Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Monday, September 4. All times are Eastern.
In lieu of Top Picks and Wild Cards, here are some streaming recommendations to get you through the tail end of the long weekend.
The Sinner (available at USA Network site; airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m.):
It seemed to arrive out of nowhere: An eight-part miniseries based on a German crime novel and starring Jessica Biel? And airing on USA, no less? It sounds improbable, and yet The Sinner has been a strange delight, a twisty drama that not only elicits a superb performance from Biel, but manages to keep all the unusual plotting just barely on the right side of trashy. The story isn’t a whodunit so much as a whydunit—Biel’s seemingly together housewife stabs a stranger on the beach in the middle of the day, in full view of onlookers, and appears to have no idea why she did it. Much of the credit should likely go to executive producer and indie film director Antonio Campos (Afterschool, Christine), who shoots the first three episodes with an icy remove, artfully unfolding backstory and narrative reveals for maximum audience goosing. The first five episodes are available to binge, and are a delectable treat. [Alex McLevy]
As viewer habits evolve and viewing options expand, broadcasters can’t depend on programming blocks like they used to. But that’s not stopping NBC from re-establishing its comedy foothold on Thursdays, the former home of Must See TV, “the best night of television on television,” and those fleeting, magical few months when you could watch Community, Parks And Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock all in a two-hour chunk. To ensure that you’re properly prepared for the new NBC Thursday, catch up with the first 13 episodes of its best show, The Good Place. Created by Parks And Rec boss Michael Schur, The Good Place pictures a reality where a person’s deeds and misdeeds are each assigned a positive or negative point value, tabulated into a final score that determines where they get to spend eternity: The titular paradise, or its fiery, torture-filled counterpart. Kristen Bell is a pip as Eleanor Shellstrop, a self-proclaimed “medium person”—she’s no saint, but she wasn’t a monster, either—who’s accidentally admitted to The Good Place after dying in a freak supermarket accident. Her attempts to maintain the ruse take some surprising twists and turns, but The Good Place values character over plot, with old pros Bell and Ted Danson making heavenly ensemble comedy with relative newcomers William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden (who’s playing one of the best minor characters on TV), and Manny Jacinto. With an existentialist streak worthy of The Leftovers and Lost (prior to production, Schur bounced his concept for The Good Place off of Damon Lindelof), The Good Place is a gimmick sitcom whose gimmick is that it’s really great. [Erik Adams]
The Neil Gaiman adaptations continue apace, as the author brings some of his phantasmagoric yet Likely Stories to horror-streaming site Shudder. Geographically speaking, these twisted tales are far from American Gods—with an all-British cast, they take place in Gaiman’s native England—but they share some themes. The episode “Feeders And Eaters,” which stars Victoria’s Tom Hughes, features an offering that would please even Bilquis. Gaiman’s clearly enjoying letting his imagination run wild on the small screen, even popping up in two of the four episodes. Jarvis Cocker provides a suitably eerie soundtrack for the miniseries, which will take up less than two hours of your day off, but will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. [Danette Chavez]
As summer draws to a close, we’re all sad. So why not commiserate with the last-day campers at Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later? Just like beloved campers Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and Michael Ian Black, you’ll once again get submerged in the competitive camp contests, steamy romances, and considerable conspiracy plots that go along with Camp Firewood, as well as some amazing guest star turns by Alyssa Milano, Josh Charles, and Kristen Wiig. Honestly, we’d be just as happy if this series was just 10 episodes of former theater queen Suzy (Poehler) and reigning theater champion Logan (John Early) throwing shade at each other all day (“Fuck you, Logan!” “Fuck yourself, it’s cheaper”). But since there are laughs like that approximately every .03 seconds, we’ll be happy to wind down the summer with our fave ensemble comedy while we hope for future versions. And a happy “Walla walla hoo” to you and yours. [Gwen Ihnat]