ABC offers a live tribute of 2 classic sitcoms

Posted 5/22/19

By Kevin McDonough

Jimmy Kimmel presents "Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons" (8 p.m., ABC).

Kimmel and series creator Norman Lear will host the live event. A raft of big-named talent will …

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ABC offers a live tribute of 2 classic sitcoms

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

Jimmy Kimmel presents "Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons" (8 p.m., ABC).

Kimmel and series creator Norman Lear will host the live event. A raft of big-named talent will participate in this theatrical reproduction of sitcoms from some five decades back. They include Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker and Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson.

This is hardly the first reverent reproduction of a popular classic. George Clooney's 2000 live production of the Cold War thriller "Fail Safe" comes to mind. The notion of re-creating sitcom episodes as "theater" reminds us of the dramatic roots of multiple-camera sitcoms shot before live studio audiences. At their best, they've always been like little plays. When the 1990s sitcom "Frasier" was firing on all cylinders, NBC was bringing a little French farce into tens of millions of homes every week.

Continually mining pop culture nostalgia may be fun, but it also invites ridicule and suggests a certain creative exhaustion. I'm reminded of a very old joke by David Letterman's NBC sidekick/mascot, Larry "Bud" Melman, played by the late Calvert DeForest. Confronted with news of some "new" remake, he quipped, "What's next, 'Rhoda: The Musical'"? After tonight, we have moved closer to that "dream."

• Basic cable doesn't shy away from "red meat" programming. Over the past decade, the Discovery and History channels have scoured the country for tough-guy fisherman, foresters, mechanics and gold prospectors to offer their audiences the vicarious thrill of watching hard, dirty, dangerous work from the safety of the living room.

So, there's something all but expected about the arrival of "The Butcher" (10 p.m., History, TV-PG). In this competition series, four contestants who know their way around a carcass use old-school axes and cleavers as well has modern equipment to carve delicious chops and cuts from an animal hung up on hooks.

Butchers are judged on efficiency and economy as well as the beauty of their handiwork. Over the course of the hour, they advance round by round before being confronted with some gasp-inducing "mystery beast."

Except for the sights and sounds of hacking and whacking, there's little about "The Butcher" that's different than most cooking contests. Like the two episodes of the blacksmithing series "Forged in Fire" that precede it, "The Butcher" uses throbbing metal music to underscore its dude-centric "intensity."

Every other participant seems to have a shaved head and multiple tattoos. As in many reality series, the atmosphere of male overcompensation contains elements of farce.

CULT CHOICE

Against the backdrop of imperial decline, Laurence Olivier offers a harrowing portrayal of a seedy vaudevillian in the 1960 drama "The Entertainer" (6 p.m., TCM, TV-PG).

TONIGHT'S SEASON FINALES

• Will receives troubling news on "Chicago Med" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Brett mulls a move on "Chicago Fire" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• The brass threatens to break up the squad on "SEAL Team" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• Voight's team faces the inevitable on "Chicago P.D." (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Evildoers use Ray's fate as terror bait on "Whiskey Cavalier" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth participate on "MasterChef Celebrity Family Showdown" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• Young people facing terminal illnesses share stories on "My Last Days" (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

• A female agent (Jennifer Lawrence) brings special skills to the spy game in the 2018 thriller "Red Sparrow" (8 p.m., Cinemax).

• "NOVA" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings) presents "Lost Viking Army," offering new evidence of a ninth-century invasion of the British Isles.

• The gang plays host to a vampire event on "What We Do in the Shadows" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

SERIES NOTES

Contestants ready their game faces on "Paradise Hotel" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Publish or perish on "Jane the Virgin" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

Lisa Kudrow visits "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Sen. Kamala Harris and Kaitlyn Dever on "The Late Sh ow With Stephen Colbert"(11:35 p.m., CBS) * John Lithgow, Beanie Feldstein, Julian Castro and Sebastian Thomson visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) * Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Whitford, David Tennant and Billy Ray Cyrus appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).

© 2019, United Feature Syndicate