Worth Watching: Political Dirty Tricks on 'Stumptown,' a 'Mad About You' Revival, a 'Survivor' 2-fer
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Stumptown (10/9c, ABC): Let's give thanks to the freshest, funkiest private-eye show to hit TV in quite some time. As newly minted PI Dex Parios (effortlessly cool Cobie Smulders) prepares to bring her nearest and dearest together for a Friendsgiving — which could be awkward because Grey (Jake Johnson) is currently attached at the lips to Liz (Monica Barbaro), and romantic tension rises when Detective Hoffman (Michael Ealy) joins the party — she also faces an ethical crisis in her latest assignment. Happy Endings' Eliza Coupe guest-stars as a barracuda of a political hack, offering Dex a hefty payday if she can find damaging intel on a seemingly squeaky-clean candidate, who appears to be modeled after Mayor Pete ("gay, married, seems smart"). Dex worries that she may be too good at her job, prompting this challenge from a rival PI: “How much pain are you willing to inflict for a dollar?" Or 45,000.
Mad About You (Spectrum Originals): Has it really been 20 years since Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) signed off after seven seasons of sitcom married life? Sure seems so, because this stale revival — six episodes now, six more on Dec. 18 — feels rooted in a bygone era of shticky situations. The stars still have a lively chemistry in their affectionately exasperated banter, but they wear out their welcome almost instantly as they obsess and kvetch over empty-nest syndrome when grown daughter Mabel (Abby Quinn) leaves for college. At NYC, a whole five blocks away. (Are you laughing yet?) As mom and dad keep pestering their daughter, you wonder why they apparently have no actual life. And though Hunt won four Emmys playing this role, even she can't sell the storyline of Jamie combating menopausal hot flashes as she tries to re-enter the workplace. At which point I found myself mad to be watching just about anything else.
Survivor (8/7c, CBS): After last week's epic hot mess, in which a #MeToo moment ended up with allegedly victimized women sabotaging each other's game while the accused transgressor (Dan) remains in the tribe, is it possible for things to get back to normal? At least the show is leaning on some old tricks, switching things up with a double elimination. I know at least four players I'd like to see go at this point.
Inside Wednesday TV: If the impeachment hearings aren't enough political grist for your news-junkie mill, MSNBC presents the latest Democratic Presidential Candidate debate (9/8c) from Atlanta, with the top 10 candidates taking questions from an all-female panel including Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker and The Washington Post's Ashley Parker. ... For the final Thanksgiving on ABC's Modern Family (9/8c), Haley (Sarah Hyland) tries to cook the holiday dinner to thank her parents for helping out with the twins, while Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) are in a pickle because their friends think they've broken up and begin to pick sides. And we're not talking sweet potatoes… PBS's Nova explores "The Violence Paradox" in a two-hour special report (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) that takes a broad look at human history to suggest that, headlines to the contrary, we could be living in one of the more peaceful eras of humanity. Though obviously we have a way to go… Alex Rodriguez faces one of his biggest career-rehab challenges yet on CNBC's Back in the Game (10/9c) when he takes on the situation of Brian Dunkleman. Who, you ask? He's the guy who walked away from a high-profile gig as American Idol co-host after a single season and is now supporting his young son as a full-time Uber driver.