Julia Roberts in 'Homecoming,' Madam President Rules 'House of Cards,' 'Watergate,' 'American in Paris'
A critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Homecoming (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Julia Roberts stars in director Sam Esmail’s (Mr. Robot) elegantly suspenseful mystery, based on a hit podcast, set at a transitional center for military veterans where nothing is as it seems. The series plays with time and perspective, and unlike many bloated streaming series, the brisk episodes clock in at around a half-hour each. (Read the full review.)
House of Cards (streaming on Netflix): President Claire Underwood is not only the blackest of widows as the sixth and (mercifully) final season of the slick political thriller gets underway — minus the presence of the disgraced Kevin Spacey — she’s also even more of an ice queen than usual. Will the Underwoods' proverbial house of cards eventually collapse around her, payback for the couple’s litany of misdeeds? Anything is possible as President Claire faces a new set of adversaries, including Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear as well-connected and scheming siblings from a powerful family. The story picks up on the 4th of July, but it hardly feels like a birthday party with so much repetitive plotting and counterplotting going on.
Watergate (9/8c, History): A true-life Oval Office scandal is retold in gripping fashion by Oscar-winning documentarian Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) in a six-hour, three-night documentary — airing through Sunday — that plays like Ken Burns on steroids. The details are staggering more than 40 years later: Senate hearings that glued a nation to their TV sets in the summer of 1973, the battle over White House tapes (re-enacted with cheesy dramatizations) and the eventual resignation of President Nixon.
An American in Paris (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Great Performances kicks off a month-long series of “Broadway’s Best” specials with a presentation of the 2015 Tony-winning musical adaptation of the Gershwin classic, inspired by the 1951 Gene Kelly film. Christopher Wheeldon won a Tony for his thrilling choreography, enacted by former New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild in the Kelly role and Leanne Cope channeling Leslie Caron.
The Romanoffs (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Diane Lane (also in House of Cards this season) was briefly seen in last week's New York installment of Matthew Weiner's meh anthology, and takes center stage from Los Angeles in the fifth episode, "Bright and High Circle" (the title comes from Pushkin). She's a professor of Russian and worried mother of privilege who nearly ignites a witch hunt, though she obviously should know better, when vague suspicions arise concerning the dishy gay piano teacher (Girls' Andrew Rannells) who teaches all the bored society moms' kids. It's a potentially potent situation, but once again, Weiner finds a way to bleach most of the interesting drama out of it.
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Into the Dark: Flesh & Blood (streaming on Hulu): The second movie in a monthly holiday-themed horror anthology stars Dermot Mulroney (also featured in Homecoming) as the widowed father of an agoraphobic teen (Diana Silvers) who’s been housebound for the last year, since her mother’s brutal unsolved murder. There are some nice claustrophobic moments before the conventional plot kicks in, and it won’t take you long to figure out where the danger is coming from or how it will bloodily end.
Inside Friday TV: Netflix gives Hallmark a run for its money with a new seasonal movie, The Holiday Calendar, starring The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham, This Is Us Emmy winner Ron Cephas Jones and Ethan Peck (soon to be Spock on Star Trek: Discovery). It’s the story of a photographer who inherits an antique advent calendar whose contents predict the future — including a possible love match?… Is there another budding musical genius in Rebecca’s (Rachel Bloom) family on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (9/8c)? Sure seems that way when her little half-brother Tucker (Luca Padovan, the neighbor kid on Lifetime’s You) shows up with dreams of child stardom. (Cue the riotous production number.)… With the midterms looming next week, CNN investigates new voting restrictions in many states, often seen as an attempt at voter suppression (though justified by proponents as a curb against voter fraud) in the news special Democracy in Peril: The War on Voting (11/10c), reported by Kyung Lah.