Worth Watching: Saving Humanity in 'The Good Place,' 'Unicorn' Gets Romantically Serious, Resolving Cliffhangers on 'SVU' & 'Evil'
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The Good Place (8:30/7:30c, NBC): Returning for its final month, the cosmically imaginative sitcom finds Team Cockroach pulling out the stops to convince the Judge (Maya Rudolph in rare form) not to cancel Earth, thus saving humanity. This necessitates more visits to Janet's (D'Arcy Carden) voids — including one delicious Janet who was new to me — and a celebrity cameo too good to spoil. Speaking of spoilers: However they envision a new afterlife, they're going to have to get the demonic Sean (Marc Evan Jackson) on board.
The Unicorn (8:30/7:30, CBS): My favorite new comedy of the season is back with a strong and poignant episode, presenting a new hurdle for widower Wade (Walton Goggins), as he formally introduces his most serious relationship yet, the seriously funny Anna (Sarayu Blue), to his daughters, Grace (Ruby Jay) and a disgruntled Natalie (Makenzie Moss). Are they ready for this? Is he? A further test occurs when the girls, and the ever-hovering Delia (Michaela Watkins), consider parting with some of the late Jill's mementos at a yard sale. The blend of sentiment and broad humor is, as always, effective and affecting.
Mom (9/8c, CBS): Guest-star alert: Kathleen Turner brings her husky presence to this terrific sitcom as Cookie, the "long-lost, never-knew-I-had-one" aunt of a very excited Tammy (the marvelous Kristen Johnston). No family relationships on this show come without a price, and Tammy is thrown when Cookie reveals her motive for the reunion. Which prompts a hilarious exchange between Bonnie (Allison Janney) and Christy (Anna Faris) about how much they'd be willing to sacrifice for each other. The answer: Not a lot.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (10/9c, NBC) and Evil (10/9c, CBS): We can stop hanging now. Thursday's two top dramas return from holiday hiatus to resolve cliffhanger shockers from December. On SVU, the melodrama is in high gear as a distraught detective dad (NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro) takes Rollins (Kelli Giddish) hostage at gunpoint, demanding her colleagues get the goods on the predatory billionaire (Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser) who ruined his family and seems to have got away with it. As Capt. Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team work to rescue Rollins, ADA Carisi (Peter Scanavino) finds new angles to get the rich pervert back behind bars. (Any resemblance to the Jeffrey Epstein case is not accidental.)
On the provocative Evil, also in its last month of episodes (though already renewed for a second season), David (Mike Colter) is recovering from his wounds suffered during a surprise attack. While in his hospital bed, the priest-in-training fights off the presence of death in what promises to be some freaky visions. (The guest cast includes a ghoul doctor, nurse and orderlies.)
Inside Thursday TV: Turner Classic Movies devotes its prime-time lineup to movies newly added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Titles include 1955's film noir The Phoenix City Story (8/7c), the 1970 documentary short I Am Somebody (10/9c), about a strike of black hospital workers in South Carolina, and 1944's suspense classic Gaslight (10:45/9:45), starring an Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman and 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her first film role… An impressionistic episode of Star Trek: Short Treks, streaming on CBS All Access, features two "Children of Mars" in a set-up for the upcoming series Star Trek: Picard… Also the subject of an explosive 60 Minutes report last weekend about his death behind bars, ABC devotes two hours to Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein (9/8c), which is also an ABC News podcast, about the notorious sex trafficker. The special features interviews with some of his accusers and footage from a 2003 interview with Epstein. … Demi Lovato guests on NBC's Will & Grace (9/8c) as a potential surrogate for wannabe dad Will (Eric McCormack). She comes highly recommended, but some of her lifestyle choices give Will pause… Cyndi Lauper is guest judge and inspiration for the latest challenge on Bravo's Project Runway (9:30/8:30c), in which teams create mini-collections based on '80s pop culture with a modern twist.