Worth Watching: ‘Amazing Race’ Returns, Billboard Music Awards, Last Ha-Ha for ‘Baroness Von Sketch Show’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Amazing Race (9/8c, CBS): This show gets around. Crossing the million-mile threshold in its 32nd running, which was filmed before the pandemic swept the globe, the Emmy-winning Race returns with 11 new teams hopping from country to country in hopes of winning the $1 million prize. Contestants include former NFL stars, Olympic hurdlers, pro volleyballers and everyday adventurers. On host Phil Keoghan‘s command, they’ll take off from the iconic Hollywood Bowl to Trinidad and Tobago for the first leg of an exhilarating and scenic journey. Watching Race this season will be a poignant reminder of when it was easier, more fun or even possible to move around Mother Earth.
2020 Billboard Music Awards (8/7c, NBC): It’s all about the music when Kelly Clarkson returns for a third time to host the Billboard ceremony, kicking off the show with a performance of Whitney Houston’s “Higher Love,” joined by Pentatonix and percussion queen Sheila E. Other headliners include the year’s most-nominated act, Post Malone, and En Vogue with a 30th-anniversary version of their anthem “Free Your Mind,” plus Alicia Keys, Luke Combs, Demi Lovato, Sia, Bad Bunny, Brandy featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and Garth Brooks, who’ll also be only the eighth entertainer to receive the ICON Award. New this year: the Billboard Change Maker Award, presented to rapper and social activist Killer Mike by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from the city’s APEX (African American Panoramic Experience) Museum.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (streaming on Netflix): Music of the K-pop variety is celebrated in a documentary from director Caroline Suh (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) that follows the meteoric rise of the South Korean girl group Blackpink. Each of the members — Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa — opens up about the highs and lows of fame as Light Up the Sky reaches its climax with their 2019 performance at Coachella, where they were the first K-pop girl group to take that fabled stage.
The Baroness von Sketch Show (midnight/11c, IFC): You know how some — OK, many — Saturday Night Live sketches go on and on, never knowing when or how to end? That’s not a problem with this hilarious quickfire sketch series, now in its fifth and (sadly) final season. A versatile and fearless Canadian foursome (Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen) pokes fun at social manners (usually bad) in a variety of settings, including a dog show, workplaces and a Mafia-like condo board. The funniest bit in the season opener involves a frantic raid on an ex-boyfriend’s apartment, where “high levels of emotional radioactivity” lead to this urgent instruction (also the episode’s title): “Do not smell his T-shirts.”
Inside Wednesday TV: CNBC’s new anchor hosts Shepard Smith Reports: Air Travel in Turmoil (8/7c), which looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry and the economic ecosystem affected by the travel slowdown, with New York’s LaGuardia Airport the focus as a microcosm of the dire situation… A double dose of nature documentaries on PBS: First, on Nova (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), “Nature’s Fear Factor,” studying the effect of fear on the endangered inhabitants of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Scientists hope to scare certain species back into their natural balance by introducing ferocious African wild dogs into the park. Sounds drastic… Followed by the three-part series Age of Nature (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), filmed across all seven continents, depicting efforts of scientists, citizens and governments to repair damaged ecosystems from Norway to the Panama Canal to China’s Loess Plateau… Tyler Perry’s Sistas (9/8c, BET and BET Her) returns for a second season with back-to-back episodes, the first of his shows filmed in a quarantine bubble at Perry’s Atlanta studios.