Worth Watching: 'Zoey' and 'This Is Us' Return, Nicolas Cage on Swearing, a Gordon Ramsay Roadtrip
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (8/7c, NBC): With a Hello, Dolly flourish, a still-grieving Zoey (the terrific Jane Levy) is welcomed back where she belongs — into the second season of the rapturously inventive musical dramedy, as adept as ever at mingling big laughs, music and dance with genuinely heart-tugging emotion. Six weeks have passed since the death of her beloved father (Peter Gallagher, whose presence is still mightily felt), and Zoey would just like to ease back into work and life slowly. Fat chance, especially with two suitors (Skylar Astin as Max, John Clarence Stewart as Simon) vying for her favor, and changes in the workplace including the arrival of Max's replacement: the nervously gullible George (What We Do in the Shadows' adorable Harvey Guillén).
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): After you've dried your eyes from Zoey — and believe me, you might need to — along comes a new episode of the popular family drama, picking up where it left off in November: with Kate (Chrissy Metz) revisiting her painful past with the help of loyal Toby (Chris Sullivan); brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) juggling his busy career with his commitment to Madison (Caitlin Thompson) and their yet-to-be-born twins; and their East Coast sib Randall (Sterling K. Brown) managing the fallout from his hilarious inadvertent viral-video striptease, only to discover a connection with his late birth mother that has him wondering what and who to believe.
History of Swear Words (streaming on Netflix): Where's George Carlin when you need him? A (bleep)ing fascinating six-part series, hosted by the self-mockingly excitable Nicolas Cage, looks into the etymology — that's a (bleep)ing fancy word for origin — of some of those words Carlin once riffed about not being able to say on TV. With commentary from notably profane comics including Nikki Glaser, Sarah Silverman, and Jim Jefferies, as well as cultural scholars and critics, this History works blue.
Gordon Ramsay's American Road Trip (8/7c, Fox): Having gone to Uncharted territories for National Geographic, the ubiquitous Ramsay gets out of Hell's Kitchen (which coincidentally returns for a new season on Thursday) and into the melting pot of America in a two-hour travelogue special. With RV at the ready, he joins chef pal Gino D'Acampo and maitre'd Fred Sirieix for a road trip through the American West, sampling cuisine and local traditions in states including Arizona, California, and Nevada. Along the way, these bros challenge each other with such detours as a dune-buggy race, spear fishing and a cattle roundup. (The last two could be preludes to dinner, no?)
Underground on OWN (9/8c, OWN): If you missed the riveting historical drama Underground, about escaped slaves from the pre-Civil War South, during its two-season run on WGN America in 2016 and 2017, you get a second chance. Underground on OWN repurposes the series, from Lovecraft Country's Misha Green, with new introductions and behind-the-scenes footage. The premiere is followed by Revisiting Underground (10:30/9:30c), in which executive producer John Legend, with cast and crew members, discuss the show's relevance in today's climate of social unrest and systemic racial inequality.
Inside Tuesday TV: The acclaimed French police/legal drama Spiral begins streaming its eighth and final season on MHz Choice, with two episodes dropped each week… Also streaming: the six-part British mystery Traces, with weekly episodes on BritBox, starring Molly Windsor as a newly graduated forensic chemist whose supposedly fictional case study hits close to home… ESPN broadcasts the 86th Heisman Trophy Ceremony (7/6c), with the four finalists — Alabama's Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, and Florida's Kyle Trask — appearing via satellite… The Wonderful World of Disney movie franchise returns to ABC for three weeks, starting with the computer-animated 2019 remake of The Lion King (8/7c)… Crowd-sourced and self-shot, the four-part docuseries PBS American Portrait (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) gathers the personal stories of thousands of Americans reflecting on modern society. In the opener, "I Dream," contributors redefine what the American dream looks like today… Food Network's five-episode Chopped: Grudge Match (9/8c) gathers 16 professional chefs, including past champions and Chopped judges, for a high-stakes cookoff leading to a potential $100,000 payday… For some manufactured reality, Bravo's The Real Housewives of Dallas (9/8c) welcomes physician Tiffany Moon to their catty cabal… History's The Proof Is Out There (10/9c) applies cutting-edge technology to clips of found footage, still photography and audio recordings of bizarre phenomena to determine what's real and what's fake.