Worth Watching: 'Grace and Frankie' and 'Punisher' Return, Hulu's 'Butterfly,' License to Drive on 'Boat'
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Grace and Frankie (streaming on Netflix): Already renewed for a sixth season, one of Netflix’s signature comedies returns for a fifth round with Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) unsettled to learn that while they were in a retirement community, their kids sold the beach house out from under them. This development pits them against a most fabulous guest star, Emmy winner RuPaul (!), who represents the La Jolla property’s mysterious new owner. In other news, Frankie puts the ladies’ adult-toy business at risk with a careless tweet.
The Punisher (streaming on Netflix): Marvel’s footprint may be diminishing on Netflix, but the hyper-violent Punisher (aka Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal as Marine-turned-vigilante Frank Castle) is back for a second tour of duty. This season, as Frank digs into the attempted murder of a young girl (Giorgia Whigham), he’ll have to contend with arch-nemesis Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), who after last season’s disfiguring incident will now be referred to as the fearsome “Jigsaw.”
Butterfly (streaming on Hulu): Reminiscent in tone of Sundance’s poignant The A Word, this sensitive three-part British drama stars Pushing Daisies’ Anna Friel and Emmett J. Scanlan as estranged parents split over how to deal with 11-year-old Max (Callum Booth-Ford), who identifies as Maxine. They wonder if Max/Maxine’s gender orientation will change at puberty? Butterfly asked: Should it? The child desperately craves a nurturing “normal” family and life, but is that even possible?
So. Much. Streaming. Other Friday premieres (always a big day in this world) include a third season of Amazon Prime Video’s The Grand Tour, with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammon and James May driving muscle cars in the motor city of Detroit; the complete second season of IFC’s hilarious Brockmire arriving on Hulu, with Hank Azaria as debauched as ever as the washed-up sportscaster; and joining Netflix’s swollen roster, the action thriller Close, starring Noomi Rapace (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as a counter-terrorist expert who becomes bodyguard to an heiress; the post-apocalyptic film IO, starring Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie as Earth’s last survivors, weighing whether to stay or leave on the last shuttle into space; and the six-episode Trigger Warning with Killer Mike, in which the Grammy-winning rapper/activist conducts outrageous social experiments to challenge cultural taboos.
Fresh Off the Boat (8/7c, ABC): The Huangs knew this day would come, but now that Eddie (Hudson Yang) finally has his driver’s license, the teen finds his ambitions — taking his buds to an Insane Clown Posse concert — quashed by an endless list of errands to run for mother Jessica (Constance Wu). And we all know who holds the keys to surviving this family.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (9/8c, The CW): Not sure who thought this was a good idea, but Darryl (Pete Gardner) enlists Rebecca “I bring out the worst in babies” Bunch (Rachel Bloom) to babysit her almost-namesake infant. Let the wailing begin. Elsewhere in West Covina, Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) hosts a game night, too self-effacing to tell anyone she’s actually celebrating her law-school graduation. The chemistry on the teams she puts together leaves a lot to be desired — but it does give mismatched Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) and Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) a chance to duet on one of the season’s best fantasy production numbers to date: a swinging Brat Pack-style ditty all about sports analogies and daddy issues.
Inside Friday TV: With the help of Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss and original GLOW founder David McLane, AXS TV revives a female wrestling dynasty with WOW-Women of Wrestling (9/8c)… He seems to be everywhere these days, but Howie Mandel hasn’t fronted a solo comedy special in 20 years — until Showtime’s modestly titled Howie Mandel Presents Howie Mandel at the Howie Mandel Comedy Club (10/9c), filmed at the Atlantic City venue that bears his name… HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (10/9c) returns for a 17th season, no doubt with plenty to say about the current broken state of political affairs. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich is his top-of-show guest.