Worth Watching: Candice Bergen and 'The Conners,' Kyra Sedgwick's 'Mother' Act, True Crime on Netflix, Trekking the Alps
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Conners (9/8c, ABC): High on the list of sitcom veterans I never expected to see show up at the rowdy Conner household: Candice Bergen, the celebrated star of Murphy Brown, who's guest-starring as Barb, the sharp-tongued mother of Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) and no fan of his equally barbed girlfriend, Darlene (Sara Gilbert). A Lanford native described by the show as being "much more agreeable when she's had a few drinks," Barb comes back to town after a death in the family with some shocking news for her estranged son. She regards the Conner home as "one of those places they break into on that program Cops," and it's hard to argue with that.
Call Your Mother (9:30/8:30c, ABC): Kyra Sedgwick often made me grin with her off-the-job antics on The Closer, and she proved her comic chops in a recurring role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But she's mostly adrift in this painfully thin sitcom as the overbearing title character: widowed mom Jean Raines, who heads from Iowa to Los Angeles to ambush her colorless 20-something kids with her clingy neediness. "I don't know who I'm supposed to be anymore," she laments to a friend (Sherri Shepherd) before flying off, and by the end of the pilot, it's still not clear who or what she is, besides annoying. Maybe call a script doctor?
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (streaming on Netflix): A four-part true-crime docuseries relives the fear that swept through Los Angeles in the summer of 1985, when a serial killer operating with no discernible pattern terrorized the city with a spree of murders and sexual assaults. The victims could be anyone: young, old, of either gender or any race. Night Stalker follows the efforts of seasoned homicide detective Frank Salerno and the greener Gil Carillo from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department to find this savage menace under a relentless media spotlight.
The Alps (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The hills are alive, with wildlife and climatic extremes, as Nature opens its winter season with a two-parter exploring the mountain chain that spans eight countries and 750 miles from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic. Animals fight each other, and Mother Nature, in these vignettes of survival playing out against spectacular but treacherous backdrops of tundra, thunderstorms and landslides.
Inside Wednesday TV: Pushed back a week because of the traumatic breaking news from Washington, D.C., NBC has rescheduled the winter premieres of its Chicago troika: Chicago Med (8/7c), Chicago Fire (9/8) and Chicago P.D. (10/9c)… Lifetime's hit reality series Married at First Sight (8/7c) sets its 12th season in Atlanta, introducing five couples jumping into marriage in a three-hour premiere. What could possibly go wrong?… Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) guests on ABC's American Housewife (8:30/7:30c) as Tami, BFF and mentor to Katie (Katy Mixon), who wastes no time welcoming her friend to Westport and to her "A Real Mother" vlog… CBS's SEAL Team (9/8c) is back with a mission, as Jason (David Boreanaz) urges Bravo Team to go to extremes to find and rescue their captured brother, Ray (Neil Brown Jr.).