Worth Watching: ‘Parks and Rec’ Reunion, ‘Sheldon’s College Future, ‘Better Things’ Finale, NBC’s ‘Council of Dads’
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
A Parks and Recreation Special (8:30/7:30c, NBC): There are very few silver linings to the dark cloud we’re currently enduring, but this unexpected reunion of the beloved sitcom certainly qualifies. Designed as a fundraiser for Feeding America, a cause that would be near and dear to the heart of civic-minded Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the half-hour episode reunites Leslie with her friends and colleagues in Pawnee, Indiana, all staying connected while social distancing. The inspired core cast joins Poehler for the occasion (Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, Retta), and guest stars with a Pawnee connection are also welcome. Preceded at 8/7c by The Paley Center Salutes Parks and Recreation, which includes some of the series’ best moments and behind-the-scenes reflections.
Young Sheldon (8/7c, CBS): Everyone knows that precocious genius Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) is headed toward higher education sooner rather than later. In the third-season finale, the course of his academic future causes rifts in the family when Sheldon discovers a college-acceptance letter — from Cal Tech! — that overprotective mother Mary (Zoe Perry) has been hiding from everyone. Even including husband George (Lance Barber), which sends dad into an uproar. They all agree Sheldon’s certainly got the brains for college, if not the emotional maturity. So what’s his next step? We’ll see next season.
Better Things (10/9c, FX): It’s a more bittersweet occasion when Pamela Adlon‘s brilliantly observed slice-of-life comedy signs off from what has been an outstanding fourth season. The extended opening sequence is pure magic, as Sam (Adlon) treats adorable daughter Duke (Olivia Edward) and a friend to a night out at a Dodgers game — remember sports? — and a ride home that takes unexpectedly delightful detours. The episode is interspersed with interview segments from Sam’s documentary about womanhood — I expect to see “Women Should Be Brothers to Each Other” T-shirts any time now — and things take a more serious turn when she has a reckoning with her ex, Xander (Matthew Glave). The season finale is preceded by a six-episode mini-marathon (starting at 7/6c) of writer/director/star Adlon’s favorite episodes from the first three seasons. There’s an awful lot to choose from.
Council of Dads (10/9c, NBC): Following a repeat (at 9/8c) of the pilot episode that aired a month ago, NBC begins a run of the sentimental family drama the network hopes will appeal to all those who look forward to their weekly cry with This Is Us. (Dads‘ regular time period, starting next week, is 8/7c.) Making Us look restrained by comparison in its manipulations, Dads stars Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) as Robin, now four months into her widowhood as a mother of five. She can’t help chafing at the inconsistent ministrations of the “council of dads” brotherhood her late husband set up as a support system. Recovering alcoholic Larry (Michael O’Neill) is too much of a control freak, restaurateur Anthony (Clive Standen) is too distracted by his Atlanta workplace to always be on call with the Savannah-based family, and Dr. Oliver (J. August Richards) is too torn up about not being able to save his best friend. It’s all a bit too much, but anyone seeking comfort-food TV might welcome it.
The Good Fight (streaming on CBS All Access): Returning from a one-week hiatus, the blistering legal drama shifts into conspiracy mode as Diane (Christine Baranski) works to decipher just what this mysterious “Memo 618” is all about, which has sent trusted judges running for cover while wiping out all traces of her earlier case. Back in the office, when the DNC consults the firm on ways to engage African-American voters in the next election, the debate among the diverse employees raises a particular red flag with HR. Hugh Dancy, so villainous on the last season of Homeland, joins the ensemble as retired Army sergeant-turned-lawyer Caleb Garlin, who charms Marissa (Sarah Steele) even though she suspects he’s a corporate spy for the new owners.
Inside Thursday TV: Moving to a new night and time, ABC’s revival of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (8/7c) welcomes comedians Anthony Anderson, Ike Barinholtz and Hannibal Burress to the hot seat… Merrin Dungey (Alias) guests on CBS’s Man With a Plan (8:30/7:30c) as a couples’ therapist called in to settle a dispute between Adam (Matt LeBlanc) and Andi (Liza Snyder) over a boat he impulsively bought without checking with the wife first… Grey’s Anatomy may be closed until whenever next season begins, but cast members continue to appear on firehouse spinoff Station 19 (9/8c), with Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and Stefania Spampinato (Carina DeLuca) showing up this week… Streaming highlights include Topic’s Soul City, an anthology of three mercifully brief (15 minutes) creepy vignettes set in New Orleans, from director/producers Coodie and Chike; and the original Netflix film Dangerous Lies, starring Riverdale‘s Camila Mendes as a caretaker for a wealthy elderly man who puts her in a world of danger when he dies and names her as the sole heir to his fortune.