Worth Watching: ‘ABC Murders,’ ‘Russian Doll,’ ‘Dateline’ Revisits O.J. Bronco Chase
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The ABC Murders (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Forget cozy. The latest Agatha Christie adaptation by Sarah Phelps (And Then There Was None, Witness for the Prosecution, Ordeal By Innocence) has a penchant for the sordid and grotesque, often feeling more like a post-Dickens True Detective that puts fabled sleuth Hercule Poirot (a peculiar John Malkovich) and his cloudy past under the microscope. A tall drink of dour water, Malkovich’s goateed Poirot is melancholy and tortured, and yet his perceptive insights into the human condition help him track a serial murderer who’s working his way through the alphabet.
Russian Doll (streaming on Netflix): Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black) is to die for — literally — in this darkly comedic fantasy fable about a prickly New York bohemian caught in a fatalistic Groundhog Day-style time loop. When she discovers another lost soul (the poignant Charlie Barnett) on the same mind-bending trajectory, the metaphysical layers multiply — not unlike the titular stacking doll. And unlike many Netflix series, it’s a brisk binge: eight fast-paced episodes clocking in at under 30 minutes each.
Netflix’s top new movie of the weekend: Velvet Buzzsaw by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), starring Jake Gyllenhaal in a dark satirical thriller set in the contemporary art world.
Dateline NBC (10/9c, NBC): In “Chasing O.J. Simpson: The Untold Stories,” the sensationalist newsmagazine revisits the infamous L.A. Bronco chase, 25 years ago this June, during which police trailed O.J. Simpson, then a suspect in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, in a live-on-TV standoff riveting viewers nationwide for three hours. The report includes eyewitness accounts, excerpts from Simpson’s deposition tapes, audio from a cell phone inside the Bronco, and new interviews from key participants in the investigation by correspondent Josh Mankiewicz.
Into the Dark: Down (streaming on Hulu): The latest installment in the monthly holiday-centric horror anthology depicts a claustrophobic Valentine’s Day encounter between two handsome strangers (Friday Night Lights’s Matt Lauria and Under the Dome’s Natalie Martinez) trapped over a long weekend in an office building’s elevator. What begins as a rom-com meet-cute inevitably becomes more sensual and sinister as secrets are exposed, and escape becomes imperative. For the restless viewer as well.
For those with more exotic tastes, HBO’s On Demand and streaming services (HBO GO and HBO NOW) present the six-part Folklore, described as Asia’s first original horror anthology series, with each episode based on the supernatural myths and folk legends of a different region: Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Inside Friday TV: ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat (8/7c) celebrates Chinese New Year with the Huangs inviting the Lees (Ming-Na Wen, Reggie Lee and Jimmy O. Yang) over for dinner, which includes side dishes of father-son “tussling” and power plays between Jessica (Constance Wu) and Grandma (Lucille Soong)… Sitcom veteran Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia, The Grinder) visits Fox’s The Cool Kids (8:30/7:30c) as Margaret’s (Vicki Lawrence) daughter, MJ, who’s jobless and homeless, so this probably isn’t just a courtesy call… PBS’s Great Performances at the Met presents Nico Muhly’s new opera version of Marnie (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), the romantic Alfred Hitchcock thriller inspired by Winston Graham’s novel about the title thief (Isabel Leonard) who’s blackmailed into marrying her boss (Christopher Maltman).