Happy birthday, Bob Newhart! What a marvelous coincidence that his 84th birthday falls on the same night CBS is repeating his terrific Emmy-nominated guest performance on The Big Bang Theory (Thursday, 8/7c). And wouldn't it be splendid if this finally earns him an Emmy? It's unfathomable that he has yet to receive one for his illustrious career. Newhart's timing is impeccable as ever as "Professor Proton," the former TV host of a kiddie science show that Sheldon and Leonard still obsess over (so what else is new). And while they gush over meeting their hero, he's understandably much more impressed by Penny — although what she's doing with these geeky goofballs is a puzzle he'll never understand. The good news is that he's expected to return at least a few times during the next season, so maybe he'll eventually figure it out. Whatever the excuse, it's a treat to see Newhart working his magic before a live audience on one of TV's most deserving smash hits.
Another recommended CBS repeat: Elementary (10:01/9:01c), which introduces Natalie Dormer in a climactic arc as the more-than-meets-the-eye incarnation of Sherlock's lost love Irene Adler.
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GOALS AND GROWLS: The big event, and unquestionably the biggest audience draw, is NBC's NFL Kickoff launching the official season of TV's top-rated sport, with an hour-long pregame show (7:30 ET/6:30c) setting up a rematch between Super Bowl-champ Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos, who lost in their playoff round in overtime. ... As one season begins, another ends, as FX's surreal shaggy-dog comedy Wilfred wraps its third year (10/9c) with a melancholy tone and life-changing twists, as Ryan's neighbor Jenna overreacts to their impulsive kiss by banning him from hanging out with her mutt. Which may be the safest plan of action, given that Wilfred is angrily trying to sniff out the rascal who's making time with his mistress. How long can this combative and strangely co-dependent relationship continue? At least one more season, I suppose, although the joke grew stale quite a while ago.
NEARING THE END: Only one week to go before the series finale of USA Network's Burn Notice (9/8c), and Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) once again confronts his divided loyalties as his latest (and presumably last) undercover gig takes a treacherous turn when he must expose his actual identity to James (John Pyper-Ferguson) and Sonya (Alona Tal). ... Also airing penultimate episodes of their summer runs: USA's new and yet-to-be-renewed Graceland (10/9c), where Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) is forced to make his own tough call regarding his future as an enigmatic FBI operative; and ABC's hit Canadian import Rookie Blue (10:01/9:01c), already picked up for a fifth season, with series star Gregory Smith directing an episode in which an unseen shooter takes aim at officers of 15 Division as they respond to emergency calls.
ODDS AND ENDS: How soon until Syfy concocts its own Duck Die-Nasty movie to join the ranks of the immortal Sharknado? Until then, we'll have to settle for Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators (9/8c), starring Continuum's Victor Webster in a meaningful parable (who are we kidding) about the effects of contaminated moonshine in a Louisiana bayou where gators go mutant, as you knew they would. ... Digital network Crackle premieres a 90-minute action film, Extraction, about a Black Ops team attempting to get an inmate out alive from a maximum-security Chechen prison. Martial artist John Foo stars, along with Danny Glover, Sean Astin and Warehouse 13's Joanne Kelly. ... National Geographic Channel prospects for ratings, joining a rush of similar themed cable series with Yukon Gold (7/6c), about four family-run mining camps hoping to make it rich in Canada's Alaska-adjacent territory. ... OWN complements its acquisition of Undercover Boss repeats with the new reality experiment The Customer Is Always Right? (10/9c), in which consumers are chosen to give feedback and work alongside company execs in hopes of improving the brand. First up: Mrs. Fields cookies, which may or may not crumble under the scrutiny.
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