Worth Watching: Country Music Honors Its Own in Nashville, ‘Archer’ Wakes Up, Remembering Challenger, Saving Notre Dame
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
55th Academy of Country Music Awards (8/7c, CBS): Postponed from April, the show must go on — and it’s going to be quite a show this year, as the ACM ceremony moves from its usual Las Vegas setting to Nashville, where performances will be broadcast from three iconic locations: the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and the more intimate Bluebird Café. Keith Urban hosts, and teams with P!NK on their new single, “One Too Many.” Returning to the show after seven years: Taylor Swift, singing “Betty” from her hot new album folklore from the Opry stage. The show opens with all five nominees for Entertainer of the Year — Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood — collaborating for a medley of their greatest hits. Underwood also participates in a medley of female Opry headliners including songs by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. And that’s just for starters.
Archer (10/9c, FXX): After three years in a coma, inept James Bond wannabe Sterling Archer (voiced expertly by H. Jon Benjamin) finally awakens for the irreverent animated spy satire’s 11th season. And guess what? The old gang didn’t really miss him. Which doesn’t stop him from butting in on their madcap capers, and once again trying to hit on the most badass agent, Lana (Aisha Tyler), now seemingly more unattainable than ever. It’s good to know that the more things change, Archer… doesn’t.
Challenger: The Final Flight (streaming on Netflix): A four-part docuseries revisits one of NASA’s most tragic events: the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986, which happened shortly after launch while millions were watching — including schoolchildren enraptured by one of the crew members, high-school teacher Christa McAuliffe. The series profiles the astronauts, including new interviews with surviving family members, and explains what went wrong with the help of former NASA officials and engineers.
A busy day for Netflix also includes the series premiere of Sing On!, a karaoke competition hosted by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s effervescent Tituss Burgess. The twist: a “vocal analyzer” compares each contestant’s belting to the original version, with a $60,000 grand prize at stake… Criminal: UK returns for a second season of riveting police interrogations led by detectives played by Rochenda Sandall and Lee Ingleby. As they try to break down suspects including a business exec accused of rape and the wife of a convicted killer, the tension is palpable… An all-star cast enlivens the Southern Gothic malaise of director Antonio Campos’s grim movie The Devil All the Time, starring Tom Holland as a young man battling his and his father’s (Bill Skårsgard) demons in an Ohio backwater, with Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough as a variety of disreputable characters.
Notre-Dame: Our Lady of Paris (9/8c, ABC): A two-hour documentary provides first-hand accounts of the devastating fire that ravaged the iconic Paris cathedral last year. Featuring interviews with firefighters, clergy, local officials and eyewitnesses, the special includes footage from within the inferno as brave souls fought to rescue the monument from irreparable disaster.
Staged (streaming on Hulu): Here’s a promising surprise. Two of our favorite actors, Michael Sheen (Prodigal Son) and David Tennant (Broadchurch), star in the six-part British comedy filmed with Zoom-style technology during the lockdown. In the self-referential series, which aired in June on BBC One, the actors portray fictional versions of themselves — as do their significant others — as they try to rehearse Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author remotely after their West End premiere was put on hold due to the coronavirus.
Inside Wednesday TV: PBS explores some of the planet’s most exotic and visually spectacular settings in the three-part Worlds of Wonder (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org), starting with an exploration of Madagascar… Followed by an episode of Nova that sounds like a messy Nickelodeon stunt, but Secret Mind of Slime (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) is actually a scientific study of single-celled organisms called slime molds, which lack a brain but somehow still show signs of decision-making ability… The CW’s The 100 (8/7) has some reckoning in store after last week’s tragedy, but as usual, Clarke (Eliza Taylor) & Co. have a new threat to deal with before they can heal their latest emotional wounds… Because they can never leave well enough (or worst enough) alone, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (9/8c) rehashes all that happened last season in a three-part reunion that continues over the next two Wednesdays.