Worth Watching: 'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Discovery of Witches,' 'Million Little Things' Moves
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Star Trek: Discovery (8:30/7:30c, 5:30/PT, CBS All Access): The Star Trek spinoff returns to its roots in its second season when the crew of Discovery intercepts a distress signal from a very familiar starship — the U.S.S. Enterprise — and welcomes aboard Kirk’s predecessor, Capt. Christopher Pike (Hell on Wheels’ Anson Mount). The straight-shooting leader’s arrival, prompted by the discovery of mysterious red signals in space, stirs up memories for Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) about her unresolved relationship with foster brother Spock (to be played by Ethan Peck). But first, a thrillingly cinematic action sequence takes Burnham and Pike on a mission inside a treacherous debris field. Offbeat guest star: comedian Tig Notaro as a resourceful and imperiled engineer.
A Discovery of Witches (streaming on Sundance Now and Shudder): Like True Blood with a PhD, this eight-part series (based on Deborah Harkness’s excellent “All Souls” trilogy) mixes sensuality and the supernatural, adding a pedigree of scholarly wisdom from the hallowed halls of Oxford University. That’s where historian Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), who has long repressed her inner witch, unearths an ancient “Book of Life” long sought after by witches, vampires and demons alike. (All live secretly among humans.) Her discovery captures the attention of Matthew Clairmont (Downton Abbey’s elegant Matthew Goode), an ancient vampire and geneticist. Their cross-species relationship makes them a target of the underworld’s ruling Congregation (based in glorious Venice), which means Diana is going to have to learn some spells to survive. Discovery is luxurious and intelligent escapism, and while Palmer is a regrettably bland heroine, Goode is great as her protector/mentor, occasionally revealing his inner beast. He’s the ghoul to watch.
A Million Little Things (9/8c, ABC): The emotional drama about angst-ridden friends in Boston continues its first season on a new night, with everyone reeling from the latest melodramatic twist. As Gary (James Roday) quippily summarizes: “the pregnant widow who might lose her house.” That would be Delilah (Stephanie Szostak), widow by suicide of Jon (Ron Livingston), and as the scope of the financial mess her husband left behind becomes clear, the gang rallies around Delilah while the guys flash back to their first elevator meeting with Jon, and wonder if they ever really knew the guy. Adding to the awkwardness: Delilah turns for legal advice to Katherine (Grace Park), whose husband Eddie (David Giuntoli) was having an affair (and now a child) with Delilah. Thankfully, there’s some athletic distraction: a Suicide Prevention 5K everyone’s participating in — including Maggie (Allison Miller), who’s determined to run despite grueling chemotherapy treatments. Thankfully, she has a lot of friends to help her across the finish line.
The Big Bang Theory (8/7c, CBS): The hit sitcom’s final season continues with guest stars Sean Astin and Kal Penn as rival physicists who prove the super asymmetry theory published by Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) — and ignite a war among science geeks when they try to take credit and bump Amy off the Nobel nomination.
The guest-star alert includes Young Sheldon (8:30/7:30c), with Ed Begley Jr. as a professor who flirts with Meemaw (Annie Potts) at a university cocktail party, causing conflict with her beau Dr. Sturgis (Wallace Shawn). And Whitley Bradford returns to Mom (9/8c) as Mitch, the overbearing friend of Adam (William Fichtner), insisting he’s a changed man.
Inside Thursday TV: ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (8/7c) returns with the aftermath of the perilous windstorm, which knocks out power at the hospital, endangering patients’ lives… The battle for Dean’s (Jensen Ackles) soul continues on The CW’s Supernatural (8/7c), with Michael taking control of Dean again as his army of monsters marches on, and it’s up to Sam (Jared Padalecki) to come up with a plan to reach Dean and save the day—and world—yet agai… Paramount Network’s Lip Sync Battle (9/8c) is back with one of its most epic contests, pitting all Fab 5 of the current Queer Eye cast — Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Tan France — in campy musical face-offs… Bravo’s Backyard Envy (10/9c) follows the Brooklyn-based design firm Manscapers NY as they transform New York City rooftops, terraces and suburban outdoor spaces into wonderlands worthy of a Real Housewife.