Worth Watching: 'Stranger Things,' Fireworks, 'Elementary'
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Stranger Things (streaming on Netflix): What could be more all-American on the nation's birthday than a sequel? Now that binge-watching has become something of America's latest favorite pastime, the nostalgic horror romp's third season is the perfect way to while away a holiday weekend — and it's no accident that this's year explosive climax occurs amid a cacophony of fireworks at a Fun Fair on the July 4th of 1985. Fun is, after all, the point of a series that meshes the chills of Stephen King with the emotional excess of Steven Spielberg. As a new supernatural menace encroaches on the heartland burg of Hawkins, Indiana, our nerdy heroes are further imperiled by a surge of teenage hormones that complicate their already endangered lives. The good spirits and supernatural terrors of Stranger Things have a way of making anyone feel young again. (See the full review.)
Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular (8/7c, NBC): If you're staying inside to watch fireworks, the annual New York celebration will display its colorful pageantry in and around the Brooklyn Bridge. World of Dance's Derek Hough hosts with Ciara, and each will perform. Also on the roster, warming up for the fireworks climax: country stars Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, and Brad Paisley, plus Khalid from his Free Spirit World Tour. The fireworks display will unfold to a soundtrack of patriotic music as well as movie themes from Star Wars, Superman, E.T., Casablanca — and in honor of its 80th anniversary, The Wizard of Oz with Jennifer Hudson performing a pre-recorded track of "Over the Rainbow."
A Capitol Fourth (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): An even longer-standing TV tradition takes place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, with the National Symphony Orchestra (led by pops conductor Jack Everly) joined by stars including Carole King and the Broadway cast of her autobiographical musical Beautiful (now featuring Vanessa Carlton), The Voice winner Maelyn Jarmon, American Idol winner Laine Hardy, Tony nominee Keala Settle (The Greatest Showman), Vanessa Williams, gospel's Yolanda Adams, and a medley from the Sesame Street Muppets. As always, it leads to a fireworks finale underscored by Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with live cannons. Salute!
Elementary (10/9c, CBS): In the mood for an actual original episode of a TV show? CBS complies with a new Elementary, continuing its final season by welcoming Capt. Gregson (Aidan Quinn) back to work, though he suspects his interim replacement (Rob Bartlett) may have been responsible for the departure of one of his best detectives. That's his problem, because Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) are busy solving the murder of a thief whose livelihood involved stealing from other criminals.
Inside Thursday TV: An unusually topical installment of Hulu's horror anthology Into the Dark tackles the current immigration crisis in "Culture Shock." Martha Higareda and Richard Cabral star in the harrowing account of a young Mexican woman's arduous quest to cross the border into Texas, which turns out to be more nightmare than American Dream. … In happier news, WGN America has acquired the NCIS precursor JAG for a syndicated run, with all 10 seasons airing in chronological order. It begins with a two-day marathon Thursday and Friday, starting at 9 am/8c. … If you watched ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary The Good, the Bad, the Hungry about competitive eating earlier this week, it may have whetted your appetite for the genuine article: Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, airing live on ESPN2 (noon/11c) from the Coney Island boardwalk.