Worth Watching: Sitcoms Recreated ‘In Front of a Studio Audience,’ ‘Abbott Elementary’ Preview
The latest version of Live in Front of a Studio Audience tackles 1980s family faves The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes, with adult stars (Kevin Hart! Jennifer Aniston!) taking on the child-actor roles. ABC previews a promising new comedy, Abbott Elementary, set at an underfunded Philadelphia public school. Kenan Thompson hosts the People’s Choice Awards, simulcast on NBC and E! The hilarious Nicole Byer (Nailed It!) lands her first Netflix stand-up special.
Acting your age is not going to happen in the latest installment of the series of specials that re-create vintage sitcoms with contemporary stars playing iconic characters from the past. With 1980s family favorites The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes on the agenda, the twist is that the roles once played by children and teens are now being assumed by well-known grown-ups. Which is how we get to see Friends superstar Jennifer Aniston as Blair in the Facts foursome, joined by WandaVision’s Kathryn Hahn as Jo, Gabrielle Union as Tootie and Fargo’s Allison Tolman as Natalie. The housemother Mrs. Garrett, so indelibly played by Charlotte Rae, is now Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), a complete reversal from the terrifying Aunt Lydia. She’ll also appear in the Strokes episode, which features the great John Lithgow inhabiting the Conrad Bain role of Mr. Drummond, and no less a star than Kevin Hart filling Gary Coleman’s shoes as Arnold, with Damon Wayans as Willis. What you goin’ to be talking about? This is either going to be a smash or a train wreck. Maybe both.
Shooting instantly to the top of network TV’s comedy honor roll, Quinta Brunson’s (A Black Lady Sketch Show) mock-doc about the teachers who “just make do” at an underfunded Philadelphia public school gets an early preview before joining the Tuesday lineup in January. Brunson stars as Janine, who hasn’t yet lost her optimism or desire to make a difference after teaching second grade for a year at a school where there’s “more turnover than a bakery.” Colleagues include the formidable Sheryl Lee Ralph as a kindergarten veteran who’s learned to lower her expectations, Lisa Ann Walter as a sardonic pragmatist with shady connections, Chris Perfetti as a woke history teacher trying to overcome his white fragility issues and Tyler James Williams (grown up from his days on Everybody Hates Chris and The Walking Dead) as an ambitious substitute teacher who takes a shine to Janine’s crusading spirit. Their biggest obstacle: a self-obsessed principal (Janelle James) with very few principles. Funny and sharp, with an Up the Down Staircase vibe of surviving against the odds.
Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson, nominated for the first time in “Comedy TV Star” and “Male TV Star” categories, hosts the annual celebration of popular entertainment from Santa Monica, CA’s Barker Hanger. Among the special accolades: Christina Aguilera receives the inaugural “Music Icon” Award, with “People’s Icon” honors going to Halle Berry, Dwayne Johnson named “The People’s Champion” for his philanthropy and Kim Kardashian West taking home the “Fashion Icon” trophy.
The very busy, and always hilarious, Byer takes a break from hosting Nailed It! and Wipeout and her upcoming role on NBC’s Grand Crew sitcom to play NYC’s Gramercy Theatre for her first hourlong Netflix comedy special. She riffs on veganism, her ongoing man hunt and surviving the last year-and-a-half of the pandemic.
Inside Tuesday TV:
- FBI (8/7c, CBS): Kicking off a full night of original episodes from the FBI franchise, the mothership features guest star Janel Moloney (The West Wing) as a 911 widow who unwittingly has become romantically involved with a manipulative terrorist planning an attack.
- The Slow Hustle (8/7c, HBO): The Wire’s Sonja Sohn is back in Baltimore as director of a powerful documentary investigating corruption within the city’s police department and the circumstances surrounding the still-unsolved 2017 death of detective Sean Suiter. He was fatally shot in the head on the day before he was set to give testimony about fellow officers to a grand jury.
- The Flash (8/7c, The CW): The “Armageddon” arc heats up in its penultimate episode, as Barry (Grant Gustin) goes to battle against Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh) with the help of his regular team plus such DC Comics friends as Batwoman (Javicia Leslie), Sentinel (Chyler Leigh), Ryan Choi (Osric Chau). Even Damien Dahrk (Neal McDonough) shows up to give some advice, though with a twist.
- The Resident (8/7c, Fox): Dr. Bell (Bruce Greenwood) tries to hide his secret from the staff, but suspicions are growing in the midseason finale. Also signing off until 2022: Our Kind of People (9/8c), where Angela (Yaya DaCosta) gets bad news from the Franklins, forcing her to take bold steps to secure the future of Eve’s Crown.
- Christmas Movie Magic (8/7c, Lifetime): An entertainment writer (Holly Deveaux) heads to a small town to cover the anniversary of a classic Christmas movie once filmed there, only to fall for the local theater owner (Drew Seeley). It’s a wonderful cliché.
- A Sisterly Christmas (9/8c, OWN): Greenleaf’s Deborah Joy Winans stars with Lisa Michelle Cornelius as mismatched sisters Kristina, a holiday Scrooge, and Christmas-holic Vicky, who inherit a luxury vacation and work out their differences when they encounter their childhood rival, a Broadway diva who has their number.
- Called to the Wild (10/9c, National Geographic): Human and dog teams test their survival skills in a new reality series that puts three outdoor enthusiasts and their canine companions throu