By Kevin McDonough
Fox becomes the first network to debut its new Thursday night lineup. They are clearly aiming for men who have not given up their comic books and "Star Trek" obsessions.
"Gotham" (8 p.m., TV-14) returns for its fourth season. Evidence of the Scarecrow leads Gordon (Ben McKenzie) to fear that Jonathan Crane (Charlie Tahan) is back in town. "Gotham" really keeps the dark in the "Dark Knight" saga. Almost every scene is set in some gloomy replica of a Victorian mansion, or in a dimly lit alley on the wrong side of town. For sunnier DC Comics fantasies, stick to the CW's "Supergirl" or "The Flash."
After premiering on Sundays, "The Orville" (9 p.m., TV-14) debuts at its regularly scheduled time. Despite rather tepid reviews, the Seth MacFarlane-created series debuted to relatively strong ratings.
Many saw this as a vanity project for the "Family Guy" creator, and others (myself included) seemed confused about its tone. Is it a solemn homage to Gene Roddenberry's series or a vehicle for adolescent gags?
If tonight's episode is any indication, the jokes take a back seat to a conversation about understanding, and perhaps accepting, cultures not your own. The head-scratching begins when ship officers Bortus and Klyden have a baby, and it's a girl. This is a rarity for their all-male species, and they want Dr. Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) to perform an operation that will "normalize" their offspring.
Just to ensure that things don't get too serious, a blobby little creature makes a pass at Dr. Finn, allowing MacFarlane to include an intergalactic penis joke that any 10-year-old would appreciate.
To understand "The Orville," it's perhaps best to remember that MacFarlane was also behind Fox's 2014 reboot of "Cosmos." So the series falls somewhere on the continuum between Stewie and Quagmire and Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
• Acorn streams the first two episodes of the long-awaited eighth season of "Doc Martin."
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• President Johnson increases troop strength and assures the public that victory is imminent on part five of "The Vietnam War" (8 p.m., PBS, TV-MA, check local listings).
• The San Francisco 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams in "Thursday Night Football" (8:20 p.m., NFL). CBS begins broadcasting Thursday night games next week.
• Models inspire on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
• "O.J.: Guilty in Vegas" (9 p.m., A&E, TV-14) recalls the peculiar details of a sports memorabilia robbery that put the accused murderer behind bars.
• The transfer of power becomes anything but orderly on "Scandal" (9 p.m. ABC, r, TV-14).
• The team battles to keep the hybrids at bay on the season finale of "Zoo" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• A warehouse blaze proves hard to control on "Chicago Fire" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
• A question of limits on "How to Get Away With Murder" (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).
• Nathan Fielder of "Nathan for You" (10 p.m., Comedy Central) catches up with former guests.
TCM unspools two classic documentaries from the rock era. Released in 1969, "Monterey Pop" (8 p.m.) captures a 1967 concert that introduced Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to a wider world, which included fellow performers The Mamas & the Papas, Otis Redding, the Who, Ravi Shankar and Simon & Garfunkel. Director D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 documentary "Don't Look Back" (9:30 p.m.) recalls Bob Dylan at his most cryptic and difficult.
On two helpings of "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS, r, TV-PG), Sheldon's stalker (8 p.m.), collaboration (9 p.m.) * Las Vegas finals on "American Ninja Warrior" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) * Illusionists audition on "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG) * On two helpings of "Mom" (CBS, r, TV-14), a hospital room surprise (8:30 p.m.), tax troubles (9:30 p.m.) * On two helpings of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (CW, TV-14), Marisol Nichols (9 p.m.), Jillian Michaels (9:30 p.m., r).
Bill Gates is booked on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Jake Gyllenhaal and Max Brooks appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Jim Parsons, Tatiana Maslany and The Killers are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Megyn Kelly, Dave Franco and Fergie on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Halle Berry, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)and Judah & the Lion appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC) * Emma Stone, Kaitlin Olson and Blondie visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) * Judi Dench, Kyle MacLachlan and Kasabian appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate