Worth Watching: The Democratic Debates, a 'Handmaid's Road Trip, HBO's 'True Justice,' 'Yellowstone'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate (9/8c, NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo): With a cast of thousands — OK, 20, but enough to split the field into two nights — the much-anticipated showcase for the candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination gets underway in Miami, with Lester Holt moderating, joined in the first hour by Savannah Guthrie and José Diaz-Balart and in the second hour by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. Which candidates appear which night was chosen by draw, but many of the heavy-hitting front-runners with the highest media profile will appear Thursday. Heading the lineup on the first night is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. (Also on the dais: Julian Castro, former HUD Secretary; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.) You are forgiven if you weren't aware some of these were even running. It's early days, and eventually this field will narrow. But for now, it's political theater at its most epic.
Which means, of course, a Greek chorus of late-night satirical commentators. Going live Wednesday and Thursday are the usual suspects — Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (11/10c), CBS's Late Show with Stephen Colbert (11:35/10:35c), NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers (12:35/1:35c) — but this time NBC's Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (11:35/10:35c) also goes live, upping the political temperature.
The Handmaid's Tale (streaming on Hulu): Politics is never far from the mind of this dystopian drama, and chilling images of Gilead's capital — a Washington, D.C., with desecrated monuments of a discarded past — permeate an episode in which June (Elisabeth Moss) travels to the seat of power with the Waterfords to further their campaign to pressure Canada to return baby Nichole to her native country. Christopher Meloni and The Haunting of Hill House's Elizabeth Reaser guest-star as an influential High Commander who urges the Waterfords to be "judicious about the images we release to the world," and his wife, who's managing (to Serena Joy's surprise) an unusually robust household. All while June desperately continues to seek allies in her efforts to keep her babies safe and reverse the tide of oppression and supplication. The message throughout, underscored with unsettling visuals: Silence is not golden.
'The Handmaid's Tale's Third Season Is About 'June Resisting and June Fighting,' Says EP Bruce Miller
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality (8/7c, HBO): The subject of an upcoming movie starring Michael B. Jordan, equal justice advocate Bryan Stevenson is profiled in an inspiring documentary about the civil-rights lawyer whose organization has won the release of more than 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. Stevenson also helped create the memorial in Montgomery, Alabama dedicated to victims of lynching.
Yellowstone (10/9c, Paramount Network): The mad machismo of the Wild West rears its head in a strong episode, when heir to the ranch Kayce (Luke Grimes) slugs it out with Rip (Cole Hauser) in a brutal ritual witnessed by patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner), insisting, "This needs to happen." With a new lease on life, John is refocusing his attention on the ranch that is his legacy, while daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) continues to buy up large tracts of Montana land in her inimitable cutthroat style.
Inside Wednesday TV: CBS's The Amazing Race (8/7c) heads to the finish line with a two-hour season finale, as the final four teams race through London with a helicopter ride to Dover Castle before heading to Detroit, where they face a 500-foot rappel down the Guardian Building. A million dollars is at stake… MTV is describing the new season of Are You the One? (9/8c) as the "first sexually fluid dating competition show in the U.S.," with 16 singles heading to Hawaii to find a "perfect match" in hopes of a $1 million prize. All contestants identify as sexually fluid, meaning there are no gender barriers or limitations in finding a mate… The crew of FXX's Archer: 1999 (10/9c) pick up an intergalactic hitchhiker with the ominous moniker of Mr. Deadly (voiced by Matt Berry of FX's hilarious What We Do in the Shadows).