Ana de Armas Goes ‘Blonde,’ ‘Reservation Dogs’ Finale, Keeping Venice Afloat, Reliving the Iran Hostage Crisis, ‘Abbott’ vs. Charter School
Ana de Armas performs a remarkable transformation as Marilyn Monroe in Netflix’s controversial Blonde. FX/Hulu’s Reservation Dogs ends its second season with an emotional road trip. Documentaries include a Nova report on efforts to keep Venice from sinking, and a two-night HBO special revisiting the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis. Abbott Elementary drops in on a neighboring charter school and tries not to lose hope.
This blonde most definitely does not have more fun. Neither does the filmgoer in Andrew Dominik’s grueling wallow in psychosexual misery, whose primary asset is Ana de Armas (Knives Out), heartbreaking and stunning as she astonishingly transforms into movie icon Marilyn Monroe. Some 60 years after her untimely death at 36, Marilyn continues to fascinate, and while Blonde (based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, and most definitely not a traditional biopic) accentuates the cruelty and abuse the former Norma Jeane suffered while maintaining her glamorous sex-symbol Hollywood persona, de Armas mostly maintains her dignity with an emotionally committed performance. Bobby Cannavale (as never-named baseball legend Joe DiMaggio) and Adrien Brody (as sensitive playwright Arthur Miller) are the primary “daddy” figures in her troubled romantic life. If screenwriter-director Dominik had matched his star in restraint, Blonde might not feel like such an ordeal to sit through.
The second season of the exceptional dramedy about a quartet of Indigenous teens in rural Oklahoma ends on a memorably moving note, as the friends decide to honor their late friend Daniel after reading the time-capsule letter he wrote as a high-school freshman. It won’t surprise fans to learn that fulfilling Daniel’s dreams involves California and the ocean, and the ensuing road trip is just the thing to bring Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Alora (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and Cheese (Lane Factor) back together. Their odyssey is spiritual, emotional, and mystical, but always laced with humor and mutual love.
One of the world’s most romantic cities, Venice is in danger of being swamped for good in the face of rising sea levels and sinking lands. Nova explores the dilemma by focusing on engineering solutions, including controversial high-tech flood gates that are being used with mixed success to keep the streets and canals from overrunning with water in Nova: Saving Venice.
In four chapters over two nights (concluding Thursday), this documentary revisits the 444-day ordeal after Iranian student activists took over the U.S. embassy in November 1979, taking more than 60 Americans hostage. Hostages provides context to the conflict, tracing the complicated relationship between the nations before and after the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran fled the country and a new Islamic regime led by hard-liner Ayatollah Khomeini came into power, sanctioning the embassy siege and leading to a standoff lasting more than a year.
“A bit much is kind of my brand,” concedes incurable optimist Janine (Quinta Brunson), the teacher of our dreams, as she refuses to lose hope in the future of her underfunded public school. Not easy after she and her fellow teachers pay an unexpected visit to a neighboring charter school that has all the perks — computers, decent air conditioning — that Abbott sorely lacks. To realize her goal, Janine first will need to pry precious grant funds from principal Ava (Janelle James), who’s conducting a Shark Tank-like competition among the staff. There’s a great running gag involving Barbara’s (Sheryl Lee Ralph) celebrity malapropisms, and what’s with the doppelgänger of Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter), glaring at her from the other school?
Inside Wednesday TV:
- The Masked Singer (8/7c, Fox): Season 1’s Peacock, aka Donny Osmond, returns to the show as a guest judge, also performing on Vegas Night.
- The Conners (8/7c, ABC): It’s a crowded house when newlywed Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) moves in with Neville (Nat Faxon), only to learn how many animals he brings home from his vet clinic.
- Rivers of Life (8/7c, PBS): The second season of the nature travelogue begins with a thousand-and-a-half-mile journey on Africa’s Zambezi River, flowing through six countries on its way to the Indian Ocean.
- The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (9/8c, Bravo): Will alleged felon Jen Shah do time for fraud? Season 3 is generating headlines before it even starts.
- Big Sky (10/9c, ABC): Reba’s got a secret! And while Sunny (Reba McEntire) is busy trying to keep the mysterious psycho killer under wraps in the woods, Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) and sheriff Beau (Jensen Ackles) continue their search for the missing backpacker, unaware that Beau’s daughter Emily (Cree Ciccino) is starting her own dangerous campground investigation.
- Resident Alien (10/9c, Syfy): The Season 2 finale finds Earth-bound E.T. Harry (Alan Tudyk) facing his greatest foe and a grim decision. Can he save the world he was initially sent to destroy?
- Netflix unscripted highlights include Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga, a quirky three-part docuseries about the millennial upstarts who took on hedge-fund and Wall Street giants in an effort to boost GameStop’s stock, and a new season of Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, visiting maximum-security facilities in Cyprus, Bosnia, Greece, and Moldova.
- The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (streaming on Disney+): Emilio Estevez is out, and Josh Duhamel is in for the second season of the youthful hockey comedy, when coach Alex (Lauren Graham) takes the team to a tough summer hockey institute in California led by former hockey star Colin Cole (Duhamel).
- The D’Amelio Show (streaming on Hulu): While mother Heidi and daughter Charli keep strutting their stuff on Dancing with the Stars, the whole family opens up their social-media lives for a second season of the reality-TV show.