By Kevin McDonough
Comedy reboots and retrospectives often amuse, but not without sad reminders that nothing dates faster than yesterday's punch lines. Old clips from the "Carol Burnett Show" have sparked a cottage industry of PBS specials, cable filler and DVDs. But they all remind us of the decades that have flown by.
You can't go home again. Or can you?
NBC presents "The Paley Center Salutes the Best of Will & Grace" (10 p.m., TV-14), in anticipation of the new reboot of "Will & Grace," coming to NBC on Thursday, Sept. 28.
Will it hold up? And even if it does, will that be enough? Comedy, society and attitudes have changed since 1998, when "Will & Grace" debuted.
Even the greatest comedians have a hard time reprising their best work. Everybody loved "Lucy," but Lucille Ball's later sitcoms appeared to be going through the motions. Mary Tyler Moore never reprised her sitcom magic. Why should Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally be any different?
Perhaps the best way to honor or exhume old shows is in an oblique fashion, the way Larry David worked "Seinfeld" into the plot of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or how Matt Leblanc's character plays off his "Friends" fame on "Episodes."
At an old Emmy Awards ceremony, I recall one of the "Will & Grace" creators, Max Mutchnick or David Kohan, referring to the stellar cast as the "John, Paul, George and Ringo" of ensemble comedy.
People wanted a Beatles revival too. But it's probably best that it never happened. After the Beatles broke up, John Lennon used to chide his fans for wanting more. He told them that they still had their records and their memories. And in an imperfect world, that should be enough.
• Also in a retrospective mode, Netflix streams "Jerry Before Seinfeld," following the comedian to the clubs where he made his name and honed his act before embarking on the show about nothing.
• A prime-time "Conan" (10 p.m., TBS, TV-14) travels to Israel to perform in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other locales.
• A decorated officer recalls his most dangerous cases on the new nonfiction series "Street Justice: The Bronx" (9 p.m., Discovery, TV-14).
TV on DVD
TV-themed DVDs available today include the PBS documentary series "The Vietnam War."
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• The top 10 perform for the final time on "America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
• "The Vietnam War" (8 p.m., PBS, TV-MA, check local listings) recalls the first months of Lyndon Johnson's presidency and his efforts to stave off the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime and win the 1964 election at the same time.
• "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath: The Conversation Continues" (8 p.m., A&E, TV-14) chronicles allegations against the organization's leader, David Miscavige.
• Andrew dines on the Erie Canal on "Bizarre Foods" (9 p.m., Travel, TV-PG).
• A race against the clock to save Serena on the season finale of "Somewhere Between" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Surgeons are reduced to microscopic size to embark on a "Fantastic Voyage" (8:20 p.m., HBO Family) inside a human patient. A 2012 survey by the Rotten Tomatoes site aggregated a positive 92 percent approval rating for this 1966 fantasy.
Faraway Paraguay on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * Riggs wants answers on "Lethal Weapon" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) * A fender-bender on "The Middle" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) * Barry takes on Savitar on "The Flash" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG) * Major decisions on "Fresh Off the Boat" (8:30 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) * Miami vice on "Bull" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * On two helpings of "blackish" (ABC, r, TV-PG), from here to paternity (9 p.m.) complications (9:30 p.m.) * Breaking and entering on "The Mick" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) * Doom has its day on "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) * Gina Gershon guest-stars on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (9:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) * Pride circumvents the mayor on "NCIS: New Orleans" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
Olivia Munn is booked on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Sharon Osbourne appears on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Hillary Clinton and Emma Stone are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Kevin James, Ilana Glazer, Rudimental and James Arthur on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Mariska Hargitay, Gilbert Gottfried and Celeste Ng visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) * Luke Wilson, Zach Woods and Sir Sly appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate