'Sunday's Best' on CBS, Streaming Standouts 'The First' and 'Forever,' Netflix Cult Comedies
A critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Sunday’s Best: Celebrating 40 Years of Sunday Morning (8/7c, CBS): In a week where CBS and CBS News have been battered by damning headlines and the downfall of major executives, a spot of brightness in this hourlong tribute to the success of the enduringly valuable Sunday Morning program, which has provided four decades of in-depth, intelligent reporting on culture and the humanities. Jane Pauley is the classy host, conducting a rare interview with style icon Ralph Lauren. Other highlights: Rita Braver visits Chrissy Teigen with husband and recent EGOT John Legend (Jesus Christ Superstar), Lee Cowan discusses retirement (from acting) with Robert Redford, and correspondent Martha Teichner looks at how pop culture has changed during the run of the show. Quite a lot, you’d expect.
The First (streaming on Hulu): Beau Willimon's (House of Cards) absorbing eight-part drama about astronauts preparing for the first manned mission to Mars eschews science-fiction clichés to tell an emotionally grounded, realistic story that's as much about the explorers' inner space as on what awaits them in the treacherous cosmos. Sean Penn is tremendously affecting as the commander juggling personal responsibility to family with his soaring ambition to lead his crew to the great unknown.
Forever (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): There has never been a romantic comedy quite like this magically sublime, funny-sad fable starring Saturday Night Live veterans Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph. They play a long-married but restless (on her part) couple whose relationship is tested over the very long haul in extraordinary ways. "People aren't meant to be alone," an outsider observes, and Forever finds enchanting new ways to see if that is so.
Cult Comedies on Netflix: As if there weren’t enough to stream, the ceaseless flow of Netflix drops new seasons of two of its most buzzed-about cult parodies. The fifth season of the satirical animated Bojack Horseman is even more meta than usual, as the equine star (voiced by Will Arnett) attempts a comeback in a new cop drama titled Philbert that often echoes Bojack’s own strange journey. And a second season of the true-crime mockumentary American Vandal gets messy as its teen documentarians (Tyler Alvarez and Griffin Gluck) seek the identity of a “Turd Burglar” who set off a laxative crisis at an elite Catholic school.
Inside Friday TV: On a more serious note, the Netflix movie The Land of Steady Habits features an incredible cast — Bloodline’s Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Elizabeth Marvel, Connie Britton among the headliners — in Nicole Holofcener’s adaptation of Ted Thompson’s novel about a divorced man’s struggle to find purpose and direction… PBS’s American Masters concludes its series on influential artists with Basquiat: Rage to Riches (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), remembering the pop artist Jean-Michel Basquiat 30 years after his tragically untimely death from a heroin overdose… Nat Geo WILD goes south of the border to reveal Mexico Untamed (10/9c) in a three-part series (through Sept. 28) that finds all sorts of wildlife in the desert, jungles and seas… Former Secretary of State John Kerry, rumored to be considering another run at the presidency, is the top-of-show interview guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (10/9c), and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer drops in mid-show for an interview.