The recent 30th anniversary of “Seinfeld” was a milestone that recalled the years of “Must See TV.” Thursday nights once heralded shows like “Friends,” “Cheers” and “ER,” which could reach 20 or 30 million viewers. Even more recently, Thursday nights were home to CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” the most popular sitcom of this decade.
Thursday nights were crucial to advertisers, particularly those who were trying to reach young viewers just deciding what new movie to attend on a Friday night.
Streaming services like Netflix have upended expectations both for movie attendance and TV habits.
A glance at tonight’s network schedule suggests that programmers aren’t counting on habit at all. The offerings have little connection to the regular schedule.
Given the network choices between “Love Island” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG), “The Wall” (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG), “Family Food Fight” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) and “MasterChef” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14), you might be tempted to switch to cable. But there, you could stumble upon a very special episode of “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation” (7 p.m., MTV, TV-14). The gang has gathered around Mike on the eve of his sentencing on tax charges. Look for plenty of jokes about “The Situation.”
ABC used to air a silly summer distraction called “Wipeout,” a wet and wild obstacle course that didn’t tax too many brain cells. I wondered where it had gone until I caught sight of “Holey Moley” (7 p.m. ABC, TV-PG), something that basically presents a miniature golf competition on top of a game of “Wipeout,” with cheeky commentary from faux sportscasters (Joe Tessitore and Rob Riggle,) who belabor the obvious with glib “irony.” It’s about three layers too many. Riggle returns to hosting duty for Discovery’s Shark Week, beginning July 28.
Up against these choices, it’s easy to see why some might take the plunge with “Siren” (7 p.m., Freeform, TV-14), the angsty melodrama featuring a secret race of mermaids. As contrived as it sounds, this cable series is a festival of realism compared to “The Outpost” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14), a violent, mythical series developed for Syfy but sold to CW. “The Outpost” enters its second season tonight. You could build a drinking game around the word “destiny.”
- Don’t go mistaking the scripted “Siren” with the bogus documentary “Mermaids: The Body Found: The Extended Cut” (7 p.m., Animal Planet, r, TV-PG).
- Netflix begins streaming the well-received 2018 Taiwanese drama “Cities of Last Things,” a tale that begins with a man’s suicide and moves backward chronologically over three explanatory segments, each unfolding in a different film style: science fiction, film noir and soap opera.
- “Dr. Pimple Popper” (8 p.m., TLC) enters its third season.
- An old nemesis turns to Holmes and Watson on “Elementary” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- A plane wreck in the jungle sparks a race against the clock on “Reef Break” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
- Dale orders off the menu on “Baskets” (9 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
- “The Dead Files” (9 p.m., Travel, TV-PG) enters its 11th season investigating a house fire that may have unleashed “dark” forces.
The 2015 documentary “Tab Hunter Confidential” (7 p.m., TCM) recalls the actor who died July 8, 2018. Like Rock Hudson, Hunter had to reconcile his Hollywood heartthrob image with his closeted life as a gay man. Interviews include Debbie Reynolds and John Waters, who cast Hunter in the 1981 comedy “Polyester,” an homage to 1950s melodramas.
Liv gets inside the head of a slain private eye on “iZombie” (7 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Julie Chen Moonves hosts “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Jane Lynch hosts “Hollywood Game Night” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) ... “Spin the Wheel” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... After their dad’s murder in an apparent break-in, teens’ tales begin to unravel on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
“The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (10 p.m., Comedy Central) presents The Best of Dulce Sloan Vol. 2 ... Kumail Nanjiani appears on “Conan” (10 p.m., TBS, TV-14) ... Craig Ferguson, Ronda Rousey and Bear Grylls are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (10:35 p.m., CBS, r) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Madonna, Guy Raz and Ari Lennox on “The Tonight Show” (10:35 p.m., NBC, r) ... Jon Favreau, D’Arcy Carden and Taylor Bennett appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (10:35 p.m., ABC) ... Seth MacFarlane, Linda Cardellini and the 1975 appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (11:35 p.m., CBS).