Jean Smart returns in the Emmy-winning Hacks as legendary comic Deborah Vance, who hits the road to test a new act with her millennial sidekick Ava. Cadet Uhura has a memorable first away mission on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The latest stand-alone episode of Atlanta, shot in black-and-white by writer-director Donald Glover, is a fiery allegory of racial identity. On Young Sheldon, the church weighs in on Georgie’s pregnancy scandal.
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Jean Smart returns in her triumphant Emmy-winning role as stand-up comedy legend Deborah Vance, who in the second season of this glorious showbiz fable is forced to hit the road to hone a risky and revealing new act when she’s dumped from her longtime Las Vegas residency. Along for the very bumpy ride: millennial writer and sidekick Ava (Hannah Einbinder), now written less as a pretentious foil than as a willing apprentice, whose dues-paying verges on the slapstick. But first, there’s that pesky matter of the e-mail Ava drunkenly sent out, exposing Deborah’s worst boss-lady traits. Can this working relationship be saved?
An early breakout from the cast of this winningly traditional Trek prequel is Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Uhura, learning the ways of Starfleet from Capt. Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and others. Her gift at linguistics—she speaks 37 languages—will come in handy on her very first away mission, when she, Spock, security chief Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte)—brother to you-know-who—head to the surface of a comet that’s more than a comet as it threatens to destroy a peaceful planet. The episode also deals heavily with the concept of predestination, which leads Pike and his Number One (Rebecca Romijn) to debate whether his own fate has already been sealed.
Series creator Donald Glover writes and directs another of the season’s polarizing stand-alone departures from the European odyssey of Team Paper Boi. This vignette, symbolically filmed in stark black and white, is a fiery meditation on racial identity, focusing on a mixed-race high-school senior whose future could be determined by how he passes on a very judgmental scale of Blackness.
The Cooper family’s dirty secret—Georgie (Montana Jordan) has knocked up his girlfriend Mandy (Emily Osment)—is becoming public knowledge around town, and to no one’s surprise, the church congregation is getting in on the action with gossip that could lead to moralistic judgment. Leave it to outspoken sis Missy (Raegan Revord) to stand up for her brother.
Inside Thursday TV:
- Grey’s Anatomy (9/8c, ABC): A fretful Schmidt (Jake Borelli) is back in the operating room, and Nick (Scott Speedman) has his back. But why is Richard (James Pickens Jr.) acting so loopy? Could it have something to do with the cannabis in wife Catherine’s (Debbie Allen) secret potion?
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9/8c, NBC): Reviving a classic crime-drama plot (see Hitchcock’s I Confess), Carisi (Peter Scanavino) looks for other ways to prove his case when the only evidence involves a confession made in church.
- How We Roll (9/8c, CBS): In the first of two back-to-back episodes, Sheryl Lee Ralph—so wonderful on Abbott Elementary-guests as Loretta, who we presume is someone Archie (Chi McBride) has been keeping secret from his bowling buddy.
- Bull (10/9c, CBS): A stressed-out Bull (Michael Weatherly) gets a mysterious delivery that causes him to black out, with no memory of his movements over several hours. Hope he had the day off from court.
- Commit or Quit with Judge Lynn Toler (10/9c, WE tv): In a new twist on couples counseling, eight couples in crisis turn to Judge Toler—with surveillance cameras installed in their homes—to pass judgment on which pairs should stay together or think about throwing in the towel.
On the Stream:
- Jailhouse Redemption (streaming on discovery+): A four-part docuseries goes inside HARP (Heroin Addiction Recovery Program), an innovative service for addicted inmates created by Chesterfield, Va. Sheriff Karl Leonard, whose goal is to fix a broken system and break the grim cycle of repeated arrests with no treatment.
- Eurovision Song Contest (3 pm/ET, streaming on Peacock): The American spinoff is over, so superfan Johnny Weir turns our attention to the European phenomenon, providing colorful commentary as host of an exclusive stream of the world’s largest song contest. Today’s round is the second semi-final, leading to Saturday’s grand finale.
- The Garcias (streaming on HBO Max): The season finale takes a satirical look at racial stereotyping, when George Garcia (Bobby Gonzalez) is offered a role in the hit TV show Keeping Up with the Cartels, only to be visited by the Ghost of Hollywood Past & Present (Valente Rodriguez) to show him a nightmare scenario of Latinx representation as gang members and drug lords.
- Pagan Peak (streaming on Topic): Inspired by the international hit The Bridge, a second season of the Austrian-German crime thriller reunites the detectives from both sides of the border to find a serial killer.
- A La Carte (streaming on ALLBLK): A sexy dramedy stars Pauline Dyer as millennial Mahogany Rose, who’s always tried to take the high moral ground in her relationships—until she falls for a guy who already has a girlfriend. Is she ready to be the “other woman?”
- The Sadness (streaming on Shudder): A brutal horror thriller from Canadian writer-director Rob Jabbaz, filmed in Taiwan, follows the efforts of a young couple to find each other in a city where plague-ravaged citizens have been turned into deranged sadists.