Good lord, it’s come to this. And it’s only going to get worse.
“Buddy Games” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) offers the summer camp fun-and-games vibes of “Survivor” without leaving camp. Actor Josh Duhamel hosts “Games,” a series that invites a busload of vaguely middle-aged friends to compete in silly games and bond in ways they haven’t since leaving adolescence behind.
While the notion of leaving the rat race and/or the patterns of ordinary life for rustic pleasures might provide a vicarious thrill to some, watching others living out this daydream doesn’t exactly offer much in the way of rewarding entertainment. “Buddy Games” might as well be called “Summer Filler.” And it arrives a week after the unofficial end of vacation season, reminding viewers of the ragged shape of the network schedule in the wake of Hollywood strikes. With the possible exception of Fox’s MLB coverage, every network show in prime time is a game show or a contest.
It’s slightly crazy that the networks haven’t used this crisis to experiment and perhaps fill the vacuum with more creative alternatives. They still have news divisions. Perhaps they could cover any number of ongoing stories, and launch a series like “Nightline,” which emerged in the wake of the Iran hostage crisis.
Or perhaps networks could revisit their back catalogs. As we speak, the most-watched TV series is the 2011-19 USA effort “Suits,” streaming on Netflix and Peacock. Heck, I’d rather watch an old “Rockford Files” than another helping of “Big Brother.”
— TCM recalls director William Friedkin, who died Aug. 7. The network showcases two of his films best known for frenetic action and bare-knuckle driving and chase scenes, the 1971 thriller “The French Connection” (8 p.m., TV-MA) and “To Live and Die in L.A.” (10 p.m., TV-14) from 1985. Absent here is “The Exorcist,” the gothic horror blockbuster that had heads turning as it set box office records in 1973-74.
TCM being TCM, this showcase reminds us that Friedkin didn’t always make frantic action movies or horror films. He directed the 1970 screen adaptation of the stage drama “The Boys in the Band” (midnight, TV-MA), set in the pre-Stonewall gay community, following a dinner party that descends into acrimony with the arrival of a newcomer. Netflix conjured up a new version of the film in 2020, starring Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer.
The 1970 film stars Kenneth Nelson, who appears as a character in the 2023 novel “Up With the Sun” by Thomas Mallon. “Sun” concerns the unhappy life and ultimate murder of real-life actor Dick Kallman, who appeared in the 1965-66 NBC sitcom “Hank.” By way of coincidence, Matt Bomer, who appeared in the second incarnation of “Boys,” also stars in the forthcoming Showtime series “Fellow Travelers,” about McCarthy-era witch hunts that blacklisted gay men working for the federal government, which is based on the 2007 book by Thomas Mallon. A very moving work, “Travelers” has already inspired an opera.
— A journalist (Steve Coogan) helps an elderly Irish woman (Judi Dench) find her long-lost son, taken from her as an infant when she was in an Irish home for unwed mothers in the bittersweet 2013 drama “Philomena” (7:20 p.m., HBO Signature). This marked an Oscar-nominated dramatic departure for Coogan (“Alan Partridge”).
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
— Check local listings for regional MLB baseball (7 p.m., Fox) coverage.
— Prime Video streams a Thursday Night Football NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles.
— “Southern Charm” (9 p.m., Bravo, TV-14) enters its 9th season.
A seemingly disturbed patient (Bruce Willis) claims to be a time traveler in the 1995 shocker “Twelve Monkeys” (6:45 p.m., Starz Encore), co-starring Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer.
An eviction follows a vote on “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … “Password” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “Generation Gap” (8 p.m., ABC) … “American Ninja Warriors” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … “The Prank Panel” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) … “The Challenge: USA” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … Experts and investors gather around the “Shark Tank” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
Due to the Writers Guild strike, all late-night shows are repeats.
Jimmy Fallon welcomes Rosie O’Donnell and SUGA on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Brie Larson, Josh Duhamel and Macklemore appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (11:35 p.m., ABC).
Allison Williams, S.S. Rajamouli and Fab Moretti visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) … Ansel Elgort and Jane Levy appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (12:35 a.m., CBS).