Worth Watching: 'SVU' Hits 21, 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Good Place,' and Other Series Returns, 'Doc Martin' on Acorn
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (10/9c, NBC): There's a good reason that the season opener begins with a clip from a certain classic TV Western — because with the premiere of its 21st season, SVU officially becomes TV's longest-running prime-time drama. (Though at 459 episodes, it still has a way to go to match Gunsmoke's 635.) As ever, there are changes in the squad room, but the job goes on, pitting Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) and her team against a predatory media mogul (Deadwood's Ian McShane) accused of attempted rape during an "audition." Any resemblance to the Harvey Weinstein scandal is no doubt intentional.
Grey's Anatomy (8/7c, ABC): Making prime-time history of its own, Grey's sails into its 16th year as TV's longest-running medical drama, with the new twist that several of its most distinguished characters — Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Alex (Justin Chambers) and former chief Richard (James Pickens Jr.) — are currently unemployed, having been fired by a distraught Bailey (Chandra Wilson) in a cliffhanger because of insurance fraud. Alex has bigger issues to deal with, taking Jo (Camilla Luddington) to a treatment center for her depression. And back at Grey Sloan, Teddy's (Kim Raver) newborn baby makes things even more complicated in the triangle of Owen (Kevin McKidd) and Tom (Greg Germann). And that's not the only relationship in flux. This is Grey's Anatomy, after all.
The Good Place (9/8c, NBC): We're already feeling separation anxiety at the thought of this being the final season of one of TV's most endlessly inventive and original comedies. (For a special treat, go online to nbc.com or the NBC app for the web extra "The Selection," a brisk series of six two-minute vignettes in which the demons from the Bad Place try to choose the four new humans to be subjected to the "Good Place" experiment.) As the series reboots itself one last time, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) takes over as "architect" of the project, with the stakes for humanity higher than ever and the gags flying furiously and brilliantly.
A Million Little Things (9/8c, ABC): Life goes on — which wasn't always a given for the characters in this sudsy drama, which dealt with suicide, cancer and depression in the first year. In season 2, emotions are still running high, especially between Eddie (David Giuntoli) and wife Katherine (Grace Park), whose tenuous reunion is tested by the birth of Delilah's (Stephanie Szostak) baby, whom Eddie secretly fathered. In happier news, cancer-free Maggie (Allison Miller) roars back to life, and her confrontation with Delilah's snotty lactation specialist reminds us that it’s the little things that keep us coming back to shows like this.
Doc Martin (streaming on Acorn TV): As if the night weren't busy enough, the streaming home for great international imports becomes the exclusive destination for the ninth season of the beloved British dramedy, with the first new episodes in two years, each available 24 hours after their U.K. premiere. In the new season, Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) has to answer to the General Medical Council for his gruff way with patients, while wife Louisa (Caroline Catz) starts a new career in Cornwall as a child counselor.
Inside Thursday TV: Also streaming: a horror anthology on Shudder reviving Creepshow (9/8c, 6 PT), based on the 1982 Stephen King/George A. Romero movie. A King story, the gruesome "Gray Matter," is the first entry, paired with "The House of the Head," about a haunted dollhouse… NBC's Superstore (8/7c) opens its fifth season on a topical note, with the store employees reeling from Mateo's (Nico Santos) ICE detention. Adding to the tension: a robot co-worker that has everyone worrying about losing their jobs to automation… Taking over the Big Bang Theory time period, CBS spinoff prequel Young Sheldon (8/7c) begins its third season with Dr. Sturgis (Wallace Shawn) suffering a nervous breakdown, begging the question of whether Sheldon (Iain Armitage) is heading down a similar road… How long will the honeymoon period last for newlyweds Bonnie (Allison Janney) and Adam (William Fichtner) on the seventh season of CBS's Mom (9/8c)? Probably not long once they learn when Christy (Anna Faris) has been up to at the bar while they've been away… Radio host Angie Martinez reveals Untold Stories of Hip Hop on a new WE tv series (10/9c) as she debriefs hip-hop royalty including, in the opener, the outspoken Cardi B and Snoop Dogg.