A New ‘Pinocchio,’ ‘Emancipation,’ On and Off Stage with Idina Menzel, ‘Fire’ Rescue Trauma, HBO Revives ‘Walls’

In another busy Friday in the streaming world, Netflix presents Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated version of Pinocchio, Will Smith’s grueling Emancipation arrives on Apple TV+ and Idina Menzel takes fans on the road and onto the Madison Square Garden stage in a Disney+ special. Fire Country’s midseason finale brings back tragic memories for a firefighter. After nearly 20 years, HBO re-airs its Emmy-nominated film If These Walls Could Talk, dramatizing stories about abortion in three different decades.

Pinocchio-'Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio'
Netflix

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Movie Premiere

If we can have multiple A Christmas Carol adaptations every year, why not two new Pinocchio films in 2022? Following the live-action Disney+ remake, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro teams with stop-motion animation whiz Mark Gustafson for a lavish new animated treatment of the classic about the wooden puppet who yearns to be a real boy. The sterling voice cast includes Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, Cate Blanchett and John Turturro.

Ben Foster and Will Smith in Emancipation
Apple TV+

Emancipation

Movie Premiere

Try to look past his infuriating career-stalling Oscar slap to appreciate Will Smith’s committed performance in director Antoine Fuqua’s grueling film about the travails of Peter, a runaway slave in 1863. Traveling through a Louisiana hellscape of torture, pursuit (by Ben Foster’s relentless slavecatcher) and natural perils—watch out for that crocodile—Peter fights to the death if he must to achieve freedom and be reunited with his family. Much of the movie is so agonizing that you want to turn away, but there’s no denying its primal power.

Little America Season 2
Apple TV+

Little America

Season Premiere

For uplift without as much trauma, consider a second season of the anthology featuring acclaimed dramatic vignettes about the immigrant experience. Among the stories, inspired by real people: a Somali chef readying his wares for the Minnesota State Fair, a Japanese woman in Ohio assembling a women’s baseball team, a Sri Lankan woman participating in a Texas car-kissing contest and a Korean medical student in Detroit who’d rather be designing hats.

Idina Menzel in 'Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?'
Eric Maldin/Walkman Productions Inc.

Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?

Just don’t call her Adele Dazeem. The powerhouse vocalist, who found fame on Broadway (Rent, Wicked) and hit next-level stardom belting “Let It Go” in Frozen, takes center stage in a documentary following her on a 2018 national tour culminating in her dream venue of New York’s Madison Square Garden. The special includes performance and backstage footage and candid interview segments about her life as a working mom and wife. Also new on Disney+: the animated Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again, in which Larry Daley’s hapless teenage son Nick takes over as night watchman for the summer, only to let loose the power-hungry Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah.

Billy Burke as Vince Leone in 'Fire Country'
Lindsay Siu/CBS

Fire Country

CBS’s Friday lineup signs off until the new year with midseason finales, including an emotional outing for Battalion 1608 Chief Vince Leone (Billy Burke). The team’s latest rescue, involving two siblings in a wrecked car in peril, triggers traumatic memories of when Vince’s daughter Riley (Jade Pettyjohn) perished in a fatal car accident.

If These Walls Could Talk - Anne Heche, Lindsay Crouse, Jada Pinkett Smith
HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection

If These Walls Could Talk

Timely then, perhaps timelier now. HBO revives its Emmy-nominated 1996 film that spans the decades telling stories about women in 1952, 1974 and 1996—all occupying the same home—who deal with the polarizing issue of abortion. In 1952, Demi Moore plays a woman going to desperate lengths to seek an abortion during a time when it was strictly illegal. In 1974, a year after the Roe v. Wade decision, Sissy Spacek plays a struggling mother of four who considers terminating her latest pregnancy. Cher stars in and directs the final segment, set in 1996, as an abortion doctor facing violent protests as she tends to a pregnant college student (Anne Heche).

The Yule Log:

  • Something from Tiffany’s (streaming on Prime Video): Holly Golightly would dig this romcom about two couples at varying stages of commitment whose relationships turn upside down when their romantic gifts from Tiffany’s get switched. (All of those blue boxes look alike.)
  • It’s a Wonderful Binge (streaming on Hulu): Followed by the not-so-great hangover? A sequel to 2020’s The Binge, which imagines a time when alcohol and drugs are legal for one night only, brings rowdy chaos to the holidays when the Binge night is moved to Christmas Eve.
  • The Most Colorful Time of the Year (8/7c, Hallmark Channel): A widowed optometrist (Katrina Bowden) helps her daughter’s color-blind teacher (Christopher Russell) see what he’s missing at Christmastime.
  • A Recipe for Joy (8/7c, Lifetime): A foodie TV personality (Erin Agostino) angling for her own show gets more than she bargained for when she films the pilot in Angel Heights, where a shy chef (Dillon Casey) is reopening his family’s diner.
  • Penn & Teller: Merry Fool Us (8/7c, The CW): A holiday-themed episode finds magicians performing for Penn & Teller, and host Alyson Hannigan, in hopes of taking home a Christmas trophy.
  • Silos Baking Competition: Holiday Edition (8/7c, Magnolia Network, streaming on HBO Max and discovery+): Home bakers compete for $25,000 and a chance to get on Chip and Joanna Gaines’ menu as they create goodies before a live audience at The Silos in Waco, Texas.

Inside Friday TV:

  • True Crime Watch: On ABC’s 20/20 (9/8c, ABC): David Scott reports on the deadly medical scam of unlicensed Manhattan cosmetologist Dean Faiello, who fled to Costa Rica after his illegal procedures cost the life of patient Maria Cruz. On Dateline NBC (9/8c), Keith Morrison follows the investigation into the 2009 disappearance and murder of 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel, including a confrontation with Raymond Moody, who pleaded guilty to the crime in October.
  • Blue Bloods (10/9, CBS): Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) once again clashes with the mayor (Dylan Walsh), this time over an off-duty cop’s political opinions, while Anthony (Steven Schirripa) frets that Erin’s (Bridget Moynahan) own political future in the D.A.’s race is in jeopardy over her ex’s (Peter Hermann) shady business dealings.
  • Battle of the Bling (10/9 and 10:30/9:30c, HGTV): The network that gave us Ugliest House in America is now showcasing the most over-the-top abodes, with singer/social media star Todrick Hall and designer Kim Myles touring blinged-out properties that even the flamboyant Hall admits are “shockingly extra,” with mirrored fireplace, sunken grottoes, furry walls and such.
  • Random Acts of Flyness: The Parable of The Pirate and the King (midnight/11c, HBO): Terence Nance’s metaphysical exploration of Black life and heritage returns for a second season.

On the Stream: