): Under the heading “what took him so long?” Matt Bomer guests on the rollicking sitcom as a handsome — naturally — gay TV news anchor who could be a potential love interest for Will (Eric McCormack). The hitch: anchor-dude likes his guys on the silly and bubbly side, more like “Just Jack” (Sean Hayes), so can the more serious Will adjust his attitude? Other guest stars include Olympic skater Adam Rippon in a cameo as a snarky barista and the return of Minnie Driver as Karen’s (Megan Mullally) nemesis, Lorraine Finster.
What’s Cooking? Or baking, as the case may be. ABC revives The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition (8/7c) for a fourth season, a warm and fuzzy competition for dedicated amateur bakers. Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton joins Anthony “Spice” Adams as hosts, with The Great British Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood judging the yummy and decorative treats with new judge, award-winning pastry chef Sherry Yard. In back-to-back episodes, the endearing bakers try their hand at cakes and sweet and savory pastries.
Somewhat edgier, but still a blast in its 16th season, Bravo’s Emmy-winning Top Chef (10/9c) relocates to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, with 15 new chef-testants congregating at the iconic Churchill Downs race track for a quicker-than-usual opening Quickfire Challenge. Teams then compete for “win, place and show” positions as they prepare dishes for 200 guests at a Kentucky Derby-themed party. Churchill Downs’ executive chef David Danielson joins judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Graham Elliott to decide who’ll head to Last Chance Kitchen for possible redemption.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (8/7c, ABC): Nothing says Christmas like the first, and best, of the Peanuts animated specials, first seen in 1965. Bop along to Vince Guaraldi’s infection jazz score as Charlie Brown, Linus and the gang seek the true meaning of the season among all of the commercialization and holiday angst. To fill out the hour, ABC pairs this classic cartoon with Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales.
Inside Thursday TV: The latest Star Trek: Short Treks vignette, “The Brightest Star” (streaming on CBS All Access) investigates the origin story of one of Star Trek: Discovery’s more fascinating characters: the Kelpien officer Saru (Doug Jones)… Young Sheldon stars Iain Armitage, Lance Barber and Montana Jordan cross over to CBS’s The Big Bang Theory (8/7c) when Sheldon (Jim Parsons) finds a VHS tape from his childhood to boost his spirits. Christine Baranski returns as Leonard’s severe mother, Beverly… On CBS’s Young Sheldon (8:30/7:30c), we’ll learn how “Bazinga!” came to be one of older Sheldon’s favorite catchphrases… Cupid alert: Wacky Tammy (Kristen Johnston) goes on her first date since getting out of prison on CBS’s Mom (9/8c). … Buddy Guy, k.d. lang, Rosanne Cash and Brandi Carlile are among the performers in CMT’s concert presentation of 2018 Americanafest (9/8c), a 90-minute special featuring highlights from the 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards ceremony earlier this year at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.