Critic's Guide to Thursday TV: Rallying Around Community, A Regis Salute, and More!
The timing couldn't be better for someone to make a commercial touting Greendale Community College, the madcap home for NBC's eternally underappreciated cult-com Community (8/7c) — but does it have to be Dean "Call me Craig" Pelton (the fearlessly funny Jim Rash) pulling the strings? With fans and critics having what seems to be a collective meltdown over the news that NBC is temporarily benching the show at midseason (making way for the return of 30 Rock and a Thursday-night tryout for Up All Night), it's as perfect a time as any to collect all of Community's various scene-stealing campus flotsam for the Dean's new promo campaign. Look for Magnitude ("Pop! Pop!"), Fat Neil and Star-Burns among the familiar and funky faces, plus one alum who's actually made a name for himself: character actor Luis Guzman. The episode is titled "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," which means Abed (Danny Pudi) will be busy filming all of the filming for a documentary film of his own.
Community is by far TV's trippiest current comedy, wildly adventurous and unpredictable in form, obsessively self-referential about its own peculiar place in the spectrum of sitcomedy while being reverential about the more popular culture at large (and small). It is an acquired taste, to be sure, the Fringe of laughter in a manner of speaking, and it's no small miracle that it has survived into a third season without this kind of scheduling hiccup occurring earlier. While its long-term future remains clouded, we do know it will be back to finish out this season — and since NBC (by virtue of its studio Universal) is a co-producer of the series, there is motivation to keep it going for maybe even a fourth season, despite the woeful ratings.
But really, people, would it kill you to watch?
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Not that the competition ever eases up. Even ABC is in the game this week in the 8/7c hour. With Charlie's Angels already a distant bad memory, ABC News steps up with a salute to a broadcasting legend in Regis Philbin: The Morning Maestro, a special edition of 20/20 (8/7c) anchored and reported by Katie Couric in one of her highest-profile gigs since jumping from CBS. (And, it should be noted, she'll be a major contender in next fall's daytime talk arena.) Tonight's special, which takes Regis and Katie back to the Bronx neighborhood where he grew up, airs the night before Regis' final day on Live! With Regis and Kelly. The show has been great fun to watch all week as special guests have paid tribute, including David Letterman (who'll host Regis tonight on Late Show With David Letterman), whose comparison of Reege to Johnny Carson as one of TV's ultimate showmen seems appropriate. It's also fitting that tonight's career tribute airs on ABC, a network Regis used to crow that he once saved with the launch of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
Before there was A&E's Intervention, there was the harrowing intervention of Bailey Salinger on the Fox classic Party of Five. And now there's the intervention of Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone), who's finally bottomed out from her drug binge, on ABC's Private Practice (9/8c) in a two-hour angstfest as her Wellness family forces a reckoning that leads in the second hour to rehab and detox.
In a case of enjoy-it-while-it-lasts even more extreme than Community's, there's NBC's on-its-last-legs Prime Suspect (10/9c), which improved in quality during its short history but never found an audience (too bad this didn't air on CBS, and even more too bad that it could never live up to its iconic title). Tonight's episode sends Jane (the terrific Maria Bello) out of the city to solve the murder of a young girl's parents in a hotel room. She's partnered with her longtime nemesis Reg (Brian F. O'Byrne), who's rarely any help, while she works on getting the newly orphaned girl to open up about who killed her mom and dad.
So what else is on? ... Could Sheldon (Jim Parsons) be experiencing actual human jealousy? Looks that way after Amy (Mayim Bialik) goes on a date with Stuart (Kevin Sussman), the nerd from the comic-book store, on CBS' The Big Bang Theory (8/7c). ... Signing the guest-star book: Thanksgiving comes to FX's The League (10:30/9:30c) with family visitations by Jeff Goldblum as Ruxin's dad and Sarah Silverman as Andre's sister. ... Morgan Fairchild is a toy company CEO on Fox's Bones (9/8c), opening her prototype lab to the Jeffersonian sleuths when an exec is found shrink-wrapped alongside a Prince Charming doll. ... Whitney Cummings reunites with Lisa Lampanelli, her fellow valkyrie of vulgarity from the celebrity-roast circuit, on NBC's Whitney (9:30/8:30c), playing a dog-pound owner who interferes with Whitney's plan to adopt a pooch. ... Rihanna, who sat alongside L.A. Reid to help pick the boy finalists for Fox's The X-Factor, returns to perform "We Found Love" on tonight's results show (8/7c). What are the odds the first soloist of the season is sent packing?
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