Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Wednesday, November 2. All times are Eastern.
Top Chef (Bravo, 10 p.m.): Arguably TV’s best reality competition series returns tonight, after an “all stars” season that started out swimmingly but quickly grew boring for assorted reasons. So the series has its chance to redeem itself with this new installment, which follows the weird reality TV convention of naming seasons after where they’re set, as opposed to just saying, “Hey, this is Top Chef, and I’m Padma Lakshmi, and let’s get to fucking cooking!” So now we’re graced with Top Chef: Texas, which will open with 29 chefs, the most the show has ever had on the series at one time by nearly double. Of course, Padma will cut a bunch of them down tonight in her pure wrath, but that’s still a whole lot of cookin’ Texans. Emily Withrow isn’t planning on getting too attached to any of them.
The Middle (ABC, 8 p.m.): Is there a communication phenomenon that America’s TV comedy writers have had a harder time implementing at the center of their stories than texting? Parks And Rec got it right last week with Chris being able to text without looking at his keyboard (to no one’s surprise), but other shows have had trouble making people staring down at a phone cinematically interesting. Will Harris watches The Middle take a stab at this very thing tonight with Sue and Brick.
Survivor (CBS, 8 p.m.): There’s a challenge tonight involving keys and locks, which are, as you’re probably aware, always incredibly exciting. Is this the episode of television that will quell your appetite for a Locke And Key series, after Fox so cruelly passed on picking the damn thing up? We’re not entirely sure if it will involve interdimensional horrors, but all the same, we’re going to say, “Probably,” because Carrie Raisler’s seen enough Survivor to realize it definitely involves interdimensional horrors.
Up All Night (NBC, 8 p.m.): Reagan’s parents are played by Blythe Danner and Richard Schiff. Now, Danner’s been playing all-purpose mom/grandma roles on these shows for a while now, so that’s not exactly a surprise, but has Richard Schiff finally graduated to the “father of the female protagonist who’s both disappointed in her and always going to love his little girl” roles? It appears so, and Erik Adams is hoping for a retcon that reveals Reagan’s a time-traveling version of one of Toby Ziegler’s kids.
The X Factor (Fox, 8 p.m.): Fox has finally decided to let you vote on this shit! We’re recommending that you vote for the Stereo Hogzz for the maximum amount of people saying, “What the hell? Something called Stereo Hogzz won something?” an action that might cause singing competitions to die off for a few decades or something. The Hogzz are actually pretty good, but they surely understand the value of sacrifice, as does Emily Yoshida.
Suburgatory (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): Tessa tries to get the good people of Chatswin to care about charitable causes, which sounds like a noble goal for her to pursue, no? Our suggestion is that she get everybody to sponsor the “TV Club editor’s fund for TV Club editors who want to buy stuff,” which is something we’ve been in firm support of for the last several years. If Tessa’s cool with that, we can totally get Ryan McGee to give her our… er… the charity’s PayPal.
America’s Next Top Model (The CW, 9 p.m.): We gave up on this show a few years ago, which is why Margaret Eby—who may be the only person in America still watching—covers it for us, but the challenges for this all-star season have just sounded hilarious. In tonight’s episode, the models must write and perform a song about themselves, and the rapper Game is going to judge them on their musical abilities, because musical abilities are clearly exactly what this show is about.
Modern Family (ABC, 9 p.m.): Phil builds a treehouse for Luke in this episode. Then, Jay and Gloria go salsa dancing, and Cameron makes a bet that he can pick up a woman at a bar. Normally, we’d say something snarky about this show’s increasingly sitcommy nature, but we won’t lie: Modern Family. You had us at “Phil builds a treehouse for Luke.” See? A Jerry Maguire reference! We can do hacky sitcom shit, too, though Donna Bowman will never validate our gags by grading them.
Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist (Bravo, 9 p.m.): Artwork by children is meant to inspire the contestants in this episode, which just reminds us of that cool website where you can send in your kid’s drawings, and the company will turn it into a stuffed animal. John Teti sent in a drawing of a superhero made entirely of macaroni called Mack A’ Roonie, but his shipment got lost in the mail. Now, he stews and plots his vengeance while reviewing reality TV shows.
Happy Endings (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): The description for this episode includes the word “staycation,” which suggests that we’re entering one of those weird zones where a sitcom episode is written by someone reading a features section from a 2005 edition of the Des Moines Register they found sitting around in the writers room for some reason. The last time David Sims took a staycation, it took five or six days for his girlfriend to excavate the mess that accumulated, so he’ll relate to this episode on a personal level.
American Horror Story (FX, 10 p.m.): Would Todd VanDerWerff lie to you? Don’t answer that. He probably would. He’s a bastard man. But the important thing is that he’s long been down on this show—except insofar as it’s enjoyable as pure trash—but he kinda liked tonight’s episode, or, rather, liked one of the storylines and found the others mildly tolerable. And it’s not just that thing where he watches a bad TV show for a long time, and it wears down his defenses over time. He swears!
Psych (USA, 10 p.m.): Tonight’s episode features a masked villain known as “The Mantis,” which surely means that the comics references will flow fast and furious. Kevin McFarland promises he’ll be able to keep up with all of them, but what we want to know is what would happen if the show started making lots of references to Detective Chimp. What then? And while we’re at it, when’s FX going to pick up our script for a gritty reboot of Detective Chimp that’s equal parts Crocodile Hunter and The Shield?
Revenge (ABC, 10 p.m.): Somewhat improbably, you’ve made this one of our biggest new hits here at TV Club, which renews our faith in your love of… what, we’re not sure, exactly. Cool primetime soaps that dish out darkness and camp in equal measure? Emily VanCamp and Madeline Stowe? Blandly attractive guys? Or ageless dogs? Honestly, it’s probably just the latter, but Carrie Raisler thanks you for your continued patronage and promises even more animals St. Germains to come.
South Park (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.): Last week offered one of the best South Park episodes ever, and this week’s episode is entitled “1%,” which suggests that the show is going to get topical again by embracing the currently raging controversy over whether toddlers should be drinking 1%, 2%, whole, or skim milk. Stay strong, Trey and Matt! Don’t let the milk lobby get to you! Speak the truth, and Ryan McGee will salute you!
TV CLUB CLASSIC
Survivor (Classic) (11 a.m.): Meredith Blake’s Real World reviews this summer were truly awesome, and we were always sad so many of you just reflexively wrote them off because of what they were about. Anyway, we’re hoping that we can entice you to read some more of Meredith’s awesome writing about the history of reality TV by taking on the show that started the whole reality competition craze. Remember big ol’ naked Richard Hatch? You will now.
The Sopranos (1 p.m.): There are few more controversial episodes in this show’s fifth season than “In Camelot,” an entire hour devoted to Tony hanging out with his dead father’s old mistress, Christopher beating up the nice brother from Wings, and Uncle Junior realizing that death’s greedy maw is opening soon just for him. Depending on your opinion, it’s either boring or filled with rich psychological insight. Todd VanDerWerff is the only one bold enough to ask: What if it’s both?
WHAT ELSE IS ON
Little House On The Prairie (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): We try not to highlight reruns here, but reading episode descriptions for some of the episodes airing this week—and describing “Sylvia” for our scary episodes inventory—has us remembering just how bizarre this show could be. Tonight, Laura prays a baby boy to death. Nice one, Laura.
Man Vs. Food Nation (Travel, 9 p.m.): Tonight, the show travels to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to take on a giant hamburger challenge and visit other famous pig-out spots. Wait. There’s a giant food challenge in Wisconsin? Is somebody playing a prank on us? Oh, just kidding. It is Wisconsin we’re talking about here, right?
MythBusters (Discovery, 9 p.m.): We’ll drop in on this show again sometime soon, but probably not tonight, as the team testing sewer drains and truck-bed liners just doesn’t sound like riveting television to us. Then again, it’s not like plenty of other episodes have sounded all that cool, and they usually ended with awesome explosions. So what do we know?
Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (PBS, 10 p.m.): Now that the journalists have gone through and written the “first draft of history” take on the Apple founder’s obituary, it’s time for the TV hagiographers to scrub out the nasty bits in favor of the “second draft of history” approach. And if you happen to have strong opinions on Apple or on computers or anything in general, feel free to express them in our open thread.
Inception (HBO Signature, 9 p.m.): BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Some Like It Hot (TCM, 9:45 p.m.): TCM caps off a Marilyn Monroe night with the best movie America’s premier female sex symbol ever made, in which she plays a member of an all-girl band that’s infiltrated by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s script may be the funniest ever committed to film, and it’s likely the film with the best closing line… ever.
Women’s Volleyball: Iowa State at Oklahoma (ESPNU, 8 p.m.): Sometimes, we try to highlight non-professional sports here, as well as non-college football/basketball sports. So, uh, why don’t you check out a women’s volleyball game tonight? Doesn’t that sound fun? Sure, it does! (Actually, high-level volleyball is fun to watch, so ignore our snark. It’s reflex at this point.)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
The Muppet Show/NCIS (Tuesday): Tuesday was a big day for debuts and returns at the ol’ TV Club, with Erik Adams’ classic reviews of The Muppet Show getting their big launch, and Phil Nugent’s review of a Very Special NCIS marking the return of our long-dormant “Box Populi” feature. Check both out, and then yell at us in comments. We know you’re going to anyway. And we love you for it.