Goode Times in 'Guernsey' and 'Ordeal,' 'Freaky Friday' Musical

Matt Roush
Netflix

A critical checklist of notable Friday TV:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (streaming on Netflix): This movie acquisition is recommended to fans of Downton Abbey, who may already have discovered the charming novel (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) from which this sentimental heartwarmer of a literary romance is adapted. Set in post-WWII England, it's the story of Juliet (Downton's Lily James), a young writer who discovers the existence of a book club that was formed on Nazi-occupied Guernsey in the Channel Island. When a letter from an unassuming pig farmer (Game of Thrones' dashing Michiel Huisman) captures her interest, she puts her career and engagement (to a dull American) on hold to travel to the isle to learn of the deprivation, sacrifice and devotion that bonded the group. The cast includes Downton vets Penelope Wilton, Jessica Brown Findlay and Matthew Goode as Juliet's supportive editor.

Ordeal by Innocence (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): In an Agatha Christie mystery, is anyone truly innocent? Even the victim? Those questions haunt a stylish three-part adaptation of the 1958 Christie classic, with screenwriter Sarah Phelps (And Then There Were None) altering the plot into a delicious wallow in twisted family melodrama. Matthew Goode is featured here as well in a cynical change of pace, as the alcoholic wounded-veteran husband of a prime suspect (Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson). The Argylls are a brood of unhappily adopted wartime orphans who grew up with little love for passive father Leo (Bill Nighy) or waspish adoptive mommy un-dearest Rachel (Anna Chancellor). When the latter is murdered in the mid-1950s, black-sheep son Jack (Anthony Boyle) is convicted of the crime and dies in prison. When an eyewitness emerges later to exonerate Jack, the twist sends the clan into a tailspin of recrimination and suspicion.

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Freaky Friday (8/7c, Disney Channel): You know the story, from the popular 1976 and 2003 movies, but this peppy musicalization of the body-swapping Disney favorite has a beat you can sing to. The clever score by Pulitzer Prize winners Ton Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal) brings a fun, fresh energy to the generation-gap shenanigans. Broadway pro Heidi Blickenstaff is uptight caterer mom Katherine, who learns to loosen up when she magically switches bodies with rebel daughter Ellie (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), who learns to grow up. It's freaky how timeless this musical fantasy is.

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Plus, the original show's stars, Will Friedle and Christy Carlson Romano, audition in a hilarious clip.

Inside Friday TV: A Netflix series to avoid: the odious Insatiable, a vulgar revenge comedy starring Debby Ryan as formerly overweight Patty, who loses weight after her jaw is wired shut (don't ask) and becomes the obsession of a disgraced beauty-pageant consultant (Dallas Roberts). Smarmy, over-the-top and wasting the talents of a perpetually shirtless Christopher Gorham (as Roberts' nemesis) and Alyssa Milano (Roberts' social-climbing wife)… Less offensive, but utterly forgettable, Netflix family sitcom All About the Washingtons is loosely based on the life of hip-hop's Rev Run (aka Joseph Simmons) and wife Justine… On a happier note, PBS's Great Performances pays tribute to Chicago Voices (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org) in an eclectic concert on the Lyric Opera stage featuring vocalists with ties to the Windy City. Encompassing opera, blues, gospel, rock, folk and pop standards, the lineup includes soprano Renée Fleming, Tony winner Jessie Mueller, rapper Lupe Fiasco, pop-gospel star Michelle Williams, jazz great Kurt Elling and folk legend John Prine.

 

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