Worth Watching: 'Unicorn' and Race, Holiday Music From Carrie Underwood and 'The Voice,' Inside the Heaven's Gate Cult
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The Unicorn (9:30/8:30c, CBS): "It's not about the color of the gun. It's about the color of my son," Ben (Omar Miller) explains to his supposedly "woke" friend Forrest (Rob Corddry) in an edgy detour from their buddy Wade's (Walton Goggins) romantic misadventures. When Forrest gives Ben and Michelle's (Maya Lynne Robinson) son Noah (Devin Bright) a colorful water pistol, the blowback is immediate enough to send Forrest and his neurotic wife Delia (Michaela Watkins) into a frenzy of white-privilege self-examination. "My black hurts," an exasperated Michelle eventually admits, although they all mean well. As does Wade as he frets over whether to acknowledge his new girlfriend Shannon's (Natalie Zea) birthday so early in their relationship. She tells him to ignore it, but does she mean it?
My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood (streaming on HBO Max): The country superstar joins the club of musical celebrities hosting holiday specials, with a mix of Christmas standards and new material from Underwood's first full-length holiday album, "My Gift." The special includes her duet with John Legend on the original song "Hallelujah," which he co-wrote with Toby Gad, and footage of Underwood recording "The Little Drummer Boy" with her 5-year-old son, Isaiah.
More seasonal tunes can be heard on NBC's The Voice Holiday Celebration (8/7c), in which coaches past and present, and others associated with the hit musical competition, perform Christmas classics and modern favorites. Current coaches Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Gwen Stefani weigh in with their favorite holiday memories and traditions… The CW counters with iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Greatest Moments (8/7c), a 25th-anniversary compilation of greatest hits and backstage moments from the holiday concerts, featuring the likes of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Lizzo, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults (streaming on HBO Max): Director Clay Tweel's four-part investigation of the notorious UFO cult leans on rare footage and first-person accounts to tell this disturbing story from the perspective of former members and loved ones. The 1997 mass suicide of Heaven's Gate members continues to shock in what it reveals about the psychology within cults that adopt dangerously out-of-this-world beliefs.
Inside Thursday TV: A new season of Discovery's Battlebots (8/7c) pits 60 teams representing five countries in a tournament of souped-up combat robots… CBS's Young Sheldon (8/7c) finds the kid genius (Iain Armitage) attending Vacation Bible School, where he gets way too competitive with smarty-pants rival Paige (Mckenna Grace)… It's a drag in the most fabulous way on ABC's Station 19 (8/7c) when the firehouse responds to an emergency at the performance space for Seattle's top drag queens (including Shangela Pierce, Sherry Vine and Roxy Wood). Grey's Anatomy's James Pickens Jr. crosses over as Dr. Richard Webber, testifying at Sullivan's (Boris Kodjoe) disciplinary hearing… Star Trek: Discovery (streaming on CBS All Access) heads to Book's (David Ayala) home planet in a faceoff against the vindictive leader of the Emerald Chain, but the real suspense lies in whether Capt. Saru (Doug Jones) can come up with his own command phrase. Make it so, dude.