Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Thursday, Feb. 2. All times are Eastern.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8 p.m.): To the collective thrill of VD Nation (oh how we hope The CW has never considered printing that phrase on a billboard), Daniel Gillies’ Elijah recently returned to fully active vampire status. Here’s hoping he’s the “unexpected guest” at the dinner part alluded to in the summary of tonight’s episode. Carrie Raisler and her homemade Chex Mix are welcome presences at any dinner party.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8 p.m.): Wolowitz is going into space, but first, he needs to earn a badass astronaut nickname. Mission Commander Oliver Sava’s colleagues at The A.V. Club alternate between addressing him as “Buzz,” “Blackhawk,” and “Rubber Duck.”
American Idol (Fox, 8 p.m.): The singing spirit of St. Louis was apparently not enough for the Idol producers, so they’ve grafted the debut of Madonna’s new video (featuring Madge-rejuvenating assistants Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.) onto this audition episode. Claire Zulkey crosses her fingers for the Hollywood classicism of “Vogue” with the hot-pink twitchiness of Minaj’s banned-by-BET clip, “Stupid Hoe”.
30 Rock (NBC, 8 p.m.): In yet another 30 Rock plot ripped straight from the headlines (this time, those headlines involve Alec Baldwin’s constant games of contract-renewal chicken), Jack puts on his negotiating pants to deal with NBC’s commitment to Liz. Nathan Rabin doesn’t get out of bed for anything less than $5 million per episode.
Parks And Recreation (NBC, 8:30 p.m.): This Valentine’s Day episode is titled “Operation Ann,” which sent our regular Parks & Rec correspondent Steve Heisler scrambling to an undisclosed location. With no misgivings about Rashida Jones’ character on the record, Todd VanDerWerff steps in for the absent Heisler.
The Secret Circle (The CW, 9 p.m.): There could be a witch hunt afoot in Chance Harbor—and not a metaphorical one. Katherine Miller reminds you that nothing involving witchcraft on The Secret Circle is metaphorical or allegorical—if the show did a recreation of The Crucible, there wouldn’t be a whiff of commentary about the Red Scare.
Project Runway All Stars (Lifetime, 9 p.m.): The designers are tasked with creating an outfit from clothes begrudgingly donated by complete strangers. If anyone on the show is interested, Genevieve Koski has a stockpile of old Hypercolor T-shirts that she’s looking to unload.
The Office (NBC, 9 p.m.): News of a Dwight Schrute spin-off and a potential new home on Fox for Mindy Kaling certainly didn’t make matters better for this embattled Thursday-night war horse—will an episode where Jim serves jury duty correct the course? Native Canadian Myles McNutt is fascinated by the nuances of the U.S. judicial system.
Up All Night (NBC, 9:30 p.m.): Reagan and Ava hustle to secure a spot for Amy at a highly competitive preschool, while Chris and his older brother (played by Dean “The Dethroned Beeper King Who’s Now The Personification Of ‘Mayhem’” Winters) display how always striving to be the best during childhood often bleeds into our adult lives. Margaret Eby would like to show you her first-place trophy from the 9th-grade spelling bee.
Archer (FX, 10 p.m.): The agents of ISIS collaborate with the few, the proud, the Canadian Royal Mounted Police—ensuring that Sterling Archer will twist the term “mounties” into a slick double entendre at least three times. Todd VanDerWerff has a proposal for a Hooters-style, Canadian-themed restaurant called Mounties for which he’s seeking investors.
Unsupervised (FX, 10:30 p.m.): Seeking some positive role models, Gary and Joel look to the school baseball team. All-star third baseman Brandon Nowalk and his career .310 batting average can attest to character-building benefits of organized sports.
Delocated (Cartoon Network, midnight): Look, we seriously don’t know where Steve Heisler’s at, but some dude wearing a balaclava and speaking through a vocal distortion filter who’s of Heisler’s approximate height and build begins covering the third season of Jon Glaser’s Witness Protection Program mockumentary tonight. Or wait, scratch that, if there are any dangerous criminals reading this article, you can definitely not find Steve Heisler here.
TV CLUB CLASSIC
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (11 a.m.): Speaking of vocal distortions and hiding from predators, both of those things pop up in this week’sStar Trek: Deep Space Nine double feature. Zack Handlen adds to his already encyclopedic knowledge of all variations on “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Cheers (3 p.m.): In a season-ending two-parter, Sam and Diane offer an answer to those eternally ringing questions of “Will they?” and “Won’t they?” Spoiler alert: The episode does not end with the two lovers gulping poison and joining one another in eternal sleep.
WHAT ELSE IS ON?
Wipeout (ABC, 8 p.m.): It’s February sweeps, Fox’s ratings-generating machine American Idol is reactivated (though weakened), so ABC threw up its hands and said: “Give ’em more winter-themed obstacle courses.” But hey, watching others get knocked out by a padded catapult is better than cracking your own skull on a slick sidewalk, right?
The Two Million Year Old Boy (National Geographic, 8 p.m.): Here’s why hyphenating compound modifiers is important: Is this a special about one, 2-million-year-old fossilized body, or a million-year-old fossilized body that is in fact two bodies? We expect better of you, National Geographic.
The Union (HBO, 9 p.m.): Director Cameron Crowe dropped in on reunited piano men Elton John and Leon Russell while they recorded their 2010 LP The Union, and this documentary is the result. Will Harris will have his thoughts on the doc this afternoon; until then, we leave you this crucial piece of rock trivia: Russell played the piano on Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash.” (To our knowledge, John did not play on that graveyard smash’s predecessor, the “Transylvania Twist.”)
Daisy Bates: First Lady Of Little Rock (PBS, 10 p.m.): Independent Lens commemorates the beginning of Black History Month with a look at the woman who led the Arkansas NAACP during the push for integration in the schools of that state’s capital city. If you’re looking for a less-solemn way to observe the month, the Neil Labute-directed, Chris Rock-starring remake of Death At A Funeral is simultaneously airing on Starz.
The Natural (AMC, 8 p.m.): And hey, February also means spring training is only a month away. Prepare for the return of Major League Baseball by revisiting this staple of “Greatest Sports Films” lists starring Robet Redford as a slugger with a magical bat.
American History X (Fox Movie Channel, 8 p.m.): If you can watch this gritty 1998 drama about a reformed neo-Nazi (Edward Norton) and come away without a newfound fear of sidewalk curbs, then, well, you’re made of stronger stock than we are.
The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (TCM, 10:30 p.m.): TCM’s month-long salute to the Academy Awards gives the network an excuse to show this John Huston epic of greed and paranoia among gold prospectors—who are usually such a generous, well-mannered bunch. In what was surely a boon to the headline-writers at Variety in 1948, the film took home a small pile of little gold men at that year’s Academy Awards.
Men’s College Basketball: Duke at Virginia Tech (ESPN, 8 p.m.): Is there any fun in supporting the Duke Blue Devils? Aside, from, you know, always supporting a winner? Don’t those wins start to feel empty after a while, especially they come from steamrolling fellow ACC non-rivals like the Hokies? Is there room for such soul-searching in NCAA athletics?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Survivor (Classic): Meredith Blake’s coverage of the reality-competition stalwart’s first season came to an end yesterday—but not before we could all spend some time contemplating one of the strangest spells of stream-of-consciousness gut-spilling to ever air on network television.