Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

And now, fall TV proudly presents: Families!

Top: mixed-ish, The Conners (both: Eric McCandless/ABC); bottom: Emergence (Virginia Sherwood/ABC), This Is Us (Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Tuesday, September 24. All times are Eastern. 


Top pick

This Is Us (NBC, 9 p.m., fourth-season premiere): While the last season of This Is Us didn’t exactly end on a high note, we still see plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this fourth season, which premieres tonight with an episode called “Strangers.”

Here, a brief list:

  • Jennifer Morrison (House) is joining the cast!
  • So is Omar Epps (also House)!
  • So are Asante Blackk (When They See Us) and Marsha Stephanie Blake (also When They See Us)!
  • Mandy Moore is still very good at her job!
  • Probably no one will get killed by a kitchen appliance!
  • And last but not least, Caroline Siede is still on that recap beat.

The Pearsons aren’t the only family on the block tonight. See below for visits with the Conners, as well as young Rainbow Johnson and her family (Tika Sumpter! Mark-Paul Gosselaar! Gary Cole!).

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Regular coverage

The Conners (ABC, 8 p.m.): second-season premiere drop-in
mixed-ish (ABC, 9 p.m.): series premiere drop-in

Wild card

Emergence (ABC, 10 p.m., series premiere): Here’s hoping Emergence has more on its mind than what gets offered up in the first hour of its narrative. The season premiere of ABC’s new supernatural mystery doesn’t have much beyond another story about an isolated, super-powered kid—something not exactly in short supply these days, especially once you factor in Netflix’s upcoming Raising Dion. But what it does have is Allison Tolman, and the series smartly places her front and center in nearly every scene. The charismatic and immensely likable actor helps to ground all the magical claptrap, which kicks off when small-town sheriff Jo (Tolman) goes out one night to explore a small private plane that crashed on the local beach and finds a young girl with no memory of who she is, seemingly unharmed by the accident. Soon, strange people start to appear who are trying to bring the girl in, leading to Tolman’s impulsive decision to break basically every law there is and keep this child in the safety of her own home. But her paranoia becomes awfully well-founded when two people claiming to be the girl’s parents show up at the sheriff’s station, and when she asks them for evidence that they’re really who they say they are, the lights in the building flicker—and the couple vanishes without a trace.

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In some ways, the show’s gifted-child story feels like a fairly shameless attempt to replicate the first-season story (and appeal) of Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven from Stranger Things. But there’s no fond ’80s homages or Stephen King-esque group of misfit friends here, just the conventions of a normal ABC drama dropped into the world of a super-powered thriller. Jo has an amicable if rocky relationship with her ex (Donald Faison), a father battling cancer (Clancy Brown, overqualified for his underwritten role), and a teen daughter who talks like a writers room version of a witty twentysomething. There’s also a plot tweak meant to create some ambiguity as to whether this mysterious girl is actually good or evil, but it’s never really in question. ABC isn’t about to turn this tale of a trusting superhuman moppet into a family-network version of Brightburn; the real question is how quickly and effectively creators and showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters can expand the world of Jo and her young charge in an engaging way. At present, it’s a lot of mystical gimcrack; Tolman aside, Emergence could use the power of distinctive characters, to give audiences a reason to come back. [Alex McLevy]

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