Worth Watching: The CMA Awards, Back to ‘Chicago,’ ‘S.W.A.T.’ Premiere, An Eater’s Guide

Chicago Fire Season 9
Adrian S. Burrows Sr./NBC
Chicago Fire

A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:

The 54th Annual CMA Awards (8/7c, ABC): It sometimes feels like there are as many country-music awards shows as there are country artists, but the CMA Awards traditionally stands out from the pack. Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker host from Nashville’s Music City Center with COVID-conscious protocols. A legendary trailblazer, Charlie Pride, receives the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, and a tribute to another great, the late Charlie Daniels, opens the show with a medley performed by Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Jenee Fleenor and Ashley McBryde. Other headliners include Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber in a world premiere performance of “10,000 Hours,” Keith Urban from Australia, a Kenny Rogers tribute from Little Big Town, and a 40th-anniversary salute to Urban Cowboy with Old Dominion’s cover of Johnny Lee’s “Looking for Love.”

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From red carpet poses to amazing performances.

Chicago Med (8/7c, NBC): Much has changed in Chicago (and the world) since the procedural triumvirate signed off last spring, and that will be reflected in the season premieres, starting with the Season 6 opener of Med, where the docs are coping with an abnormal New Normal. Followed by the ninth-season premiere of Chicago Fire (9/8c), which welcomes a new team member through Firehouse 51’s revolving door, and Chicago P.D. (10/9c), bringing a long-overdue reckoning for Voight (Jason Beghe), when the new Deputy Superintendent Samantha Miller (Nicole Ari Parker) institutes police reform policies that has the veteran Intelligence cop wondering whether he fits into the new system.

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Also, the new season will consider how first responders have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

S.W.A.T. (9/8c, CBS): Also echoing the social unrest of 2020, the police drama opens its fourth season with back-to-back episodes, as Hondo (Shemar Moore) and his dad, Daniel Sr. (Obba Babatundé), look back at L.A.’s long history of racial tension, especially the 1992 riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, when Honda was a high-schooler (Donald Dash). On the contemporary crime blotter: the pursuit of El Diablo’s drug cartel as well as a Jihadist group responsible for coordinated bombings; and later, doing surveillance for the CIA to locate a long-missing international crime boss.

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These first responders won't have it easy in upcoming episodes.

Eater’s Guide to the World (streaming on Hulu): Hard to imagine a more inviting guide to ogle the world’s cuisine alongside than Saturday Night Live Emmy winner Maya Rudolph, who wittily narrates an offbeat seven-part travelogue of culinary adventures. Locations range from the Costa Rican jungle and iconic Casablanca to the Pacific Northwest, plus more unexpected venues like airport terminals, food trucks in L.A. and, my favorite, where to chow down at “The Ass Crack of Dawn in New York City.”

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Executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas teases the upcoming season.

Inside Wednesday TV: For Veterans Day, MeTV Remembers the M*A*S*H Finale (7/6c) in a three-hour special that features interviews with the cast and crew of the classic wartime comedy as they remember the super-sized series finale, shown uncut. When “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” first aired in 1983, the series set records with more than 100 million viewers bidding adieu to Hawkeye (Alan Alda, who directed) and the 4077th… New to the Netflix queue is another Veterans Day events: the innovative animated war miniseries The Liberator, about a racially integrated World War II infantry battalion known as the “Thunderbirds,” who fought for 500 days through the European war theater. The film’s animation technique is a lifelike hybrid of live-action performance and computer graphics… Also on Netflix: the eight-part docuseries Trial 4, following the legal travails of Sean Ellis, a Boston man who served 22 years in prison after being convicted of killing a detective in 1993, a sentence that came under scrutiny for corruption. The series builds to Ellis’s fourth trial to prove his innocence… One more for the veterans: History’s Variety’s Salute to Service Presented by History and Voices Magnified (10/9c), with tributes to troops past and present from celebrities including Trace Adkins, Kevin Bacon, Bryan Cranston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kelly Ripa, Shaggy and Gary Sinise.