‘Mom’s Last Hurrah and More Finales, Jean Smart in ‘Hacks,’ WNBA’s Toughest Season in ‘144’
After eight seasons, the Emmy-winning Mom signs off with an appropriate group hug, while two more comedies from the Chuck Lorre empire—Young Sheldon and B Positive—wrap their seasons. Jean Smart kills as a stand-up comedian on the rocks in HBO Max’s Hacks. ESPN relives the WNBA’s turbulent 2020 season in the documentary 144.
Seriously, Mother’s Day was just a few days ago, and CBS is asking us to say goodbye to its best comedy, Mom? Hardly seems fair, but that’s show business, and at least the series goes out strong, with Bonnie (Allison Janney, two-time Emmy winner in the role) reeling from another personal crisis by turning to her fabulous support group. Let’s give each their due: Mimi Kennedy as wise cat lady Marjorie, Jaime Pressly as the entitled Jill, Beth Hall as sad sack Wendy and the uproarious Kristen Johnston as Tammy, who recites one of the group’s mantras: “Don’t leave before the miracle.” As if we’d leave before the touching final scene, including Bonnie’s last testimonial. Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men) guests as a skeptical newbie at their meetings, and Will Sasso is back as Jill’s beau Andy, who’s ready to take the next step with his newly pregnant soulmate. While we’re not ready to let this show go, its final act is satisfying.
Jean Smart, who we’ve loved since Designing Women, is doing impressive double duty these days: bringing humor to grim drama as Kate Winslet’s mom on HBO’s Mare of Easttown, and now killing it as a past-her-prime Las Vegas stand-up comedian in a promising dramedy that rolls out with two episodes a week through June 10. Smart is the legendary Deborah Vance, who’s fighting to keep her career afloat when her manager yokes her to Ava (Hannah Einbinder), an ostracized young comedy writer hired to punch up Deb’s material. Ava thinks this gig is beneath her, but she’s got a lot to learn. And who’s a better mentor than the fast-with-a-quip Deborah, swanning around her lonely mansion like a cross between Phyllis Diller and Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond. (See the full review.)
2020 was a transformative year for sports, and that was especially true for 144 players in the WNBA, who spent 97 days and nights in a bubble on a Florida campus to finish their season. This is their story, in a documentary directed by Lauren Stowell and Jenna Contreras (the latter spending 62 days in quarantine). The athletes were determined not only to keep playing, but to amplify the social-justice movement in the wake of the shooting of Breonna Taylor and other victims.
Trans activist and actress Jen Richards guests in the moody Silence of the Lambs sequel, which reflects on the troubling legacy of Lambs fiend Buffalo Bill, whose lurid media profile resulted in demonizing the transsexual community. Richards plays a pharmaceutical company’s accountant caught up in the River Murders investigation, and she calls out agent Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) for her part in inadvertently fanning the flames of prejudice. There’s even more bad news for Clarice on the horizon, as her bestie Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler) may need to implicate her in the racial discrimination suit she’s planning to file against the bureau. Back on the Buffalo Bill front, his kidnapping victim Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter) attempts to leave the comfort of her home for the first time since her traumatizing ordeal, but it won’t be easy.
Also ending their seasons:
- Young Sheldon (8/7, CBS): As the fourth season of the hit Big Bang Theory prequel ends, the focus turns to scene-stealer Raegan Revord as Missy, who suffers her first heartbreak. Can her genius twin Sheldon (Iain Armitage) let down his professorial shield and comfort her in her time of need?
- B Positive (9:30/8:30c, CBS): The day they’ve been waiting for arrives as the freshman season concludes with Drew (Thomas Middleditch) and Gina (Annaleigh Ashford) heading into transplant surgery. But first, Gina looks for new living quarters while Drew makes the most of his last day in dialysis. Fingers crossed for a successful result, but where that does leave them if the show is renewed?
Inside Thursday TV:
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9/8c, NBC): In a crossover with spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime (10/9c), Benson (Mariska Hargitay) once again teams with former partner Stabler (Christopher Meloni). They try to connect a tech billionaire’s deadly overdose to an illegal drug distributed by Organized Crime’s Big Bad, Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott).
- Growing Up Hip Hop (9/8c, WE tv): The sixth season of the musically inclined reality franchise welcomes new participants including Grammy-winning producer Stevie J and rap veteran Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell with their respective offspring.
- Dark Side of Football (10/9c, Vice): The network adapts its Dark Side docuseries formula to the gridiron for an exposé of the sports’ less savory aspects. First topic: “Wide Receiver Divas.”
On the Stream:
- Dark Woods (streaming on Topic): A grim six-part crime drama from Germany follows a high-ranking Hamburg police officer’s 30-year search for answers in the disappearance of his sister, which could be linked to a series of murders in the nearby woodlands.
- Intergalactic (streaming on Peacock): An eight-part sci-fi action series from Julie Gearey (Prisoners’ Wives) stars Savannah Steyn as ace pilot/police officer Ash Harper, who’s wrongly convicted of a crime and exiled to a remote planet. En route, an onboard mutiny puts her in the cockpit, reluctantly steering her fellow inmates toward an uncertain freedom.
- The Rich and the Ruthless (streaming on BET+): The meta soap-opera spoof, created by and starring Victoria Rowell, relocates for its fourth season.
- From Cradle to Stage (streaming on Paramount+): The second episode of the docuseries about musicians and their moms features Pharrell Williams and his mother, Dr. Carolyn Williams. They invite Dave Grohl and his mother Virginia to Pharrell’s “Something in the Water” music festival in Virginia, the state where he and Grohl launched their respective careers, worrying that they’d disappoint their mothers, both public school teachers.