Worth Watching: ‘Good Times’ Joins ‘Family’ in Front of a Studio Audience, ‘Survivor’ Finale, a Special ‘Mandalorian’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Live in Front of a Studio Audience (8/7c, ABC): They don’t make them like this anymore — except when they recreate them. Reprising the experiment that drew a huge TV (let alone live studio) audience in May, starry casts gather to revive classic episodes of Norman Lear’s iconic sitcom masterpieces. Once again, All in the Family leads the way, with Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as Archie and Edith Bunker — I felt Woody was terribly miscast, but maybe he’ll grow into the role? — and Ike Barinholtz and Ellie Kemper lending support as Meathead and Gloria. Guesting in the episode will be Kevin Bacon, Jesse Eisenberg and (star of the acclaimed reinvention of Lear’s One Day at a Time) Justina Machado. Joining Family this year is a new version of the great Good Times with an astonishing cast including Andre Braugher and Viola Davis as James and Florida Evans (the roles immortalized by John Amos and Esther Rolle), featuring SNL vet Jay Pharoah as dy-no-mite JJ, rising star Asante Blackk (This Is Us, When They See Us) as Michael, Corinne Foxx as Thelma and Tiffany Haddish as scene-stealing Willona. If this group can’t orchestrate a good time out of a vintage script, no one can.
Survivor (8/7c, CBS): Well, this should be a reunion special for the record books, regardless of who ends up winning the million dollars in the extended season finale. Last week’s shocker ended with Jeff Probst abruptly announcing that controversial contestant Dan Spilo had been removed from the game following an off-camera “incident” — after the flap earlier in the season when he was accused and cautioned against inappropriate touching, during which period his accuser Kellee was ejected in one of the show’s all-time low points. Survivor has been rightly criticized for how this situation was handled, then summarily dismissed as the game churned on as if the Dan situation never happened. (He was even rewarded with time with his son during the family-visit episode.) Will there be a reckoning in the post-show cast discussion? That’s reason enough to watch. (And a final point: If they knew they were going to eject Dan, why did they wait until after the wonderful Elaine was voted off?) Rooting for den mother Janet, but there are always plenty of twists on the way to the final tribal council.
The Mandalorian (streaming on Disney+): An alert for those who are expecting a new episode on Friday: Disney has moved the schedule up a few days, with a fresh episode airing two days early — the better to prime the pump with a “sneak peek” promo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, out Friday. Otherwise, the episode features Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul) as an old rival of the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) who extends an invitation to make peace. But in this corner of the Star Wars universe, can anyone truly be trusted?
Inside Wednesday TV: Musical romantics will want to check out the new Netflix series Soundtrack, which tells 10 different love stories set in Los Angeles, each featuring elaborate production numbers in which the characters break into song and dance in lip-synced music videos. Think Modern Love meets Pennies from Heaven, with a playlist ranging from modern classics (Ray Charles, Etta James) to contemporary favorites (Kelly Clarkson, Whitney Houston)… Robert Downey Jr. hosts the eight-part YouTube Originals docu-series The Age of A.I., which takes a deep dive into technology that could change the way we look at life… A&E’s Emmy-winning reality series about young men and women with Down syndrome ends its run with A Very Born This Way Christmas (9/8c), doubling as a series finale and holiday special. The show’s cast — Elena, John, Megan, Rachel, Sean, Steven, Cristina and Angel — and their families look back over four seasons of personal development as they celebrate the holidays… A special edition of TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (10:30/9:30c) includes two field segments in which the host and her crew travel to the front lines of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong… For those with a taste for international mystery, Sundance Now premieres the 10-part hit Norwegian thriller Wisting, starring Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) as an FBI agent who heads to Norway and teams with a recently widowed detective (Sven Nordin) to hunt for a relocated American serial killer.