Worth Watching: 'Conners' Goes Live, Kate's 'Hell of a Week' on 'This Is Us,' Premieres 'For Life' and 'Cherish the Day'
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
The Conners (8/7c, ABC): In a rare event, the family sitcom goes live (on both coasts), with results from the New Hampshire primary folded into the storyline as the working-class and politically diverse Conners debate the importance of voting. It's also the occasion for a surprise going-away party for Louise (Katey Sagal), causing friction between Dan (John Goodman) and his daughters.
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): Previous episodes revealed what "A Hell of a Week" it has been for Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) — and now it's Kate's (Chrissy Metz) turn in this mini-trilogy to face her precarious relationship with husband Toby (Chris Sullivan) as she heads off to a retreat for parents of sight-impaired children — not with Toby, but with her mom, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who already has plenty on her mind, including her recent diagnosis of "mild cognitive impairment." As with her siblings, Kate's current storyline echoes against the past, including a long night of parenting for her beloved father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) when she was still his princess, and a harrowing young-adult encounter with her volatile boyfriend, Mark (Austin Abrams). Justin Hartley directs the episode.
For Life (10/9c, ABC): Rooting for the underdog is a time-honored TV tradition, but in this earnestly compelling legal drama, jailhouse lawyer Aaron Wallace (a forceful Nicholas Pinnock) seems more like a pit bull. Who could blame him? We first meet Aaron nine years into a life sentence on false charges that cost him his family and his livelihood. He earned a law degree, and works to secure his own and other inmates' freedom, but he faces considerable obstacles from a broken, corrupt legal system. For Life gains dramatic urgency from Pinnock's powerful portrayal of an impatient man not above bending the rules when the odds are stacked so heavily against him.
Cherish the Day (10/9c, OWN): Conceived as an anthology drama by Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar, When They See Us), this sexy eight-episode romance tracks the torrid relationship of the feisty Gently James (The Mindy Project's Xosha Roquemore) and smitten app developer Evan Fisher (Underground's Alano Miller) over a five-year span. Each episode comprises a single day, including their first meeting as Gently is returning way-overdue books to the library for her employer, a retired actress (the great Cicely Tyson, thankfully still working). When Evan steps in to help, sparks instantly fly, despite class differences that threaten to tear them apart.
Inside Tuesday TV: Romance is in the air on ABC's mixed-ish (9/8c) as Rainbow (Arica Himmel) prepares to go on her first date with Bryce (Luca Luhan), but her parents want to meet his folks, and they're not a good political mix; and also on black-ish (9:30/8:30c), where grandma Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) gives lovelorn Jack (Miles Brown) some outdated advice on how to get a girl, while Dre (Anthony Anderson) desperately tries to find a thoughtful, rather than merely expensive, Valentine's Day gift for Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross)… In HBO's Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (9/8c), the rapport between larger-than-life Muhammed Ali and witty talk-show host Dick Cavett provides a canvas for profiling the legendary boxer through clips from his 14 appearances on Cavett's show between 1968 and 1979… PBS's Frontline goes inside the Battle for Hong Kong (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), following five protestors taking part in contentious pro-democracy rallies against China's oppressive communist government.