'Titan Games,' 'Gotham' and 'Blacklist' Return, Harry Mudd on 'Star Trek: Short Treks'
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The Titan Games (8/7c, NBC): Not to be confused with American Ninja Warrior or American Gladiators — though NBC would be OK if you did. Dwayne Johnson hosts and executive produces this latest spectacle of extreme physical competition, pitting male and female hardbodies in separate though equally grueling challenges that test their strength, agility, speed and endurance. Each week’s finalists head to a towering “Mount Olympus” where seven more exacting trials await them. The rounds NBC made available for preview generate an adrenaline high. (Eventually, each episode’s winners will meet up in a climactic battle to name a Top Titan.)
Gotham (8/7c, Fox): The chaos is even more off the charts than usual, as the dark fantasy begins its fifth and final season picking up several months after last year’s climactic catastrophe, when madman Jeremiah (Cameron Monaghan) blew up the city’s bridges. Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has his hands full, but thankfully teen millionaire Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) has been training in the art of caped crusading, so maybe there’s hope for gloomy Gotham yet.
The Blacklist (10/9c, NBC): The twists just keep coming as the wild crime drama enters its sixth season, with Liz (Megan Boone) and her supposed sister, Jennifer Reddington (Fiona Dourif), reeling from the news that Red (James Spader) isn’t really Red — the real Red is dead. So who’s this faux Red leading the feds through the Blacklist? Maybe time will tell, although on this show, you can’t be sure. In the season premiere, followed by a second episode Friday in its regular time period (9/8c), Red leads the Task Force to a plastic surgeon who’s infamous for drastically altering the looks of criminal elites — could Red be one of them?
Star Trek: Short Takes (streaming on CBS All Access): The last of the four mini-episodes, serving as a curtain-raiser for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery premiering on Jan. 17, is a showcase for The Office’s Rainn Wilson, directing and starring as legendary con man Harry Mudd (a role created in the original Trek series by Roger C. Carmel). Written by Rick and Morty’s Michael McMahan, the Trek short finds Harry in a particularly precarious position aboard a hostile ship, but this wily survivor always has an arsenal of tricks and double-crosses to ensure he lives to see another scheme.
Inside Thursday TV: In six hours over three nights (concluding Saturday), the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly (9/8c) investigates the long history of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations against the R&B star. Producers interviewed more than 50 insiders, including John Legend, Wendy Williams, an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend and two brothers… TLC’s popular Dr. Pimple Popper (9/8c) is back, with Dr. Lee tending to more clients with debilitating skin ailments, including Genner, who flew from the Philippines to get treatment for his bumpy nose… Also returning: HGTV’s Flip Or Flop Nashville (9/8), with DeRon Jenkins and Page Turner setting their sights on a rundown North Nashville cottage they see as a future modern farmhouse. But is this project too much of a money pit?… This year’s “Restaurant Wars” on Bravo’s Top Chef (10/9c) is so epic it takes two weeks to conclude, with the stakes increasing once judge Tom Colicchio announces a double elimination… CBS’s S.W.A.T. (10/9c) tackles the serious subject of school shootings, when the team receives a warning from a copycat who pledges to re-enact a shooting from their past, causing them to relive that tragic event while racing to prevent a repeat.