Worth Watching: Soul-Searching on ‘The Conners,’ ‘Wonder Years’ Good Grief, ‘Nova’ Stirs the Pot on Cannabis, Another ‘Riverdale’ Musical
Jason Alexander guests on The Conners as Pastor Phil, who counsels Darlene in a time of spiritual crisis. ABC’s reimagined The Wonder Years follows up its strong pilot with a terrific episode in which young Dean’s heartbreak is mistaken for grief. PBS’ science series Nova tackles “The Cannabis Question.” The CW’s Riverdale takes its annual dip into musical theater by borrowing from the Pulitzer-winning Next to Normal.
Life is hard for this sitcom family, and for Darlene (Sara Gilbert), rejection from boyfriend Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) has sent her spiraling, which leads her to join sister Becky (Lecy Goranson) at an AA meeting to get in touch with her dormant spiritual side. Enter Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Young Sheldon) as Pastor Phil, who true to Conners form is an unconventional man of the cloth, which might be just what Darlene needs to emerge from her funk.
It’s a good sign when a strong pilot is followed by an even better second episode. That’s the case with this evocative reimagining of the nostalgic coming-of-age comedy, where Dean (Elisha “EJ” Williams) knows enough to be embarrassed when his heartbreak over his best friend (Amari O’Neil) kissing his crush (Milan Ray) is mistaken as part of the collective grief over Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. That doesn’t stop him from milking people’s sympathies to his benefit, including an eye-opening fishing outing with his dad (Dulé Hill) and joining his sister (Laura Kariuki) at a meeting of young Black activists.
A timely edition of Nova takes a detailed scientific look at the risks and medicinal benefits of cannabis, how marijuana use has been demonized in the past and what it means as many states legalize and decriminalize use of the drug. The special features researchers studying the effects of cannabis on the body’s regulatory systems and how the CBD compound can be used to treat epilepsy, opioid addiction and anxiety.
Normal is in the eye of the beholder in this twisted take on the Archie comics world, and it seems fitting that this season’s symbolic dive into musical theater would tackle the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal, with its powerful treatment of grief and mental illness. Alice (Mädchen Amick) is the focus of this tuneful fantasia when she constructs an imaginary world to escape reality and sees the Coopers as a happy family again. It’s up to daughter Betty (Lili Reinhart) to snap her out of it.
Inside Wednesday TV:
- In Their Own Words: Elon Musk (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The high-flying entrepreneur has been dubbed a “thrillionaire” for his ability to use his wealth to finance his high-tech visions for energy, space and artificial intelligence. This biographical profile charts his rise with archival footage and new interviews with experts including a former astronaut and former NASA administrator.
- Survivor (8/7c, CBS): The curveballs keep coming at the castaways this season. The latest involves the introduction of a new idol with a special twist that could make immunity challenges even more intense.
- Reality Finales: See who wins Big Brother (9/8c, CBS) and Netflix’s The Circle as both claustrophobic guilty-pleasure reality contests wrap their seasons.
- Chicago Fire (9/8c, NBC): As the centerpiece of an all-new Chicago lineup, Fire puts Casey (Jesse Spencer) in the spotlight when a video from the roof rescue goes viral.
- Rhodes to the Top (10/9c, TNT): Married wrestlers Cody and Brandi Rhodes open up their busy life outside the ring to reality-TV cameras as they raise a new baby daughter while trying to grow their AEW empire.
- The Simpsons (streaming on Disney+): Miss any of season 32 of Fox’s long-running animated hit? All episodes are now streaming, joining past seasons for 706 half-hours of satire and no end yet in sight.
- The Horror: With October and Halloween season looming, let the parade of scary movies begin. New streaming titles include Shudder’s Séance, set at an all-girls academy where the students flunk the common-sense test by conjuring the spirit of a dead former classmate. Netflix’s No One Gets Out Alive stars Cristina Rodlo (The Terror) as a Mexican immigrant whose American dream becomes a nightmare when she finds lodging in a boarding house of horrors in Cleveland.