Worth Watching: 'Race' Returns, Beyoncé's 'Homecoming,' 'Shadows' Goes Clubbing, PBS 'Breakthroughs'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Amazing Race (9/8c, CBS): Back earlier than expected — thanks to the fast fade of Million Dollar Mile — and thankfully airing during the regular season, not marginalized on the schedule for a welcome change, the Emmy-winning around-the-world reality competition returns with a twist for its 31st running. In a season described as a "reality showdown," the 11 teams are likely to be familiar to fans of CBS's long-running reality franchises. Five are from past seasons of The Amazing Race, three teams are alums of Survivor (including the ever-popular Rupert Boneham with wife Laura) and three from various iterations of Big Brother. So chances are you'll already have a rooting interest (or bone to pick) with some of these players even before Phil Keoghan sends them off to their first global destination.
Homecoming (streaming on Netflix): Beyoncé once again rocked the world last year at the Coachella festival with a performance paying homage to historically black colleges and universities. With the festival in full swing again, Netflix presents an intimate behind-the-scenes documentary look at how the superstar prepared for her latest cultural milestone.
What We Do in the Shadows (10/9c, FX): Nick Kroll guests on the uproarious supernatural spoof as Simon the Devious, the snarky king of the Manhattan vampires. He's none too accommodating when the provincial visitors from Staten Island come clubbing, in their easy-to-mock capes, in hopes of forging a power alliance to crush humanity. But first, they'll have to learn to get along — easier cursed than done.
Breakthrough: The Ideas That Changed the World (10/9c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): A new six-part science series takes a deep dive into the backstories of technological innovation, focusing on iconic objects that helped change humanity and its relation to the world at large. First up: the telescope, and how visionaries from Galileo to Edwin Hubble have used these far-seeking contraptions to further our understanding of the universe, billions of light years away. Subjects in weeks to come include the airplane, robot, car, rocket and smartphone.
Inside Wednesday TV: If you thought Patricia Arquette's Dee Dee was a monstrously awful momma in Hulu's The Act, this week's episode shows how she got that way. In flashbacks to the early 1990s, and the birth of little Gypsy, we meet Dee Dee's own controlling mother, a nightmare granny played to the Southern Gothic hilt by the great Margo Martindale… Things are heating up on CBS's Survivor (8/7c), with two tribal councils in one hour… In a hilarious episode of IFC's Brockmire (10/9c), the newly sober sportscaster (Hank Azaria) is challenged by a case of "the yips," a mental block that keeps him from remembering the count, resulting in what nemesis Matt Hardesty (J.K. Simmons) calls "the Flint, Michigan of broadcasts." Don't miss the Ken Burns-style parody opening with an elegiac history of the origin of "the yips."