Worth Watching: A ‘Fire’ Dilemma, 2 Streaming Homes for ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘The Conners,’ Netflix’s ‘Firefly Lane’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Chicago Fire (9/8c, NBC): An unusually suspenseful episode, which the producers say they designed as if it were a play, takes place mostly within a stalled, overburdened and unstable freight elevator, occupied by Herrmann (David Eigenberg), Cruz (Joe Minoso) and two trapped civilians. Herrmann’s unfailing optimism, fueled by a “lucky day” fortune cookie, just makes the escalating situation in a burning building even more harrowing. They can’t communicate with the rest of the crew through the concrete walls, but we can eavesdrop on desperate dispatches from their colleagues as if it were a radio drama. A welcome break from all the soap opera, just saying.
Modern Family (streaming on Hulu and Peacock): In a rare sharing arrangement, all 11 seasons and 250 episodes of the Emmy-winning comedy will be available on two streaming services: Hulu (the studio and network’s corporate partner, which streamed the episodes the day after their original ABC airing) and Peacock, which promises a special “Fan Experience” with bonus content and curated packaging. (Modern is already aligned with Peacock’s NBCU parent company with episodes syndicated on USA and E!) Peacock will rotate 12 episodes, starting from the beginning, on its free tier, with the remaining episodes available to premium subscribers. The farcical exploits of the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker extended family won Best Comedy Emmys its first five seasons, 22 in all over 85 nominations. It could be fun to watch their kids grow up all over again — but Phil (Ty Burrell)? Forever a kid at heart.
The Conners (9/8c, ABC): What is a pipe dream? Try telling that to Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), a Jeopardy! superfan who dreams of becoming a contestant on the greatest quiz show ever. She’s convinced the late legend that was Alex Trebek is guiding her to victory, and she even makes it to the auditions. On the home front, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) makes her first hire at Wellman Plastics: an assistant who turns out to be too much work.
Firefly Lane (streaming on Netflix): This could be the streamer’s next big binge, but I had trouble making it past the first hour of what feels like the most predictable sort of sudser that could give that sexist term of “chick lit” a bad name. On the plus side: Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl are charismatic TV pros, and they sell the predictable clichés like masters of the trade as they inhabit the pout-by-numbers roles of Kate and Tully, who become BFFs as mismatched teens and meddle in each other’s lives through adulthood. Based on Kristin Hannah’s novel, Firefly Lane is like a dog-eared page-turner whose every beat can be predicted from the front cover. Still, if you’re seeking some comfort food this winter, you could probably do worse.
Inside Wednesday TV: A tradition for 20 years, CBS’s Super Bowl Greatest Commercials 2021 (8/7c), hosted by Boomer Esiason and NCIS: Los Angeles star Daniela Ruah, lets viewers vote on their favorites from two decades of memorable Super Bowl ads. Entertainment Tonight‘s Kevin Frazier reports on some of the spots from this year’s Super Bowl on Sunday (which some major advertisers are sitting out)… Graduation Day looms on a pivotal episode of The CW’s Riverdale (8/7c), when Archie (KJ Apa) learns if he can even flip the tassel with his buds, who are all contemplating their futures… A three-part Nova docuseries, Beyond the Elements (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), enlists Emmy-winning host David Pogue on an entertaining survey of life through chemistry, starting with the reactions of atoms and molecules that help feed the globe among other wonders we take for granted… ABC’s For Life (10/9c) tackles another hot-button subject in a multi-episode arc when Aaron (Nicholas Pinnock) takes on the case of an unarmed man who was shot by a police officer.