'Rise' on NBC

Damon J. Gillespie portrays Robbie Thorne, a high school football player who tries out for a school musical, in “Rise,” 9 p.m. on NBC.

NBC heralds its new prestige musical melodrama “Rise” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Josh Radnor stars as Lou Mazzuchelli, an English teacher overwhelmed by his class’s apathy and the bureaucratic grind of teaching in a sports-obsessed high school. Lou tries to break out of his personal spiritual funk by taking over the drama club and inspiring the kids to put “Grease” behind them and embrace the challenge of “Spring Awakening.”

Don’t expect the high-strung tone of “Glee” or the Disneyfied phoniness of “High School Musical.” This high school appears to be located in Bummertown, USA, a riverside Pennsylvania burg right out of a Bruce Springsteen ballad.

In addition to shots of bleak shoreline ruins and shuttered factories, its realistic documentary-style camerawork suggests influences of “Friday Night Lights.”

To be fair, the pilot is too busy introducing one troubled teenage character after another. Singers become rivals because their parents are having a sloppy and not-so-secret affair. A closeted tenor’s devout parents dislike Lou’s choice of a “controversial” play. The lighting guy is homeless, and the best singer of the bunch is undergoing gender reassignment.

Lou’s snarling son, Gordy (Casey Johnson), never leaves his room, and the golden boy quarterback-turned-musical star must visit his ailing mother in some grim facility.

The series does a nice job of blending audition performances as montage moments and allowing untrained high school singers to sound like real human beings and not studio musicians.

But ultimately, “Rise” sinks under its own weight, an earnest self-importance that’s so resolutely humorless it’s almost funny.

On the other hand, I’m no fan of “This Is Us” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14,) wrapping up its second season tonight. So, if you like that hanky-soiler, “Rise” might be for you.

  • Debuting tonight, “For the People” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14) trots out the “Grey’s Anatomy” formula for the legal profession. Six very, very young type-A lawyers begin their practice at an esteemed federal court, but spend much of the time sniping at each other or sleeping together.

Other highlights

  • 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament action (5:30 p.m., Tru).
  • Plagiarism charges seem familiar on “Bull” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
  • Our hero pursues exoneration on “Black Lightning” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
  • Playing pirate can be murder on “NCIS: New Orleans” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
  • Part history and part treasure hunt, “The Curse of Civil War Gold” (9 p.m., History) has the feel of a “Hardy Boys” adventure, right down to the deathbed confession of the old lighthouse keeper.
  • Chip makes a discovery in the library on “Baskets” (9 p.m. FX, TV-MA).
  • The case concludes on the “Bellevue” (9 p.m., WGN) season finale.

Cult choice

Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor star in “Father of the Bride” (7 p.m., TCM) and “Father’s Little Dividend” (8:45 p.m.), from 1950 and 1951, directed by Vincente Minnelli. Both served as templates for ’50s TV comedies like “Father Knows Best.”

Series notes

A TV antiques dealer showcases potential murder evidence on “NCIS” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Blind auditions conclude on “The Voice” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... Phony tender on “Lethal Weapon” (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... Mike’s big promotion on “The Middle” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Melting Pot simmers on “The Flash” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG) ... Franchising on “Fresh Off the Boat” (7:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

Ronnie faces eviction on “LA to Vegas” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... On two helpings of “black-ish” (ABC), gender bias (8 p.m., TV-14), sparing the rod (8:30 p.m., TV-PG) ... A troubled time off on “The Mick” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

Late night

David Byrne is booked on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (10 p.m., Comedy Central) ... Terry Crews, Robert Reich and Mark Normand appear on “Conan” (10 p.m., TBS).

Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ricky Gervais, Chris Sullivan and Amy Shark on “The Tonight Show” (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Alan Cumming, Christiane Amanpour, Beth Ditto and Brendan Canty visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (11:35 p.m., NBC)

© 2018 United Feature Synd.