Worth Watching: New Format for ‘Conan,’ ‘Conners’ Finale, ‘This Is Us’
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
Conan (11/10c, TBS): Pop quiz: Who’s the longest-tenured host currently in late night? That would be Conan O’Brien, who still has a ways to go to outlast Johnny Carson (30 years) and David Letterman (33 years) — but 26 years on the job is quite an achievement. Never one to play it safe, Conan returns from hiatus to launch his ninth season in the land of cable by switching up the format and revamping Conan into a half-hour, four-nights-a-week show. Gone are the suit and tie, desk and house band, for a looser and faster show. His first guest upon his return is a show-business classic: Tom Hanks.
The Conners (8/7c, ABC): The sitcom spinoff that survived the firing of Roseanne (and the death of fictional Roseanne Conner) ends its first season promising some life-changing twists. The Conners have never had it easy, and so it goes for Darlene (Sara Gilbert) when her boss and boyfriend Ben (a charming Jay R. Ferguson) offers to move her and her family to Chicago. Sitcom logic tells us that’s probably not going to happen, especially once her ex, David (Johnny Galecki), shows up at the door. Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) isn’t in much better shape after dealing with relationship problems involving her mooch of a boyfriend, Peter (Matthew Broderick). And pregnant Becky (Lecy Goranson) gets a curve ball about her baby daddy Emilio (Rene Rosado), who’s in the country illegally. Could their relationship be put on ICE?
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): So the beloved and eternally mourned Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) wasn’t perfect after all. The family Pearson is now coming to grips with the fact that their late father figure kept a very important secret from them: that their Uncle Nicky, who they always thought had died in Vietnam, is very much alive. (Played in the past by Michael Angarano, Nick will emerge in the present-day storyline, played by Griffin Dunne.) Expect this typically emotional episode to give more insight into the brothers’ history in Vietnam as the Big Three siblings inch closer to meeting the uncle they never knew.
Inside Tuesday TV: The kids aren’t exactly all right, and neither are the parents, on ABC’s terrific new family comedy The Kids Are Alright (8:30/7:30c) as they deal with Eddie’s (Caleb Foote) heartbreak after girlfriend Wendi (Kennedy Lea Slocum) breaks up with him… A family connection might break the case on CBS’s FBI (9/8c) when OA (Zeeko Zaki) turns for help to his sister Amira (Cynthia Hamidi), a university student, when an alt-right blowhard is murdered after giving a heated speech on campus… The Johnsons take in Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) teenage cousin Kyra (Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild) on ABC’s black-ish (9/8c)… PBS’s Frontline (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org) investigates a serious health crisis in “Coal’s Deadly Dust.” The collaboration with NPR reveals the rise of an aggressive form of black lung disease affecting coal miners across Appalachia. The report charges federal regulators and the coal industry for failing to protect miners from toxic silica dust, which might have prevented this tragedy.