Worth Watching: 'Treadstone' on USA, 'Arrow' Begins Final Season, a 'Conners' Triangle, the Dems Debate
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
Treadstone (10/9c, USA): When these sleeper agents get woke, watch out. Pure action on an adrenaline high is the hook of this grueling spy thriller inspired by the Bourne franchise. In a premise that spans the globe and encompasses several decades, Treadstone revives the long-thought-dormant CIA black-ops program in which highly trained agents become "cicadas," burrowed in ordinary lives until a behavioral trigger instantly turns them into supercharged ninja assassins. "I guess I'm not feeling myself lately," says Alaska oil rigger Doug McKenna (Brian J. Smith), who can't help wondering where those mad fighting skills came from during a bar brawl with the Russians who took his crew's jobs. As in the Bourne movies, the hand-to-hand combat and chase scenes are berserkly amped, with wild stunts exploding from the most routine encounters. Treadstone does not tread lightly, because why would it?
Paired with the return of the series version of The Purge (9/8c). The second season will deal with the effects of a Purge night on four interconnected characters over the course of a year, leading to a new Purge night. Because who wouldn't look forward to an annual night of murderous lawlessness?
Arrow (9/8c, The CW): The show that launched the increasingly cluttered Arrow-verse begins its eighth and final season with Oliver (Stephen Amell) returning to Starling City. His new mission is on such a grand scale it will lead to a five-show crossover this winter with Supergirl, Batwoman, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Will any of them be the same when Oliver hangs up his quiver for good?
The Conners (8/7c, ABC): Push comes to love when circumstances finally force Darlene (Sara Gilbert) to make a decision about her messy love triangle with David (Johnny Galecki), ex-husband and father of her kids, and Ben (Jay R. Ferguson), her rugged journalist boss. The family, especially Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), is on Team Ben, but Darlene has to consider sensitive David's feelings, which Dan (John Goodman) warns has no place at the dinner table: "We push them down to make room for food and beer, which is where we find love." Speaking of beer, Dan isn't all that keen on newly sober single mom Becky (Lecy Goranson) taking the bartender post at Casita Bonita. Temptation has rarely been this family's friend.
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): While killing time with Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) and acerbic Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) until the next AA meeting, Kevin (Justin Hartley) reflects on "the power of these little decisions" that can change a life forever, a running theme in this moving family drama. His time on the fictional sitcom The Manny looms large, and crying babies become a link between his past and sister Kate's (Chrissy Metz) present, when she and Toby (Chris Sullivan) try to open up blind baby Jack to new experiences — and sounds. Phylicia Rashad lends her regal presence in a return appearance as Carol, Beth's (Susan Kalechi Watson) mom, who comes to Philadelphia for the grand (but rocky) opening of her daughter's dance studio.
Democratic Primary Debate (8/7c, 5/PT, CNN): Gotta love how The Daily Show frames the fourth round of presidential primary debates in its live broadcast, Votegasm 2020: The Field Narrows from 10 to… 12? That's right, in what is said to be the largest gathering of candidates in a single-night debate format, 12 candidates qualified for this debate, including top-10 returnees Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang. Joining the party at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio are Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer (making his debut on the debate stage). Who if anyone will be able to break through the clutter? Will the focus be on policy (climate change, Syria) or the impeachment enquiry? And too bad Saturday Night Live isn't new this week. (Ditto CBS's Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)
Inside Tuesday TV: Melissa McCarthy gets serious in exploring her Scottish (and Irish and Prussian) ancestry in a new edition of PBS's Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org). Also taking a tour of a family tree planted in the Midwest: Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet… ESPN's 30 for 30 examines the combative rivalry of MMA superstars Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, and the rise of the UFC, in the new documentary Chuck & Tito (9/8c)… It's Taco Tuesdays on El Rey Network, which presents the eight-episode travel series United Tacos of America (10/9c), in which "taco journalists" Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece hit the road to find the country's best tacos. First stop: Houston… Paramount Network stages a Battle of the Fittest Couples (11/10c) with hot-bodied couples squaring off in physical and mental challenges. Each week, a losing couple is designated for elimianation, and the winning duo picks a rival team to fight for survival in the "Rage Cage."