Smart, ambitious, fearless and frequently absurd, “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) debuts. It features six performers, all black females, playing dozens, if not hundreds, of over-the-top characters, exploring issues from the trite to the tragic, while taking viewers on a strange ride.
Look for many guest stars to join in the action, such as when Angela Bassett leads a focus group for women deeply committed to their nails, eyelashes and clothes. It turns out it’s a nefarious marketing campaign for a narcotic called Foxycodone that keeps the women stupefied as they strive to meet impossible standards.
There’s also a recurring infomercial for a dispenser of insane Afrocentric conspiracy theories that shows off the series’ dry, whip-smart writing. Not unlike the “Key and Peele” series, many sketches start out as social or political satire but conclude with a twist straight out of science fiction. There’s a brief vignette that begins as a dramatic encounter between two recently broken-up lovers at a lesbian bar and ends up as a close encounter of the third kind. A girls’ night out filled with wine, casual games and chatter concludes on an apocalyptic note. There’s also a variation on the old theme that a plain, if not ugly, woman is the most suited to espionage, because in a world addicted to beauty, the non-fabulous are all but invisible.
There are more smart laughs in this half-hour debut than some comedies have in an entire season. Highly recommended.
- Tonight’s returning series and franchises include the third season of “Dear White People,” streaming today on Netflix.
- Pirates, dragons, castles and purple Cadillacs are all part of the eye-popping production of “Descendants 3” (7 p.m., Disney, TV-G), the strenuously special-effected storybook fantasy directed by Kenny Ortega. This marks the last sequel in the franchise.
- Time runs short on the two-hour sixth season finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-14). The seventh season will be the last for this comic book franchise.
- ugust’s heat may be at its most intense, but sports action is never far away. “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team” (8 p.m., CMT, TV-PG) profiles women out to make it on the NFL’s premiere sideline squads
- “Basketball or Nothing” begins streaming on Netflix. It follows members of a high school team at Chinle High School, located in Arizona’s Navajo Nation. Beset with a lack of jobs and few opportunities to celebrate tribal pride, players learn to channel a traditional warrior spirit on the hardboards.
- “This Is Football,” begins streaming on Amazon Prime. It celebrates the worldwide appeal of the sport we call soccer.
- “American Masters” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) profiles author Ursula K. Le Guin, known for bringing literary respect to science fiction, once seen as merely a pulp genre.
- An off-duty Danny encounters a situation on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
- “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC, r) recalls the stabbing death of a young woman.
- “I Was Prey: Shark Week” (9 p.m., Discovery, TV-14) profiles swimmers and bathers who survived close encounters with predators.
- Dillon seethes, bent on revenge on “Jett” (9 p.m., Cinemax, TV-MA).
- An angry writer (Jack Nicholson) descends into madness in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel “The Shining” (9 p.m., Showtime).
Much to the surprise of her put-upon alcoholic husband (Fredric March), a spoiled socialite (Joan Crawford) returns from a European vacation filled with enthusiasm for a new religious movement in the 1940 comedy “Susan and God” (1:30 p.m., TCM, TV-PG), directed by George Cukor. The Broadway play that inspired this film was one of the first productions seen on a primitive television broadcast, way back in 1938.
Tropical distractions on “Love Island” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Obstacles galore on “American Ninja Warrior” (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... Dean Cain hosts “Masters of Illusion” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG) ... Variety galore on “The Big Stage” (7:30 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
A gun’s legacy affects many on “Hawaii Five-0” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... Backyard barbecues on “MasterChef” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... Gwynn is taken hostage on “The Outpost” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).