‘Crazy Ex’ Final Season, A ‘Haunting’ and More on Netflix, ABC Interviews First Lady
A critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (9/8c, The CW): As the final season of the inspired and often twisted musical-rom-comedy gets underway, orange is the new Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) when our heroine pleads “responsible” for her obsessive misdeeds and, despite the best efforts of her exasperated friends, is sentenced to time in county jail. (Cue the “Cell Block Tango” Chicago parody you knew was coming — just not quite in the way you might have expected, which is why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is so beloved by its cult audience.) While Rebecca does penance, put-out boyfriend Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) goes on a grueling wilderness retreat for a “complete reset,” and ex-beau Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) does his own self-searching — which leads to a hilariously harmonious ode to loneliness that only a show like Crazy would dare try to pull off. My sadness over the show’s imminent departure is somewhat mitigated by the final season extending to 18 (instead of the usual 13) episodes.
The Haunting of Hill House (streaming on Netflix): Not to be confused with the bone-chilling Shirley Jackson classic, or the superior 1963 film version — the 1999 remake is best forgotten — this painfully overlong 10-episode chiller borrows some of the Jackson-inspired scares in its story of a family who can’t shake their experiences in the titular house of horrors. The show jumps back and forth in time — sometimes to good effect, often just prolonging the action — to tease what happened back in the 1990s when the Crain family (Henry Thomas and Carla Gugino as parents of five impressionable kids) moved into Hill House as a “flip and flop” renovation project. Things go bump in the night, and bump in the walls and on the doors, leading to a terrible event that follows the Crains into troubled young adulthood, which invariably leads back to the macabre manse. The strong cast includes Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Timothy Hutton as the older version of the family patriarch. I guarantee you will jump from time to time — between the yawns.
Among the other too-many-to-list Netflix premieres: the occult movie thriller Apostle, starring Legion’s Dan Stevens as a man trying to save his sister from a religious cult led by Prophet Malcolm (Masters of Sex’s Michael Sheen); The Kindergarten Teacher, which is less benign than it sounds, a psychological movie thriller starring The Deuce’s Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher taking an obsessive interest in a 5-year-old prodigy; the documentary Feminists: What Were They Thinking?, featuring interviews with activists including Judy Chicago, Laurie Anderson and Grace and Frankie stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda… Remastered, the first in a new documentary series that goes behind the music to tell often disturbing real-life stories, starting with “Who Shot the Sheriff?” Directed by Kief Davidson, the episodes investigates political suppression of the roots reggae movement in Jamaica and the CIA’s involvement in the shooting of Bob Marley.
Being Melania — The First Lady (10/9c, ABC): You hear a lot from the husband, but not so much from First Lady Melanie Trump, who sits for a rare exclusive interview with Tom Llamas, ABC News’ World News Tonight weekend anchor and chief national affairs correspondent. He traveled with the first lady to Africa on her first solo trip abroad to secure what promises to be a news-making interview.
The Romanoffs (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) returns to TV with a deluxe head-scratcher of an anthology series, comprised of eight movie-length (90-minute) vignettes, connected by a tenuous link: At least one character in each story may or may not have been descended from the doomed Russian royal family. The series opens with two installments (more will follow weekly). Marthe Keller and Aaron Eckhart star in “The Violent Hour,” as an imperious aging dowager and her American nephew, who tends to her whims as he awaits his inheritance of the opulent Paris apartment in which she resides. “The Royal We” stars Corey Stoll and Kerry Bishé as a couple in a stagnant marriage who find temptation in very different arenas: him on jury duty (with an alluring Janet Montgomery), her on a themed cruise filled with Romanov descendants (and Noah Wyle a fellow skeptical observer). These swollen and ineffectual stories feel like little more than a grand folly, lovely to look at but hollow at the core.
Inside Friday TV: PBS takes a deep dive into the Bard’s masterworks in the third and final season of Shakespeare Uncovered (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), with Helen Hunt leading an hour devoted to the enchanting comedy Much Ado About Nothing and F. Murray Abraham addressing the anti-Semitism embedded in the still-controversial The Merchant of Venice… In the mood for more politics after Real Time with Bill Maher? HBO complies with Pod Save America (11/10c), a series of four specials taking the popular podcast to live audiences, starting with Miami. Hosts Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor take the show on the road to Austin, Philadelphia and Irvine, California, in weeks to come. The first episode is available for free on HBO’s YouTube page… Hulu joins the Halloween horror action with the 10-part Light as a Feather, in which five teenage girls play the “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” game, which isn’t as much fun when they start dying off in the way the game predicted.