Worth Watching: Family Thanksgivings on 'Conners' and 'This Is Us,' 'For Sama' on 'Frontline'
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
The Conners (8/7c, ABC): The turkey got off easy. Even by this family's raucous standards, Thanksgiving dinner is especially combative this year, with resentments boiling from Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) over Darlene's (Sara Gilbert) refusal to let them open a restaurant in the Lunch Box. An already fraught situation, which hits a peak when the late Roseanne's name is invoked, isn't helped much by Dan (John Goodman) inviting outsider Louise (Katey Sagal) and Harris (Emma Kenney) bringing along her delinquent friend Odessa (Eliza Bennett), prompting this very Jackie-esque observation: "Wow, somebody smells like weed covered up poorly by Febreze." If anyone can play peacemaker, it's Dan — and Goodman is especially fine as Dan tries to hold this fractious family together.
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): TV's most emotional family drama promises yet another eventful Thanksgiving, the first to be celebrated at Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) Philadelphia townhouse since the move from Pittsburgh. If all goes according to plan, Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) could be hosting adopted daughter Deja's (Lyric Ross) birth mother as well as the ever-unpredictable Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne), courtesy of Kevin (Justin Hartley). Add Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) bringing baby Jack eastward for the first time, and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) not fully herself these days. That's a lot to digest.
For Sama (10/9c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Frontline presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of a powerful documentary that won the top non-fiction prize at the Cannes Film Festival among dozens of other awards. For Sama sees the Syrian civil war through the lens of young mother Waad al-Kateab, who with fellow director Edward Watts (Escaping ISIS) chronicles five years of the conflict, including the birth of Waad's daughter Sama, born amid the battle for rebel-held Aleppo with gas and bomb attacks and civilian massacres. Through it all, Waad takes strength from her baby daughter as she dreams of a free homeland and wonders if Sama’s future would be better served by fleeing the carnage or staying to fight for freedom.
Inside Tuesday TV: HBO's Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops (9/8c) follows two San Antonio police officers who are part of a 13-member Mental Health Unit, trained to take mental health into account to diffuse difficult and potentially dangerous situations… Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) decides to get back to her first real passion, the music biz, on Fox's Empire (9/8c), offers to throw an event for Bossy Media. Because who's a bigger boss than Cookie?… In Netflix's Iliza Shlesinger: Unveiled, the comedian returns for her fifth stand-up special for the service, this time with a wedding ring on her finger and plenty of material on wedding planning, honeymoons and bachelorettes… A fond farewell to Comedy Central's The Jim Jefferies Show (10:30/9:30c) on the occasion of its third season finale, now confirmed to be the series finale. We haven't seen the last of the Australian comic, as he's heading to NBC, where he's developing a sitcom based on his life and outspoken attitudes.