Worth Watching: CMT Celebrates Heroes, Netflix Spells a Dream, ‘Shadows’ on FX
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special (8/7, CMT; simulcast on Paramount Network, TV Land, Pop TV): We could all use some uplift this week — which makes the timing more essential than ever for a musical salute to front-line workers and other inspirational community leaders on a night that would normally have featured the annual CMA Awards (currently postponed until October). With performances and celebrity appearances recorded from their homes, as is the new normal, the roster includes a who’s-who of country-music talent: Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Florida Georgia Line, Brothers Osborne, Thomas Rhett, Brandi Carlile, Darius Rucker and more. The musicians and celebrities including Scarlett Johannson, Sean Penn, Gary Sinise, Bobby Bones and Kristen Bell will pay tribute to unsung heroes from the health-care, education, business, food industry and military sectors. It’s unclear how the past week’s turmoil will be reflected, but it can’t be ignored.
Spelling the Dream (streaming on Netflix): The young champions profiled in this upbeat documentary will never need spell check. Dream follows four Indian-American students as they cram and memorize the most arcane words in the dictionary as they prepare for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. They hope to keep alive the remarkable winning streak of Indian-American contestants, who have won for the last 12 years. How and why this is the case is explored by guest commentators, including CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria and comedian Hari Kondabolu (The Problem with Apu).
What We Do in the Shadows (10/9c, FX): One of the most enjoyable developments in the second season of this hilarious supernatural comedy has been watching “familiar” Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) developing an attitude after years of underappreciated subservience. He’s on a break as another terrific episode begins, but even so, it’s going to be up to “Gizmo” — as Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) dismissively calls him — to rescue his unworthy vampire masters when Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) are suddenly abducted by witches for purposes best not described in this space. As Guillermo’s search for the trapped vamps takes them out of Staten Island, Nadja observes that they must be close: “The smell of beef and sulfur is overwhelming.” Colin Robinson’s (Mark Proksch) reply: “That’s just Brooklyn.”
Inside Wednesday TV: Demi Lovato and Ronda Rousey are the celebrities joining, respectively, Team Venus and Team Gronk in new challenges, including a game of human bowling, on CBS’s Game On! (8/7c)… Who would dream of upstaging Amy Sedaris on her own show, truTV’s delirious At Home with Amy Sedaris (10/9c)? That’s what she gets for leaving home to host a staff barbecue in Patty Hogg’s backyard. Fred Weller guests as a drifter who arrives and wows her beleaguered crew with sage advice. Can Amy win them back?… There’s some serious soul-searching among ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (10/9c) as they weigh their values against the new mission at hand.