Worth Watching: ABC Comedies (‘Conners,’ ‘black-ish’), a New ‘Rebecca,’ Letterman’s ‘Next Guests,’ Pandas on ‘Nature’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Conners (9/8c, ABC): Little by little, network TV is getting back to business, and it qualifies as something of an event when live-action scripted comedies return to the schedule. Most of ABC’s new Wednesday lineup is back, starting with an hour of The Goldbergs (8/7c) that features an homage to Airplane! in the first half, and Adam (Sean Giambrone) adjusting to cool-kid status as a high-school senior in the second. For a dose of real-world humor, The Conners‘ third-season premiere trains its sardonic attitude on surviving the pandemic, with Dan (John Goodman) facing eviction, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) keeping the Lunch Box afloat by making deliveries, and sisters Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) looking for work at the reopened plastics plant — cue the flashbacks. Life doesn’t get easier for the Conners, but they’ve always made it through tough times with humor. “It’s like living with bears,” sighs Dan’s girlfriend Louise (Katey Sagal), living for now in the family’s bubble. Thankfully, this family is funnier than the average bear.
black-ish (9:30/8:30c, ABC): If you’re going to be sheltering at home in quarantine, you could do worse than the Johnsons’ upscale digs, where the main conflict in the official seventh-season premiere involves mother/doctor Bow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) status as an essential hospital worker gnawing at husband Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) feeling of self-worth as an ad exec. “We are comforting people in a time of crisis,” he pitches, but no one’s buying it. And is someone breaking the house’s lockdown rules?
Rebecca (streaming on Netflix): Daphne du Maurier’s classic of romantic suspense, most famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock for an Oscar-winning film in 1940 (and twice for PBS’s Mystery and Masterpiece Theatre series), gets a starry new film treatment. Lily James is the naïve (and unnamed) new bride whisked to the English estate of Manderley by dashing widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). Her period of adjustment is clouded by the shadow of her predecessor, the title mystery woman, who refuses to be forgotten by the spooky housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction (streaming on Netflix): David Letterman‘s immersive talk series, featuring in-depth conversations and visits with people who fascinate him, returns with four new installments, two filmed before the pandemic. His latest guests: actor Robert Downey Jr., comedian Dave Chappelle, music superstar Lizzo and the former target of many a late-night host’s jokes, Kim Kardashian West. (For Kim’s fans, E’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians celebrates a milestone in “Kim’s 40th Birthday Special” at 10/9c.)
Pandas: Born to Be Wild (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The 39th season of Nature opens with a study of the endangered wild panda, filmed over three years by two Chinese cinematographers in the forests of the Qinling mountains. Revealing behaviors that are more solitary and territorial than we’re used to seeing in captive pandas, the documentary also follows a young panda born in captivity as it’s trained to live in the wild.
Inside Wednesday TV: In back-to-back episodes of HGTV’s Brother vs. Brother: Behind the Battle (8/7c), Drew and Jonathan Scott go behind the scenes to show how they built their L.A. mansions… As we hope for an election without this sort of complication, the HBO documentary 537 Votes (9/8c) relives the tension and legal machinations of the 36-day recount in Florida after the 2000 presidential vote between George W. Bush and Al Gore… ABC’S The Con (10/9c) follows the crusade of a TV producer to get justice from the faux Irish heiress who swindled him out of thousands of dollars to pay her phony legal bills.