Once upon a very different time, Lisa Kudrow owned Thursday night along with her other TV Friends during NBC's now-distant era of "Must See" supremacy. She's back on the same night, on a different network, but once again she's landed on the buzziest show of the moment: ABC's Scandal (10/9c), where she begins a recurring role as Josephine Marcus, a Democratic Congresswoman — and outspoken critic of the Grant administration — who tangles with First Lady Mellie (the awesome Bellamy Young). What drew Kudrow back to network TV? May have something to do with her longtime friendship and working relationship with producing partner (and guest actor Emmy winner) Dan Bucatinsky, who plays Cyrus's excitable partner James on the show. While she's reason enough to tune in, the Pope & Associates subplot also sounds like fun, as they take on as a client a politician notorious for snapping photos of his unmentionables. (Sound familiar?)
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Some quick thoughts on this busy night's lineups (the World Series pre-empts Fox's regular programming):
ABC: The struggling Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (8/7c) focuses on its best asset: Michael Socha as the charming Knave of Hearts, whose flashback-story reveals he was once Will Scarlet, one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. ... On Grey's Anatomy (9/8c), Derek and Callie team up on a brain-mapping project, which we hope means she'll spend less time snarling at Arizona this week.
CBS: The kings of Thursday comedy, having just picked up The Millers and The Crazy Ones for a full season. Both owe an enormous debt of gratitude to their mighty lead-in The Big Bang Theory (8/7c), which opens the night with a Sheldon story, in which the genius (Jim Parsons) worries that he's a fraud after his latest scientific home run. The fact that guest stars are playing Albert Einstein and Archimedes suggests Sheldon is having sleepless nights. ... On The Millers, Nathan (Will Arnett) consults a shrink over his mother issues, and who can blame him? (As usual, expect Margo Martindale to steal the show.) ... Saffron Burrows plays a sophisticated new client on The Crazy Ones, who becomes the subject of a tug of war between Simon (Robin Williams), Zach (James Wolk) and even straight-laced Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar).
NBC: The collapse of the now-canceled Welcome to the Family leaves a hole in the network's first hour of a night in freefall. Which is why you'll find a replay of one of The Voice's battle rounds (8/7c) where Parks and Recreation typically resides. (Specials will keep the cult comedy off the air until Nov. 14, when it returns with back-to-back episodes, including one pegged to Halloween.) Otherwise, the night's only novelty is the guest casting of Stacy Keach as the father of Sean's horrible boss on Sean Saves the World (9/8c), and I'm almost curious to see what happens when Sean sets him up on a date with his own impossible mother (Linda Lavin). Almost.
The CW: Does Mystic Falls ever take a night off from celebrating something? On The Vampire Diaries (8/7c), it's Remembrance Day, a time to honor the dead, which ought to keep everyone awfully busy this week. And maybe the costume drama Reign (9/8c) would be more successful if it were about the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots. Which is something the evil Queen Catherine (Megan Follows) would certainly not mind seeing come to pass, as she continues to plot against her royal son's intended.
USA NETWORK: Both of the network's caper series have put their heroes in tight spots this season. On White Collar (9/8c), a compromised Neal (Matt Bomer) is none too pleased to be assigned a young new handler — played by an actor who will be familiar to many USA Network devotees: Warren Kole from the short-lived Common Law (his former partner, Michael Ealy, will next be seen next month in Fox's futuristic cop-android drama Almost Human). ... And while Covert Affairs heroine Annie (Piper Perabo) remains off the CIA grid this week (10/9c) in her dangerous deep-cover assignment in Europe, back home Auggie (Christopher Gorham) works with Annie's "killer" Calder (Hill Harper) on a new plot to take down the insidious Henry Wilcox (the hissable Gregory Itzin) — and this partnership doesn't sit well with the demoted Joan (Kari Matchett).
THE THURSDAY GUIDE: Eleven former contestants, including three winners from past seasons, are back "in" (until they're not) for the third-go round of Lifetime's Project Runway All Stars (9/8c), hosted by Alyssa Milano and joined by judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman. ... CNN premieres the controversial CNN Films documentary Blackfish (9/8c), which received a theatrical release this summer. It examines the troubling four-decade history of keeping orcas in captivity, using as its starting point the 2010 tragedy of a Sea World trainer killed by a killer whale. ... Promising (threatening?) to make the antics on Grey's Anatomy seem tame, MTV's Scrubbing In docu-series (10/9c) follows a group of telegenic travel nurses who've come from across the country to work in Orange County, Calif., on a short-term contract — though no doubt hoping to renew their own more important contract with MTV, depending on how things go. Enable them at your, and their patients', own risk.