A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
This Is Us (9/8c, NBC): Returning after an unexpected month’s hiatus (related to a pause in production during the COVID-19 surge), the emotional family drama has left many fans of Kevin (Justin Hartley) rightfully concerned over that tease that showed him racing back to L.A. from a Vancouver movie shoot to be with Madison (Caitlin Thompson) for her early delivery — and was that a car accident we caught a glimpse of? The latest harrowing chapter in his story plays out against father-son flashbacks from when Jack (Milo Vintimiglia) took young Kevin (Parker Bates) to football camp, not appreciating his boy’s fraught nerves from hounding by his coach (CSI‘s George Eads); and further back, from when young Jack struggled with pleasing his own dad (Peter Onorati) during his Little League days.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (8/7, NBC): About to go on a hiatus of its own — when Zoey returns, it will be on Sundays starting March 28 — the musical dramedy presents its best episode since the second-season premiere, a more tightly focused hour dealing with Simon’s (John Clarence Stewart) workplace crisis after speaking out about systemic racism within SPRQ Point. Will he recant, as Zoey’s (Jane Levy) bosses ask her to make happen? The playlist, from a range of Black artists both vintage and current, gives outstanding moments to its diverse cast, including Stewart, Alex Newell (Mo) and even class clown Tobin (Kapil Talwalkar).
Big Sky (10/9c, ABC): “I see you’ve met my mother. She can be a bit cold.” OK, we get it. Demented truck driver/kidnapper-murderer Ronald Pergman (Brian Geraghty) is TV’s new Norman Bates, even more Psycho than ever since his recent matricide. Cracking under the strain of eluding the ongoing manhunt, Ronald goes so far over the top we can only hope the episode’s title is prophetic: “The End Is Near.” For private investigators Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) and ex-cop Jenny (Katheryn Winnick), their search for answers means determining whether brain-damaged amnesiac trooper Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) is faking it.
Prodigal Son (9/8c, Fox): Speaking of deranged, here’s socialite Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young) lamenting her children’s dark predilections: “Why can’t anyone in this family run away from killers?” A fellow Scandal veteran, Kate Burton, guests as the head of an etiquette school connected to a string of macabre “Debutante Slayings.” Daughter Ainsley (Halston Sage) once attended the school, so she thinks she has an in on the story, competing with brother Malcolm (Tom Payne) to find clues. How could that go wrong?
Black Art: In the Absence of Light (9/8c, HBO): Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI) showcases today’s leading Black visual artists in this celebratory film, inspired by the 1976 exhibit “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” curated by the late scholar/artist David Driskell. The legacy of that groundbreaking display of diverse and culturally inclusive art lives on in the challenging works being generated and represented in the 21st century.
Inside Tuesday TV: Now streaming on Hulu: the popular African-American youth sitcoms Moesha (1996-2001), starring Brandy Norwood; and Sister, Sister (1994-1999), starring twins Tia and Tamera Mowry… Britbox revisits Diana: The Interview That Shook the World, a documentary that digs into Martin Bashir’s sensational 1995 interview with Princess Diana, including how it was orchestrated… CBS’s crime-drama lineup is all new, starting with NCIS (8/7c), in which Gibbs (Mark Harmon) helps Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) with a personal trauma… PBS’s Finding Your Roots (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org) looks into the ancestral pasts of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Tony Shalhoub and Christopher Meloni, who’ll soon be reprising his role of Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Organized Crime… Social progress on ABC’s black-ish (9/8c) when Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) becomes the first Black female partner at her hospital. This inspires Dre (Anthony Anderson) to try to convince his advertising bosses to bring on another Black executive… History’s The Food that Built America (10/9c) returns with a look at the “pizza wars” that put Dominos and Pizza Hut on the map. The show moves to its regular time period Sunday at 10/9c.