Worth Watching: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ Sundance Now Goes ‘Upright,’ Inside the Primaries
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Star Trek: Lower Decks (streaming on CBS All Access): Knock back some contraband Romulan whisky and kick back with a Star Trek spinoff like no other—not because it’s animated (Trek has gone there before), but because this comic ‘toon dares to satirize the clichés the franchise invented. Lovingly, of course. Lower Decks, from series creator Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites), is set aboard the second-string U.S.S. Cerritos and focuses on the lower-rank ensigns—especially the authority-averse Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome)—who rarely get the glory while the senior officers on the bridge are busy saving the universe. (Episodes roll out weekly.)
Upright (streaming on Sundance Now): Even more offbeat is this shaggy-dog Australian charmer starring and co-created by the versatile Tim Minchin (composer of Broadway’s hit Matilda musical). He plays the ironically nicknamed Lucky, a mopey musician traversing Australia with his upright piano in tow when he collides with Meg (Milly Alcock), a foul-mouthed teenager with plenty of demons of her own. As their picaresque cross-country misadventures ensue, Lucky soon finds himself tinkling “Heart and Soul” on the keys alongside a burly motorcycle-gang member. It’s that kind of show. (Two episodes roll out weekly.)
On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries (streaming on HBO Max): In its first synergistic collaboration with CNN Films, the new WarnerMedia streamer follows a squad of veteran and first-time female political reporters as they hit the road to cover a political season that feels like it’s been going on forever. On the Trail opens with the build-up to the Iowa caucuses, where many a campaign is launched (and more than a few are dashed) as the unpredictable campaign season intensifies.
An American Pickle (streaming on HBO Max): Also premiering on what turns out to be an unusually busy day in the streaming world—and it isn’t even Friday—Seth Rogen stars in a dual role in a whimsical film adapted by Simon Rich (Miracle Workers) from his New Yorker novella. Rogen plays Herschel Greenbaum, an immigrant in 1920s Brooklyn who seemingly perishes during a mishap in a pickle factory, but is miraculously preserved in brine and emerges unchanged a century later. Upon waking, he meets his great-grandson Ben (also Rogen), a computer coder who must introduce and try to assimilate his great-grandfather into a modern world. What a pickle, indeed.
Inside Thursday TV: ESPN joins forces with its subscription streaming offshoot ESPN+ for the PGA Championship from San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park. Coverage begins at 10 am/9c/7 PT on streaming, with O.G. ESPN picking up the action at 4 pm/3c/1 PT and extending into prime time. … HGTV’s Christina on the Coast (9/8c) is back with new episodes, the first since Southern California designer Christina Anstead welcomed baby Hudson to the family. … Everyone into the gene pool on truTV’s Tacoma FD (10/9c), as Ike’s (Gabriel Hogan) unruly twin Mike arrives to ask for a profound favor, while the crew takes DNA tests and Granny (Marcus Henderson) learns of his Jewish roots. … Peacock’s slate of originals often feels more like something you’d see on Acorn or BritBox, and the imported-from-Sky comedy Hitmen is no exception. Comedy duo Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are best buds whose bickering is occasionally interrupted by the odd murder-for-hire.