Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Grease: Live! lightning, go Grease: Live! lightning

The cast of Grease: Live! (Fox)
The cast of Grease: Live! (Fox)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, January 31. All times are Eastern.


Top pick

Grease: Live! (Fox, 7 p.m.): In this age of On Demand viewing and streaming services, it’s increasingly the truth that if you want people to watch your channel you need to give them something that encourages them to watch when it airs. NBC’s strategy for that over the last few years has been with live televised productions of classic musicals, with The Sound Of Music Live!, Peter Pan Live!, and The Wiz Live! turning in solid numbers and also gradually improving the experience from hate-watching to genuinely watching. Given that networks never saw an idea they couldn’t copy from their competitors, Fox is giving this approach a shot with a production of Grease, featuring Julianne Hough as Sandy Olson and Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko. (And of particular interest to us, You’re The Worst’s Kether Donohue as Jan.) Caroline Siede, who’s hopelessly devoted to live musicals, is ready to find out if this is the one that she wants. Will it be systematic, hydromatic, ultramatic, or merely problematic?

Also noted (season premiere edition)

The Venture Bros. (Adult Swim, 12 a.m.): There’s only been one episode of The Venture Bros. since July of 2013, a move that has caused no end of sadness and frustration on our part. But the wait is over as season six is finally here. Hank, Dean, Doc, Sgt. Hatred, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, and all their “friends” return for all manner of insanity, and they’re moving “to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” Zack Handlen’s so excited to have them back, he doesn’t even care if they share their piece of the pie with him.

Also noted (season finale edition)

Galavant (ABC, 8 p.m): Speaking of musicals, Galavant is leaving us almost as soon as it arrived thanks to ABC’s double-header approach to airing episodes. Dan Caffrey’s been a big fan of this season, and last week’s installments left him impressed at the way the show was able to go dark and reveal just how much of a long game the writers are playing. Plus, they were a week ahead of Grease: Live! by incorporating a zombie sendup of “Summer Nights.” So suck on that, Grease: Live!


Also noted

Downton Abbey (PBS, 9 p.m.): Downton hosts no less of a personage than Minister of Health Neville Chamberlin, who will of course go on to a controversial career in British politics over the next two decades. If only he’d spent more time around Downton and taken some lessons in standing firm from the Dowager Countess, Emily L. Stephens muses, he might have thought twice about embarking on any process of appeasement.


The Good Wife (CBS, 9 p.m.): Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya said in her last review that The Good Wife has become so scattershot this season that it “just sort of needs to pick a door and walk through it.” Well, between the news that Robert and Michelle King are stepping down as showrunners after this year and Julianna Marguiles’s joke at the Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards that she’d be “unemployed come April,” it looks like the door it’s picked has a big EXIT sign above it. Check out tonight’s review to see how Kayla’s processing that possibility.

Shameless (Showtime, 9 p.m.): Ian discovers he was saved by “the shift of gay firemen.” Myles McNutt wants to know where you’ve been, Ian? The entire firefighting industry’s gay. Yeah, aerospace too—and the railroads. And you know what else? Broadway. Also, Fiona has to bid on her own house at auction, as if she didn’t have enough to deal with right now.


Billions (Showtime, 10 p.m.): Already renewed for a second season, Billions kicks off round three of the Axe vs. Chuck battle as Axe makes an “activist play.” Does that mean that he’s using his involvement in charitable contributions to outflank his rival, or is he moving into the world of theater by writing and directing a play about the Occupy Wall Street movement? Avid theater-goer Joshua Alston would be down for the latter, especially if Axe could hire Damian Lewis as the lead. That guy can act.

Tomorrow in TV Club

Reception of The X-Files miniseries has been lukewarm in the first two episodes, but it’s about to go flukeman-hot! Darin Morgan, author of legendary episodes “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” penned tonight’s “Mulder And Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” and Zack Handlen feels like a kid at the funniest, scariest Christmas ever. And to go along with it we also have Alex McCown’s chat with Flight Of The Conchords’s Rhys Darby about his role in the episode, his thoughts on The X-Files and the paranormal in general, and what other classic TV shows would benefit from his presence if they got rebooted.

In another potential horror scenario, Ryan Murphy is helping craft the latest piece of pop culture ephemera surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial for FX with American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. Joshua Alston’s been on the jury for the first half-dozen episodes, and has a TV Review verdict ready to deliver. Is this another conviction of Murphy as TV’s most intolerable auteur, or does the label not fit and we must acquit?


What else is on?

Super Bowl XXXVIII, Panthers vs. Patriots (ESPN, 10 p.m.): With the Panthers returning to the Super Bowl for only the second time in the franchise’s history, ESPN is replaying their first appearance from 2004. It was a great game, but one that’s eclipsed by the fact that it was also the Super Bowl that brought the term “wardrobe malfunction” into the common parlance:

Madam Secretary (CBS, 8 p.m.): “Russell keeps important information from Elizabeth’s team at the State Department.” Isn’t that all Russell does on a daily basis? He’s played by Željko Ivanek, of course he’s going to be less than helpful and also have ulterior motives.


CSI: Cyber (CBS, 10 p.m.): Look, we love making fun of CSI: Cyber for its hilarious grasp of technology on par with the demon in the Internet episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But its description of tonight’s episode rubbed us the wrong way: An airborne computer virus in New York City jams cell phones when callers dial 911.” Maybe we’re too cautious, but putting “airborne,” “New York City,” and “911” in the same sentence is probably something you should think twice about if you want to avoid trigger warnings.

Mercy Street (PBS, 10 p.m.): Ron Perlman tells us that war never changes, but those who partake in it do, as Alice learns to her shock when she’s reunited with her fiancee.


The Simpsons (FXX, 8 p.m.): Last week our classic coverage of The Simpsons came to an end, and we know that it broke a lot of your hearts. But FXX is there for you, as tonight’s lineup is full of great episodes: “Marge vs. The Monorail,” “Two Dozen And One Greyhounds,” “A Fish Called Selma,” “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase,” “The City Of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” and “Trash Of The Titans.” Why not watch those and then revisit our reviews for old times’ sake?

American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. The World (NBC, 8 p.m.): The eighth season of this obstacle course franchise premieres with teams from America, Japan, and Europe going head to head. Who will scale to the top of Mount Midoriyama, and who will fail in the most hilariously GIF-able fashion?


Hoarders (A&E, 10 p.m.): “A woman’s house is condemned due a hoard of filth and animal carcasses.” Oh, everyone’s always so picky about those animal carcasses. Your What’s On Tonight correspondent grew up in Wisconsin, where between our population of hunters and serial killers, a house without a carcass isn’t a home!

Worst Cooks In America (Food Network, 9 p.m.): “The recruits are faced with filleting a whole cod to make fish and chips.” The tricky part comes in when it turns out that they don’t get any potatoes for their chips, which leads to some novel uses of bones and fins.


Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet, 7 p.m.): Animal Planet’s catering to the classic TV audience by titling tonight’s episode “Dronie Loves Squatchie.” Maybe if Joanie Loves Chachi had featured a robot and a yeti playing in a rock band in the 60s, it would have lasted longer than two seasons.

Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network, 10 p.m.): “A giant cherry is worn while preparing cobbler.” Here’s hoping none of them pop it.


Work Out New York (Bravo, 10:15 p.m.): In the season one finale, “Courtney punches up the drama” at a boxing camp. Presumably in the season two premiere she’ll kick the drama up a notch at karate camp.

Armageddon (AMC, 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.): A film wherein John McClane, Batman, John Coffey, and Nucky Thompson try to save the world from an asteroid with Lorne Malvo running things from Houston. And according to Wikipedia, the fact that AMC and other networks keep showing it is the reason it “became a major cult favorite amongst young adults in the 2010s.” Citation needed.


Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (BBC America, 8 p.m.): The film where unlike some other Robin Hoods, Kevin Costner cannot speak with an English accent. Yet despite its interminable length and bad acting largely across the board, this is one of those movies saved by the late Alan Rickman because he recognized everything was taking itself too seriously and he decided to do the opposite. It’s worth watching if solely for his threats to carve out Robin’s heart with a spoon. (“Because it’s dull, you twit, it’ll hurt more.”)

Kung Fu Panda 2 (FX, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.): For those of you who haven’t gone to see Kung Fu Panda 3 this weekend, do your homework! Though apparently FX isn’t interested in full context given they’re not playing the first and just playing the second one twice.


Jurassic Park (IFC, 8 p.m.): If the John Williams score to this movie doesn’t swell every last part of your heart, you are dead inside.

Snakes On A Plane (Cinemax, 10 p.m.): We’re coming on the tenth anniversary of this film, the film that set the Sharknado template of films whose premise alone is simultaneously dumb and awesome enough to get you into the theater. Your What’s On Tonight correspondent saw this film opening night in the theater (along with four PBR tallboys) and thought it was amazing, but has felt zero desire to revisit it since.



Pro Bowl, Team Rice vs. Team Irvin (ESPN, 4 p.m.)

NBA Basketball, Bulls at Clippers (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

NHL All-Star Game (NBC Sports, 5 p.m.)

International Friendly Soccer, U.S. vs. Iceland (ESPN2, 4 p.m.)

College Basketball, Wichita State at Evansville (ESPNU, 4 p.m.)

College Basketball, California at Colorado (Fox Sports, 5 p.m.)

College Basketball, Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m.)

College Basketball, Oregon at Arizona State (ESPNU, 8:30 p.m.)

Women’s Basketball, South Carolina at Texas (ESPNU, 6 p.m.)

In case you missed it

Childrens Hospital: The doctors delved into the remains of the old Childrens Hospital to find a cure for a deadly disease. Unfortunately, the ghost of LaToya Ferguson still haunts those ruins.