A curious night of network television extols a current series, examines the tragic death of a comic genius and promotes a movie based on a PBS phenomenon.
-- NBC fetes one of its own shows with "The Paley Center Salutes The Good Place" (9 p.m., TV-PG). Look for stars and series creators to discuss and celebrate their comedy.
As a TV writer, I'm always somewhat suspicious of critical darlings and series more written about than watched. I appreciate the clever setup of NBC's "The Good Place," but at the same time fail to find much warmth in its transparent gamesmanship.
Not to give too much away, but the series takes place in an elaborate meditation on the afterlife. Over the course of its three seasons, the "rules" have shifted repeatedly, deeply affecting the characters' relationships to their setting and to each other. Not to mention their understanding of their own identity.
Fans of the series seem drawn to its cerebral artificiality and its emergence as a kind of ethical parable. Those are the very things that leave me a bit cold. I'm of the old-fashioned opinion that characters and their choices are essential to interesting stories.
When "anything can happen," nothing really matters.
-- A PBS event also breaks out on NBC with "Return to Downton Abbey: A Grand Event" (8 p.m.). The special looks back at the beloved series, visits its setting, Highclere Castle, and promotes the "Downton Abbey" movie, opening tomorrow.
I'm a tad curious to see if this movie will attract an audience. Will fans of the must-see PBS costume drama leave their houses to go to multiplexes? Or are series like "Downton Abbey" or "The Crown" perfect examples of the kind of shows that appeal to an older stay-at-home audience?
Fans who can't wait for the movie can catch the 2010 drama "The King's Speech" (9 p.m., Showcase). When it won the Best Picture Oscar for that year, I was struck by the fact that it really wasn't all that better than a random episode of "Downton Abbey."
Julian Fellowes, creator of "Downton Abbey," was to have created a series called "The Gilded Age" for NBC. It has since migrated to HBO.
-- ABC recalls "The Last Days of Phil Hartman" (9 p.m.) and the events leading to the murder-suicide that claimed the life of the brilliant star of "SNL," "The Simpsons" and "NewsRadio."
Some may recall Hartman as Capt. Carl from "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Hartman and fellow Groundling Paul Reubens wrote the seminal 1985 comedy "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."
-- The emergence of the History Channel as the Testosterone Channel never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Professional Wrestler Bill Goldberg hosts "Knife or Death" (10 p.m., History, TV-PG), a tough-guy competition featuring antique and even ancient weapons.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
-- Major League Baseball (7 p.m., Fox). Check local listings for regional coverage.
-- The Jaguars and Titans meet in NFL football action (8:20 p.m., NFL).
On two helpings of on "Young Sheldon" (CBS, r, TV-PG), comforting the afflicted (8 p.m.), eyes on the Nobel Prize (8:30 p.m.) ... "Celebrity Family Feud" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... Thoughts from the throne on "The Outpost" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Julie Chen Moonves hosts "Big Brother" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
D'Arcy Carden appears on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) ... Drew Carey, Fortune Feimster and Nikki Glaser appear on "Lights Out With David Spade" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
Taraji P. Henson and Aasif Mandvi are booked on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Sylvester Stallone, Cedric the Entertainer and Mark Normand on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Hugh Bonneville and Maren Morris appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
Glenn Howerton, Andrew Yang, Margaret Atwood and Yesod Williams visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Michelle Dockery and Max Greenfield appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).