Worth Watching: New Faces on ‘Talent’ and ‘Songland,’ ‘Animal Kingdom’ Returns, ‘Fosse/Verdon’ Finale
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
America’s Got Talent (8/7c, NBC): The format’s the same, but the faces keep changing — and in Season 14, a new host (Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Terry Crews, fresh from the Champions spinoff) joins two new judges: actress Gabrielle Union and Dancing with the Stars veteran Julianne Hough (whose brother Derek holds court on the network’s World of Dance), replacing Mel B and Heidi Klum. Thankfully, the focus remains mostly on a new parade of acts: some outrageous, some inspiring, all hoping to make it to the end to vie for that $1 million prize.
Followed by the premiere of NBC’s aspirational Songland (10/9c), an unusually compelling competition in which fledgling songwriters — who also have the ability to perform their creations with gusto — pitch their songs to three seasoned producers and a superstar performer, starting with John Legend. It’s a fascinating window on the collaborative process, as the producers (Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, Shane McAnally) and Legend almost instantly start spit-balling ideas, lyrics and truly constructive criticism after a first listen, while the songwriters look on in wonder. Three of four hopefuls move on to a round in which they work closely with the producers to reshape the song, sometimes drastically, into something Legend might actually record. The song he picks becomes available for download the same night.
Animal Kingdom (9/8c, TNT): Larceny is thicker than blood as the fourth season of the crime-family saga returns with mama bear Smurf (Ellen Barkin) again calling the shots for her turbulent tribe. Even she admits she has her hands full with the emotional powderkeg that is her eldest son, Pope (Shawn Hatosy), who tests a new outlet for his rage issues. And grandson J (Finn Cole) is adjusting to his new life and identity outside the Cody compound. But it wouldn’t be Animal Kingdom if there wasn’t at least one risky robbery. Welcome back, you crooks.
Running With Beto (8/7, HBO): He may not have won his 2018 race to unseat Ted Cruz from the U.S. Senate, but there’s little doubt that El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke made a name for himself during his unorthodox campaign — which now has become an underdog run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Filmmaker David Modigliani was embedded for a year in O’Rourke’s county-by-county Texas campaign for this intimate documentary, which looks at the toll such an exhaustive process has on a candidate, his family and his deeply committed staff.
Fosse/Verdon (10/9c, FX): In the finale of this remarkable show-biz biographical series, Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) decides to tell his own story on film — which would be 1979’s unforgettable, and unsparing, Oscar-winning (though not for Fosse) All That Jazz. The movie eerily foreshadows Fosse’s own death in 1987 at 60, and will make a fascinating comparison study with this series, which at long last gives Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) her due.
Inside Tuesday TV: Entertainment legends Carl and Rob Reiner sit for The Big Interview with Dan Rather (8/7c, AXS TV), sharing show biz stories and, as they often do on Twitter, reflecting on the state of the world and politics… A&E’s Biography continues a series on famous comedians with the two hour Jeff Dunham: Talking Heads (8/7c), profiling the popular ventriloquist, followed by Jeff Foxworthy: Stand-Up Guy (10/9c), bringing the “redneck” satirist together with colleagues Kathleen Madigan, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy to talk about his life in comedy… ESPN’s 30 for 30 series uses mostly archival footage to tell the story of auto racing pioneer Janet Guthrie, the first female racer to quality for and compete in the Indianapolis and Daytona 500, in the documentary Qualified (9/8c)… ABC’s series looking back at 1969 (10/9c) ends with “Fortunate Sons,” an hour that explores the culture and media wars that illuminated a generation gap ignited by controversy over the Vietnam War and the My Lai massacre scandal… PBS’s Frontline (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org) embeds with a Phoenix police unit to investigate “Sex Trafficking in America.”