Worth Watching: An Early Return for ‘Will & Grace,’ an ‘Evil’ Halloween to Remember, ‘Good Place’ Goes to Bad Place
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Will & Grace (9:30/8:30c, NBC): The raucous sitcom classic returns to the Thursday lineup ahead of its projected midseason schedule (replacing the defunct Sunnyside), starting an 11th and once-again final season — marking the third since its successful 2017 comeback. Expect some life-altering news to shake up the world of Grace (Debra Messing), just back from a whirlwind European escapade of “good dirty fun,” and Will (Eric McCormack), who’s managing a long-distance engagement with McCoy (Matt Bomer). Somehow, Karen (Megan Mullally) is as unbridled as ever, coaching Will through a slapstick practice round of phone sex. And marriage hasn’t exactly matured Jack (Sean Hayes), who risks the wrath of Estefan (Brian Jordan Alvarez) when he tries to dispose of his beloved’s kitschy cuckoo clock. Cuckoo pretty well describes it.
Evil (10/9c, CBS): “Do you want to do something really scary?” Let me rephrase that: Do you want to see something really scary? The quote, spoken by a mysterious little girl in a Halloween mask, is an invitation to watch one of the creepiest hours of TV so far this fall season‑and unquestionably the scariest episode to date of this macabre exploration of faith-vs-science, which was just renewed for a second season. (The first season of 13 episodes will wrap Jan. 30.) The centerpiece is a grueling Halloween-night exorcism, fueling a debate between wannabe priest David (Mike Colter) and psychology-oriented Kristen (Katja Herbers) about whether the victim is actually possessed or if the exorcism may be exacerbating an already disturbed mental state. (Either way, the scenes are terrifying.) On a lighter and more satirical note, professional debunker Ben (Aasif Mandvi) tags along with a Ghost Hunters-like TV team to poke holes in their latest investigation — of a haunted strip club. But the most lingering chills involve Kristen’s four daughters, who spend their Halloween playing spooky games that become all too surreal. Why, you may wonder, does Kristen keep leaving her kids with their irresponsible grandma, Sheryl (a very amusing Christine Lahti)? But even Sheryl is about to have her own encounter with evil, the sort of moment that leaves you impatient for the next episode.
The Good Place (9/8c, NBC): If Evil sometimes represents Hell on Earth, this cheeky and inspired fantasy-comedy regularly takes its lovable characters to Hell and back. And that’s just where reformed demon Michael (Ted Danson) and eternally clueless Jason (Manny Jacinto) head on a mission to rescue Good Janet (D’Arcy Carden). Complications naturally, or unnaturally, ensue, prompting frustrated boss devil Shawn (the wonderfully deadpan Marc Evan Jackson) to bluster: “What in the name of Kevin Spacey‘s self-made Christmas Eve video message to get back on House of Cards is going on here?” Our lips would be sealed except we can’t contain the laughter.
A Million Little Things (9/8c, ABC): The predominant issue this week in the cluttered relationship drama is moving on, and how difficult that can be. Widow Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) deals with her children’s grief when it comes time to gather for a family portrait to celebrate the new baby — without Jon. Or, we might note, the actual baby daddy, Eddie (David Giuntoli), who’s got his own concerns about wife Katherine (Grace Park) wanting not so much to move on, but possibly away. Anything to give their family a fresh start. And now that Maggie (Allison Miller) has learned that her beloved dead brother’s heart resides in Eric (Jason Ritter), the cancer survivor is drawn to him in a way that bothers the usually unflappable Gary (James Roday). Lost‘s L. Scott Caldwell makes a welcome return as Rome’s (Romany Malco) mother, celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary in a way that makes her son and wife Regina (Christina Moses) take a hard look at their own long-term happiness.
Inside Thursday TV: One of the most endearing things about widower Wade (Walton Goggins), aka CBS’s The Unicorn (8:30/7:30c), is that he refuses to ask for pity. Which is why he becomes concerned when daughter Grace (Ruby Jay) lands the lead in the school musical with no discernible talent, making him wonder if it’s a sympathy casting… The HBO documentary Saudi Women’s Driving School (9/8c) examines whether Saudi Arabia lifting the ban on allowing women to drive could be a step toward gender independence in the Middle East kingdom, although with female activists still being jailed, there’s a long way to go… The latest challenge for the recovering addicts on CBS’s Mom (9/8c) finds Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie (Allison Janney) looking for a way to honor a friend after her sudden death… A theme this season on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (10/9c) is how understaffed the team has become, which becomes a problem when three big cases are dropped on them at midnight… Queen Latifah shares a shocking #MeToo incident in WE tv’s Untold Stories of Hip Hop (10/9c)… The apocalypse is played for grisly millennial laughs in the Netflix zombie romp Daybreak, in which high-schoolers in suburban Glendale, CA survive a nuclear blast, fending off monsters while war breaks out among rival gangs of caste-conscious adolescents.