A contemporary anthology series from B.J. Novak (The Office) finds startling new angles on hot-button topics. NBC’s beloved Brooklyn Nine-Nine signs off with an hourlong finale. Dan Brown’s bookish symbologist Robert Langton embarks on a new adventure in a Peacock limited series. The vampires of What We Do in the Shadows head to Atlantic City, and all bets are off.
Unsettling in a sardonic way, with an O. Henry style appreciation of dark irony, creator/writer/host B.J. Novak’s (The Office) impressive seriocomic anthology takes on big issues with broad premises that pay off. Rod Serling would approve. Launching with two episodes, the first (“Social Justice Sex Tape”) stars Dear Evan Hansen’s Ben Platt as a socially “woke” white liberal who turns over an embarrassing sex tape that reveals in its background a hotly contested police incident involving a wrongly imprisoned Black suspect (Jermaine Fowler). The ensuing trial may result in justice, but at what cost to our conflicted hero’s ego? In the powerful second episode, “Moment of Silence,” The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal cannily portrays a grieving father who takes a PR job at a national gun lobby after losing his 5-year-old daughter to gun violence. What’s his true motive? The ending will stay with you for a long time, which is the point.
Keeping details mostly under wraps, the acclaimed police comedy wraps a successful final season with an hourlong episode titled “The Last Day.” After eight seasons and more than 150 episodes, it will be hard letting go of a series that managed to remain funny and irreverent while dealing with recent social movements promoting police accountability and reform. Happily, the cast gathers again to recall the good times on Late Night with Seth Meyers (12:35 am/11:35c).
Ashley Zukerman (Succession) assumes the role of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon in a limited series based on Brown’s 2009 novel. While he’s no Tom Hanks, the touchstones are still there of arcane puzzle-solving and Indiana Jones-like peril with hidden Masonic chambers and walls that close up, threatening our claustrophobic hero. The adventure begins when Langdon’s mentor, Smithsonian head Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard), is kidnapped, his mutilated hand displayed as a clue for Langdon to embark on a search for a hidden portal somewhere in Washington, D.C.
You can take the vampires in this hilarious horror comedy out of their lair, but you’d better protect their precious ancestral native soil. That’s the undead life lesson in a wonderful episode that sends the vamps, and their familiar/bodyguard Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), to an Atlantic City casino for a road trip. While Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) relives fond memories of her days as a Rat Pack camp follower, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) becomes entranced by a Big Bang Theory-branded slot machine: “Bazinga! is the war cry of Sheldon, their tall leader.” But when housekeeping disturbs the soil they use for sleep and rejuvenation, their vacation becomes an existential crisis.
Inside Thursday TV:
- The Harper House (streaming on Paramount+): Rhea Seehorn, who should be Emmy-nominated for her excellent work on Better Call Saul, takes lead in this mildly amusing adult animated comedy—which means there’s some swearing—as the beleaguered mom of an Arkansas family who moves her flock into an inherited Victorian manse on the poor side of their small town after losing her job.
- Tiny Food Fight (streaming on discovery+): Cooking competitions come in all shapes and sizes, and to prove the point, this six-episode series challenges chef-testants to create memorable small bites using miniature appliances and utensils. Social-media comedian Mamrie Hart hosts, with Chopped champ Darnell Ferguson as head judge.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (streaming on Netflix): Mattel produces this amped-up animated superhero fantasy in which He-Man and his rookie band of heroes take on Skeletor to save Eternia, Castle Grayskull and basically the entire universe.
- Tacoma FD (10/9c, truTV): Where there’s smoke there’s laughter for those firehouse jokers from Station 24, back for a third season of pranks and nonsense. In the season opener, the crew quarantines at the station after being exposed to a possibly infected Capuchin monkey. (Not the one from Y: The Last Man, I hope.)
- Dark Side of the Ring (9/8c, VICE TV): The pro wrestling exposé resumes its third season with the first of seven new episodes, starting with “The Plane Ride from Hell,” about a scandal that ensued after a private 757 flight when intoxicated wrestlers took on their flight crew.
- From the guilty-pleasure column: MTV launches new seasons of Floribama Shore (8/7c) and Double Shot at Love with DJ Pauly D and Vinny (9/8c). You’ve been warned.