Worth Watching: ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel’ Return, ‘Dancing’ Is Back (But Not Tom & Erin), Drew Barrymore’s New Talker
A selective critical checklist of notable Monday TV:
Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune (syndicated, check local listings): On the busiest TV Monday in ages, millions will once again be able to take comfort in the return of syndication’s most durable and popular quiz and game shows. I’m especially pleased to see Jeopardy! return for a 37th season with Alex Trebek back at the podium, on a redesigned set allowing for social distancing. In another new wrinkle, Greatest of All Time tournament winner Ken Jennings joins Jeopardy! in a visible role as consulting producer, with his own video categories — the first appears Tuesday. Similarly, Wheel launches its 38th season with rigorous testing and safety protocols — including a spinning cap for each contestant to use that fits over the spoke of the Wheel so no one has to actually touch the Wheel as they spin. Let the games continue.
Dancing with the Stars (8/7c, ABC): As if filming a dance competition during a pandemic weren’t risky enough, ABC shocked and (judging from my mailbag) angered many longtime fans by replacing hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews with Tyra Banks, who’s also an executive producer for the 29th season. In possibly happier news for fans, six-time Mirrorball winner Derek Hough rejoins the Dancing family, this time as a judge, while Len Goodman weighs in from the U.K. Among the celebrity dancers: Tiger King‘s Carole Baskin, Olympic skater and TV personality Johnny Weir — bringing his own costumes, perhaps? — sports greats Charles Oakley and Vernon Davis, actresses Anne Heche and Justina Machado — and, inevitably, a Bachelorette (Kaitlyn Bristowe).
The Drew Barrymore Show (syndicated, check local listings): The movie star and talk-show veteran who once charmed Johnny Carson as a child actress and flashed David Letterman as a mischievous grown-up now gets to see how it feels to welcome famous guests to her own show as she enters the crowded daytime-talk arena. Her first guests herald a Charlie’s Angels reunion when co-stars Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu show up. Another of her favorite acting partners, Adam Sandler, also appears.
Among other daytime talkers getting back to business (check local listings): Tamron Hall, who gets newsy right off the bat in her second season for an exclusive interview with Andrew Gillum, the disgraced Florida politician, and his wife R. Jai. The series has also struck a deal with Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN cable network to air shows from the first season daily at 9 am/8c and 2 pm/1c, with new episodes available two days after original broadcast on weekdays at 8 am/7c and 2 pm/1c… Rachael Ray returns for a 15th season to talk about the fire that recently destroyed her upstate New York home and to address fire safety, with Denis Leary (representing Leary Firefighters Foundation) as a guest.
HBO’s Two-Fer: HBO once again expands its footprint for original series onto Monday nights, with two very different dramas. The Third Day (9/8c) is a six-episode psychological thriller divided in three parts — the middle portion online — and it begins in “Summer,” with Jude Law (The Young Pope) as a troubled man who finds himself cut off from his regular life on an offshore British island, where the odd and possibly sinister locals are preparing a ritualistic local festival… On somewhat more solid ground, the sensitive and evocative eight-part series We Are Who We Are (10/9c) comes from Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name), who brings his brand of art-house sensuality and sensitivity to an intimate drama about disaffected teens whose growing pains are amplified by their unusual living situation — as modern-day Army brats living on a seaside base in Italy. City kid Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer), the son of the base’s new commander (Chloë Sevigny), has trouble fitting in, until he meets the enigmatic and gender-fluid Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón).
Enslaved (10/9c, Epix): History is made personal in a six-part docuseries that takes a literal deep dive into the slave trade that once flourished from Africa to the Americas. Samuel L. Jackson is the entry point to Enslaved, as the actor/activist reconnects with his roots by tracing his DNA to the African country of Gabon and his ancestral tribe, the Benga. While he embarks on this personal journey, becoming welcomed back as “a lost son returned” in a moving and rousing ceremony, the series also follows the efforts of a group called Diving with a Purpose, which scours the waters of the Florida Keys to find evidence of sunken slave ships.
Inside Monday TV: There are just a handful of original episodes to go, and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Supernatural, TNT stages a weeklong marathon of fan-favorite episodes, starting with the pilot (10 am/9c), with five episodes airing daily… Paris Hilton opens up as the ultimate poor little rich girl in the soul-baring documentary This Is Paris, available for free streaming on Hilton’s YouTube channel… Monday Night Football is back on ESPN (7:15/6:15c) with a double-header, starting with Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, followed (approximate 10:10/9:10c) by Tennessee Titans taking on the Denver Broncos… Seth MacFarlane‘s long-running animated comedy American Dad (10/9c) marks its 300th episode, only the 25th scripted prime-time series to reach that milestone, with Roger being haunted by his past. Five fan-selected episodes begin airing at 7:30/6:30c… ABC ramps up the get-out-the-vote movement with an entertainment special, VOMO: Vote or Miss Out (10/9c), hosted by Kevin Hart, featuring entertainers and politicians from all sides of the spectrum. Among the talent: Will Ferrell, Tiffany Haddish, Charlamagne Tha God, Tim Allen, Scarlett Johansson, Jay Leno, Jon Hamm, 2 Chainz and Lil Baby, and political figures including Michelle Obama, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cindy McCain.