Michael Sosha, Sophie Lowe
Is this Alice or Alias? Something to ponder while navigating the deluxe rabbit-hole theme-park ride of ABC's Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff (Thursday, 8/7c), in which a feisty and literally kick-ass Alice (Sophie Lowe) battles her way out of insane-asylum confinement with Sydney Bristow-level brio. She even has a Will Tippen-like sidekick in the sheepishly raffish Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha of the British Being Human), who stands by as Alice goes all action heroine.
While the mothership busies itself in Neverland this season, Wonderland mashes up Lewis Carroll's legendary creations — most marvelously, John Lithgow voicing a fussy CGI White Rabbit and Keith David growling as an unexpectedly menacing Cheshire Cat — with Aladdin-style touchstones including a hunky genie love interest (Peter Gadiot) and an evil wizard Jafar (Lost's Naveen Andrews) with his own flying carpet. A brave new world? Not in this under-inspired TV season, although there are occasional trippy marvels as the pilot episode hopscotches between Alice's colorful adventures on the Other Side and her interrogation by Victorian-era head-shrinkers who'd just as soon lobotomize away her fantastical memories.
The production design is gorgeous, including a knockout chess motif for the palace of the evil Red Queen (glamorous cipher Emma Rigby). The visuals help distract from the hokey sampler-ready dialogue: "When you really love someone, you don't need proof. You can feel it." Some may question why the Once Upon a Time kingpins didn't save some of this juicy material for the original series, which may need it down the line — could have used it last season, to be honest — but I'd be happy to follow this White Rabbit just about anywhere. On a less busy night.
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A HYMN TO HIM: Voices may crack and tears will certainly be shed as Fox's Glee (9/8c) honors the memory of Cory Monteith, and his endearing character of Finn Hudson, in a musical tribute episode intended as an emotional catharsis for fans as well as the tight-knit cast and crew. (The song list includes "Seasons of Love" from Rent, and Lea Michele's cover of Adele's "Make You Feel My Love.") The memorial also serves as a reunion for current and past cast members. Even if you've graduated from the show's fan base, you'll probably want to return to pay respect.
MEDICAL MILESTONE: Or you could watch the cast of ABC's Grey's Anatomy celebrate the show's 200th episode (9/8c), built around a hospital benefit gala organized by Jackson that "turns out to be a hot mess," as series creator Shonda Rhimes told TV Guide Magazine. Also potentially messy: the decision to leave interns Shane (Gaius Charles) and Stephanie (Jerrika Hinton) in charge of the ER.
No word if any of the Grey's cast will go down memory lane, but flashbacks are very much a part of this week's Scandal (10/9c, ABC), as Olivia reflects on her relationship with her shady father (Joe Morton), while the fallout from the White House mess continues to embroil the White House and Pope & Associates. Fun times.
DRAMA LOGJAM: Scandal may be the watercooler rage in Thursday's 10/9c hour, but the competition is no slouch. CBS's Elementary presents a terrific and unusually topical episode that was screened last weekend at New York's PaleyCenter "Made in NY" festival (preceding an entertaining panel moderated by TV Guide Magazine's Bruce Fretts). Holmes and Watson's privacies are invaded by cyber-hackers when they participate in the hunt for a notorious and possibly murderous whistle-blower (think a cross between Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, played by Christian Campbell). This couldn't come at a worse time for Joan (Lucy Liu), who's just dipped her toe in the online-dating waters, to Holmes' merciless mocking. (Tony winner Steve Kazee of Once plays her first potential date.) The episode's final moments provide several intriguing teases for fans of the Holmes canon.
And let's not forget NBC underdog and emotional powerhouse Parenthood, in which many of the families within the family are dealing with personal and professional challenges, including new parents Crosby and Jasmine and newly forged political couple Kristina and Adam. We love the Bravermans and don't want to see them get lost on Thursdays.
THE THURSDAY GUIDE: The Good Wife's Christine Baranski returns to CBS's The Big Bang Theory (8/7c) as Leonard's mom, but the main conflict is between Sheldon and Amy after she ruins Raiders of the Lost Ark for him. (What next, Star Trek?) Sounds funny, but it's going to be hard to top last week's uproarious scavenger hunt. ... Kristen Bell returns to NBC's Parks and Recreation (8/7c) as Leslie's delightfully self-absorbed Eagleton nemesis when Pawnee comes to the aid of its reviled neighbor, pairing one town's Parks employees with their doppelgangers. As if there are two Ron Swansons in the world. ... Life after Happy Endings: While Adam Pally settles in on The Mindy Project, Eliza Coupe makes her first appearance on CBS's The Millers (8:31/7:31c) as Nathan's ex-wife, called back into this frantic family's fold to discuss the delicate matter of cemetery plots. ... The issue on CBS's Two and a Half Men (9:31/8:31c) is whether an injured Berta (Conchata Ferrell) should retire. She'd better not. She's one of the few reasons I would ever tune in to this show anymore. ... In acknowledgement of World Mental Health Day, The Office's Rainn Wilson and his SoulPancake partners get serious as producers of MTV's documentary Life Continued: Defeating Depression (7/6c), which profiles two young people who hit bottom while struggling with homophobia and anorexia but came through it and are now sharing their stories. ... Lifetime's Million Dollar Shoppers (10:30/9:30c) follows three personal shoppers who work for wealthy and demanding clients, all of whom are probably wondering how this didn't end up on Bravo.
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