Normal was the old normal. The beauty of streaming old television shows on YouTube and elsewhere is that they offer a glance at a time before the present, when our popular culture was not entirely dominated by the veneration of wealth and celebrity.
Dredge up an old clip of “I’ve Got a Secret” or “Family Feud,” and you can see relatively normal folks getting their due.
Even as late as 1999, when ABC used “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to climb out of the ratings cellar, the central appeal of the show was watching somebody just like you, sweating and stammering in front of Regis Philbin. We were all living the dream!
This year, ABC’s summer onslaught of prime-time game shows almost all featured celebrities. As if we couldn’t bother to watch anyone else! The already notable are preventing everyone else from their 15 minutes of fame.
Even PBS has gotten into the act. As the new Fox series “Almost Family” reminds us, our “genetic material” is common to every member of humanity.
But the makers of the genealogical history series “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) keep the accent on celebrity. Why trace the family history of just “anybody,” when you can find out the origins of Sarah Jessica Parker?
Tonight, the series really outdoes itself. We’re not just spending time with celebrities, but with bold-face names who are themselves the offspring of Hollywood stars!
Look for anecdotes about the ancestors of acting “royalty,” including Mia Farrow (daughter of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan); Angelica Huston (daughter of John Huston and granddaughter of Walter Huston) and Isabella Rossellini (daughter of actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rosellini).
I have nothing against any of these three individuals, who all may be interesting in their own right. But when we start obsessing about Hollywood “bloodlines,” we’re flirting with something creepy.
Keep reminding yourself: It doesn’t have to be this way. And until relatively recently, it wasn’t.
- What happens when lawlessness and contempt for due process flow from the very top? “Frontline” (9 p.m., PBS) presents the harrowing documentary “On the President’s Orders,” a look at the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has encouraged the extrajudicial murders of thousands of citizens accused of taking or dealing drugs.
Filmmakers gained access to characters on both sides of this gruesome true story: a police officer trying to train his men to refrain from random killings and a loose gang of teens born into poverty who learn to navigate streets where criminal violence and police lawlessness can claim their lives at any moment.
“Orders” may be too gruesome for some. We follow one charismatic teen character from the streets to the autopsy table. It’s that kind of film. And it’s all true.
- More blind auditions on “The Voice” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
- Barry and Iris grieve on the sixth-season premiere of “The Flash” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
- A woman candidate becomes a terror target on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- Kate and Toby cocoon on “This Is Us” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
- Pride’s past resurfaces on “NCIS: New Orleans” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- Max challenges the board on “New Amsterdam” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
- Piper runs a fever on “Emergence” (9 p.m., ABC).
A couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) find their world upended when they meet their children’s biological father (Mark Ruffalo) in the 2010 comedy “The Kids Are All Right” (8:45 p.m., Cinemax, TV-14).