Worth Watching: A ‘Unicorn’ Thanksgiving, Fall Finales (Including ‘Good Place,’ ‘Million’), Chilling ‘Cheat’ on Sundance Now
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The Unicorn (8:30/7:30c, CBS): The sort of detail that separates a great family comedy from the ordinary: As Wade (Walton Goggins) and his daughters prepare for their first traditional Thanksgiving since Jill passed away a year ago, there’s still a rotting pumpkin from Halloween on the front stoop. As Wade’s support group of friends and their families gather for the feast, and possibly a deep-fried turkey courtesy of Ben (Omar Miller), there is laughter and sentiment — including a search for a missing family recipe — and even a battle of wills between Jill’s visiting sister Allison (Annie Mumolo) and fellow control freak Delia (the priceless Michaela Watkins). It’s all very satisfying.
Also holiday-oriented: A first Kentucky Thanksgiving awaits Arthur (Bradley Whitford) on NBC’s slight but sweet Perfect Harmony (8:30/7:30c), as the Second First Church choir members invite him along for a progressive dinner at each of their homes. Although, as the cynical maestro snipes, “Progressive and Kentucky go together about as well as C and F-sharp… They’re dissonant.” Not the case with this fun ensemble.
The Good Place (9/8c, NBC): Is Chidi (William Jackson Harper) the last hope for humanity? Does he, as the title of the fall-finale cliffhanger suggests, have “The Answer?” In an episode that’s as thoughtfully profound and touching as it is funny — and with The Good Place, that’s saying something — our favorite ethicist and philosopher must finally awaken to join the debate. But first, we’re treated to a recap of his life, and lifelong examination of questions that just may not have simple answers.
A Million Little Things (9/8c, ABC): Just about everything hits the fan in an emotionally explosive fall finale where long-held secrets spill out in an avalanche of confrontational game-changers. First on the menu is PJ’s (Chandler Riggs) meltdown upon learning more than he expected about his biological father. Matters are just as testy regarding Baby Charlie, when Katherine (Grace Park) and Eddie (David Giuntoli) consider legal action against Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) to get her to come clean about just who the infant’s daddy really is. Even peacemaker Gary (James Roday) and Maggie (Allison Miller) aren’t immune from the fallout. So much damage to be reckoned with when the show returns in the new year.
Cheat (streaming on Sundance Now): This chilling British psychological drama, with each of its four episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays, sets up a fever-pitched confrontation between university professor Leah (Katherine Kelly) and smug, defiant student Rose (a truly frightening Molly Windsor), whose unusually accomplished essay sets off red flags of suspected cheating. When Leah takes a stand against this brat of privilege, things quickly get personal, and ultimately deadly, as layers of deception fuel a melodramatic revenge plot. This is the kind of story where characters must keep making terrible decisions for the twisty plot to chug forward, but even as you cringe, you can’t wait to see what happens next.
Also streaming: the entire six-episode third season of CBS All Access’s droll police comedy No Activity, starring Patrick Brammall and Tim Meadows as hard-luck officers suffering a recent demotion after a disastrous bust. New guest stars include Keegan Michael-Key as Officer Brock and Dylan McDermott as Clint, Dispatch’s new supervisor, which makes things awkward for former girlfriend Janice (Amy Sedaris).
Inside Thursday TV: Netflix goes a little bit Hallmark with the holiday rom-com The Knight Before Christmas, starring Josh Whitehouse as medieval Sir Cole, who’s magically transported to modern-day Ohio, where a love-starved science teacher (Vanessa Hudgens) helps him figure out the way back home. If the path of true love doesn’t get in the way… As ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (8/7c) heads into its holiday hiatus, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is finally back where she belongs — at Grey Sloan Memorial. Now how about all the others stuck over at Pac-North?… Will (Eric McCormack) nurses a broken heart after his breakup with McCoy on NBC’s Will & Grace (9:30/8:30c), but is the Grief Panda hired by Grace (Debra Messing) and Jack (Sean Hayes) going to do more harm than good?… Vondie Curtis-Hall (Chicago Hope) guests on CBS’s Evil (10/9c) as David’s (Mike Colter) artist father, whose work mysteriously contains one of the magical sigils from the top-secret Poveglia Codex. What gives? And this is starting to sound like a job for Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon.