Hulu’s powerful limited-series docudrama Dopesick is a devastating look at how OxyContin was falsely marketed as a non-addictive pain treatment, fueling the opioid crisis. A fourth season of USA’s The Sinner brings Det. Harry Ambrose out of retirement for a disturbing new case. Cast members of the original The Wonder Years appear throughout ABC’s Wednesday comedies to promote the first-rate reimagining of the series with a Black family. Fans of R.L. Stine will want to check out a new Disney+ anthology, Just Beyond, inspired by Stine’s supernatural stories.
You might need to check your blood pressure as you watch this powerfully impassioned and maddening eight-part docudrama, written by Danny Strong (Recount) and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man), about how the opioid crisis was fueled in the 1990s by the arrival of OxyContin, a “miracle” pain drug aggressively and falsely marketed as non-addictive. The series jumps around time, following several story threads: the machinations of the wealthy Sackler family (led by Michael Stuhlbarg as Richard Sackler) to maximize their profits; the slow-dawning understanding of Virginia mining-town Dr. Samuel Finnix (the tremendous Michael Keaton) of the dangers of the drug on his hard-working patients, including a heartbreaking Kaitlyn Dever; and the efforts of a DEA agent (Rosario Dawson) and federal prosecutors (Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker) to get the bottom of this scheme built on fake pseudo-science. Three episodes launch the series, with the remainder dropping weekly. Don’t miss it.
The fourth season of the psychological mystery series picks up a year after the third, with Det. Harry Ambrose (an inscrutably brooding Bill Pullman) now retired, still sleepless from the trauma of his last case. On vacation with artist/partner Sonja (Jessica Hecht) on a remote Maine fishing island, Harry soon realizes death never takes a holiday, and he becomes embroiled in a local family’s intrigues when he witnesses a possible suicide—or did he imagine it? Harry’s own demons are often just as disturbing as the mysteries he solves. (See the full review.)
In a stunt designed to promote the terrifically reimagined version of the nostalgic sitcom, now featuring a Black family in Alabama in the 1960s, cast members of the original series (1988-93) appear throughout the rest of ABC’s Wednesday comedy lineup. On Wonder Years, listen for a nod to its predecessor’s Joe Cocker theme song (“With a Little Help from My Friends”) when Dean (Elisha “EJ” Williams) follows dad Bill (Dulé Hill) to band practice on “Take Your Son to Work Day” and begins to appreciate what both of his parents do all day. Dan Lauria, who played dad Jack Arnold on the original series, shows up on The Goldbergs (8/7c) as a neighbor whose domicile attracts a house-hunting Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Former child star Fred Savage (aka Kevin Arnold) reprises his role on The Conners (9/8c) as Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) therapist—but the big news is the long-anticipated wedding of Dan (John Goodman) and Louise (Katey Sagal). On Home Improvement (9:30/8:30c), Danica McKellar—who played Kevin’s crush, Winnie Cooper—guests as the head of ritzy Windmount Academy, where Sarah (Caitlin McGee) is interviewing for a job at the school where her niece Gretchen attends.
YA scare-meister R.L. Stine is the inspiration for a spooky new anthology of eight supernatural tales, perfectly timed for the weeks before Halloween. Expect witches, ghosts, aliens, parallel universes and other flights of paranormal fancy.
It’s a DC Comics bonanza as DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (8/7c) kicks off its seventh season with the Legends stranded in 1925 Odessa, Texas after their time-traveling Waverider ship is destroyed. Then things get personal on the third-season premiere of Batwoman (9/8c) when Ryan (Javicia Leslie) processes the bombshell that her birth mother is alive and Mary (Nicole Kang) pines for her family more than ever as she prepares to graduate from medical school. Plus: More madness involving those Bat Trophies.
Inside Wednesday TV:
- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (8/7c, Bravo): Andy Cohen moderates the first of a four-part reunion, with episodes airing weekly through Nov. 3. Why don’t they just call it another season?
- 2021 CMT Artists of the Year (9/8c, CMT): A live special from Nashville salutes Kane Brown, Chris Stapleton, Kelsea Ballerini, Gabby Barrett and Luke Combs.
- Arctic Drift (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): A literally chilling installment of science series Nova follows experts from more than 20 countries aboard the icebreaker Polarstern, which serves as a research station for climate change when the ship is gripped by Arctic polar ice and drifts for nearly a year.
- Clash of the Cover Bands (9:30/8:30c, E!): If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s supposed to. Stephen “tWitch” Boss hosts a new musical competition, pitting cover bands of similar genres (pop divas, country, to name a few) to impress a panel of judges including Meghan Trainor, Adam Lambert and Ester Dean. The winning band gets $10,000.
- Twenties (10/9c, BET): Creator Lena Waithe’s edgy comedy about Hattie (Jonica T. Gibbs) a queer Black woman finding her way in L.A. with her BFFs Marie (Christina Elmore) and Nia (Gabrielle Graham), returns for a second season, now followed by a Twenties After-Show with B. Scott (10:30/9:30c), where Waithe and Gibbs share insights on the series.
- Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens (10/9c, Comedy Central): You can take Nora (Awkwafina) out of Queens, all the way to New Mexico, but a letter from home makes her reevaluate her latest life choice in the season finale. Back home, Grandma (the wonderful Lori Tan Chinn) is feeling the isolation from the coronavirus lockdown. We’ve all been there.