Worth Watching: 'Yellowstone' Premiere, a Whale of an Origin Story on PBS, Disney's 'Roll With It'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Yellowstone (10/9c, Paramount Network): A new day dawns on the beleaguered Dutton ranch in blue-sky (and bluer language) Montana as a second season of the dark contemporary Western gets underway. While Kayce (Luke Grimes) settles in among the rowdy cowpokes, who are far and away the most entertaining element of the show, patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) plots with daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) against his politician son, Jamie (Wes Bentley), acting more like Ewings than ever. On the ranch, an enigmatic stranger going only by "Cowboy" (Steven Williams) signs up for some day work, and before long, we get a memorable demonstration of "cowboy poker." And unless there's another reversal later in the season, the season opener finds a way to dispose of one of the series' more problematic subplots. (Just call it "never mind" plotting.)
When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time (PBS and Smithsonian Channel, 9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org): In the first partnership between PBS and Smithsonian Channel, this two-hour documentary uses 21st-century technology, as well as 3D graphics and CGI, to trace the evolution of whales, elephants, crocodiles and birds, roaming the globe in locations including China, Argentina, Kenya and Abu Dhabi. Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) narrates the film, which harks back to ancient times when whales walked on four legs, an elephant was no bigger than a rabbit, and birds were dinosaurs. The special is part of an outreach program from the Smithsonian's newly opened Hall of Fossils-Deep Time exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History.
Nature lovers will also want to ride along with PBS's three-part series Rivers Of Life (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org), which begins with an exploration of the wildlife and people of the mighty Nile river, the world's longest.
Just Roll With It (Disney Channel, 8/7c): Many family sitcoms can feel awfully predictable, but that's not the case with this ambitious improvisational comedy about a newly blended family. At unannounced intervals, the show will stop with the sound of a foghorn, at which point the actors go backstage while the studio audience votes on where the story goes next. When the actors return to improvise the next scene, all bets are off as everyone, as they say, rolls with it.
Inside Wednesday TV: The latest twist on Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale unfolds with all of Gilead reacting to the news that June's (Elisabeth Moss) baby daughter is now in the custody of her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) in Canada. When the Waterfords ask June to help arrange a meeting — purely for closure, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) insists — the story takes one of its more improbable, and aggravating, turns yet… Also streaming: the Netflix documentary The Edge of Democracy, a personal memoir from filmmaker Petra Costa set against the rise and fall of Brazil's democratic leaders amid corruption scandals; and the new Netflix movie Beats, starring Anthony Anderson of black-ish as a high-school security guard, formerly a music producer, who takes a personal interest in a young prodigy (Khalil Everage) and tries to help him break into Chicago's music scene… Two Tony-winning Broadway babies are at odds on TV Land's Younger (10/9c), when Liza (Sutton Foster) clashes with author Quinn (Laura Benanti). And expect the unexpected at a gender reveal party for Clare (Phoebe Dynevor).