Worth Watching: Separation Anxiety on 'Speechless,' 'Widow' on Amazon, Holly Near an 'American Master'
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Speechless (8:30/7:30c, ABC): There's a communal "let's put on a show" spirit in another terrific episode of a family comedy that deserves a better fate than being buried on Fridays. JJ (Micah Fowler) has decided that NYU in Manhattan is the best place for his ambitions, but the deadline is nigh for a five-minute student audition film. Everyone's on board with helping him achieve his Twilight Zone-like dream on a shoestring — except maybe Maya (Minnie Driver), who's like a town-crying doomsayer of warnings against the perils of life in New York City. But even she must reckon with the reality of letting her special child go, which makes for a very touching — and funny — episode. Best running gag: a cringe-worthy series of mistaken-identity faux pas from Jimmy (John Ross Bowie).
Plus, 'American Idol' sets a return date.
The Widow (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Hardly a merry widow, Georgia Wells (a taut Kate Beckinsale) jets from Wales to the Congo in Africa when she believes she spies her supposedly late husband in a TV news report from the war-torn republic. Her sometimes reckless search for truth in an exotic land of corruption and violence makes for high if credulity-testing melodrama in an eight-part thriller.
Mysteries of the exotic Democratic Republic of Congo enliven the Prime Video series, starring Kate Beckinsale and created by Harry and Jack Williams ('The Missing').
Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Emmy-winning director Jim Brown presents an American Masters salute to the activist singer-songwriter whose goal for a half-century has been to “bend the arc of justice forward” with her music, calling for global justice. Near in interviewed, along with fellow feminists Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda among many others, placing her art amid a time of social revolution.
EP and star Julianna Guill teases the timely (and spooky!) episode, which also features Mary McCormack and Stephanie Beatriz.
Inside Friday TV: Leading the parade of Netflix premieres: the inspirational movie The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, starring and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, about a 13-year-old villager (Maxwell Simba) in Malawi who builds a windmill to help irrigate his poor farming homestead; and the docu-series Losers, which explores the psychology of losing through the stories of athletes who learned to carry on after crushing defeats… Hulu's horror anthology Into the Dark has a #MeToo moment in an installment titled "Treehouse," starring Jimmi Simpson (Westworld) as an obnoxious, abusive celebrity chef who gets his comeuppance when he crashes a bachelorette party while in exile. Co-starring Mary McCormack, Sutton Foster, Stephanie Beatriz, Maggie Lawson and executive producer Julianna Guill… Joanna Cassidy (Six Feet Under) joins Fox's The Cool Kids (8:30/7:30c) as a pal of Margaret's (Vicki Lawrence) who has such fun reuniting with her old friend she decides to move into Shady Meadows. But the guys, feeling neglected, hope to convince her otherwise.