SCREENING THE PILOT of “Call Your Mother” (9:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) is like watching a bad idea unfold in real time. Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) stars as Jean, a widowed empty-nester who feels at loose ends without her children to obsess about. After not hearing from her son, Freddie (Joey Bragg), for five whole days, she hops on an airplane to surprise him. But not before checking into her Airbnb rental, hosted by Danny (Patrick Brammall), an impossibly good-looking Australian man who has just gotten dumped by his wife. Gee, where can that go?
Look for Sherri Shepherd as Sharon, Jean’s best friend back in Iowa.
While watching “Mother” halfheartedly, it struck me that Airbnb rentals open a whole new avenue for unimaginative TV set design. After all, they’re supposed to look unlived-in.
Many uninspired sitcoms place their families in homes that look plucked out of catalogs. On “Last Man Standing,” Tim Allen works in a theme park sports store and comes “home” to a furniture showroom.
When we later encounter Freddie and his sister, Jackie (Rachel Sennott), their L.A. apartments are nearly identical and appointed in ways well out of the price range of 20-somethings out on their own for the first time.
A rather thin plot has Jean wheedling information out of her offspring and making them realize just how much they need her. And, gosh, maybe she ought to make her temporary stay more permanent. As pilots go, “Mother” unfolds with ruthless efficiency and ends with a hug.
In a nod to Sedgwick’s days on “The Closer,” Jean’s character is obsessed with “Forensic Files” and true-crime shows. Her conversations with the kids resemble a cross-examination.
When it arrived, “The Closer” was the latest in a genre of shows featuring smart, assured women detectives well into middle age. Helen Mirren’s “Prime Suspect” pretty much got the ball rolling. Sedgwick’s Brenda Leigh Johnson, was wrapped a bit tight, but she was laser-focused on catching the bad guys. She was tenacious, determined and strong.
In contrast, Jean spends much of the pilot sputtering, whining and feeling invisible without the cloak of motherhood to give her life meaning. She is clingy, manipulative and shrill.
I have a feeling that a lot of viewers who admired Brenda will be bored by Jean.
• For the record, the afternoonization of prime time continues. Four of the 15 hours of prime time presented by five networks tonight are consumed by shows that would previously have been associated with daytime distractions and gameshow fare. More than 25%.
• A life-and-death choice for Halstead on “Chicago Med” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Equipment failure on “Chicago Fire” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• “NOVA” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) examines the proliferation of popular sites offering DNA testing and suggests that giving your genetic information away to corporations may not be terribly wise.
• A runaway’s family is murdered on “Chicago P.D.” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Starting with “Airport” in 1970 and continuing with films like “Murder on the Orient Express,” and right through “Airplane,” the 1970s teemed with movies good and bad showcasing large ensemble casts of very familiar faces.
Playwright Neil Simon parodies the Agatha Christie mystery genre in the 1976 spoof “Murder By Death” (8 p.m., TCM, TV-14), featuring appearances by Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood.
“The Price Is Right at Night” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... “The Masked Dancer” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Murder on the Beverly Express on “The Goldbergs” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Jughead is courted by a literary contest on “Riverdale” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... Greg’s big secret on “American Housewife” (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Pushed beyond endurance on “SEAL Team” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... “Name That Tune” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Ben’s mom arrives on “The Conners” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... A new murder to sleuth on “Nancy Drew” (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... Quiz whizzes must be topped on “The Chase” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
Andrew Rannells appears on “Conan” (11 p.m., TBS, r) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Riz Ahmed, Angela Bassett, Jacob Collier featuring Daniel Caesar on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Rachel Brosnahan and Bobby Moynihan visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Paul Bettany and Lennie James appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (12:35 a.m., CBS).