Worth Watching: Ricky Gervais in 'After Life,' R. Kelly and Gayle King, VH1 Traiblazer Honors
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
After Life (streaming on Netflix): Ricky Gervais is superb in an unexpectedly moving dark comedy as morose widower Tony, who takes his grief out on everyone in his British village, deciding, "There's no advantage to being nice." His outrageous outbursts can be amusing, especially when he encounters bizarre human-interest stories in his job as a local journalist, but the underlying pain leads to a poignant reawakening over six brisk episodes — courtesy of fellow widow Penelope Wilton and the wonderful Ashley Jensen (Ugly Betty, Agatha Raisin) as his ailing father's nurse.
The Gayle King Interview With R. Kelly (8/7c, CBS): You may have seen the explosive clips, and now CBS News gives a prime-time showcase to CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King's emotionally charged interview earlier this week with the embattled R&B singer, his first on-camera appearance since being arrested on 10 sexual abuse charges, all of which he denies. (He was arrested again after this taping for failing to pay $161,000 in child support to his ex-wife.) King also interviews two young women currently living with the musician, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage.
VH1 Trailblazer Honors (9/8c, VH1): Several of the culture's most prominent and powerful women participate in a special event saluting breakthroughs in female empowerment and human rights, timed to commemorate International Women's Day. Among the honorees: filmmaker Ava DuVernay, The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presented her award by Cher. Performers include Elle King and Rita Ora, with Anita Hill, Samira Wiley, Mindy Kaling and Alyssa Milano among the other celebrity presenters.
Streaming: Among the many, many launches on a typically busy Friday: Amazon Prime Video's Made in Heaven, from India, a romantic dramedy about two wedding planners in Delhi, the closeted Karan (Arjun Mathur) and the socially disadvantaged Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala). Each ceremony they plan tends to expose the complex dynamics of modern society in India… Alfre Woodard stars as Juanita in a Netflix movie about a dissatisfied woman who hits the road (to Butte, Montana), leaving her grown kids behind for a taste of independence and freedom. Adam Beach is a local love interest, and Blair Underwood plays himself in comic fantasy scenes… The Netflix docu-series Formula 1: Drive to Survive travels from Melbourne, Australia to Canada, Austria, Singapore, Austin (Texas), Brazil and Abu Dhabi to chart the makeover of the high-octane racing sport.
Inside Friday TV: Mike (Tim Allen) wishes he'd folded instead of inviting Ryan (Jordan Masterson) to his weekly poker game on Fox's Last Man Standing (8/7c) when the worst happens, and the newbie gets the guys to open up about their feelings… Eddie (Hudson Yang) runs away from home on ABC's Fresh Off the Boat (8/7c), but after rooming with Horace (Jimmy O. Yang) at his apartment, he begins to think life with controlling mom Jessica (Constance Wu) may not be so bad… Absence makes the heart grow fonder on ABC's Speechless (8:30/7:30) when JJ (Micah Fowler) decides to try spending a day with a new aide, only to realize there may be no replacing Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough)… Former Dynasty diva Joan Collins guests on CBS's Hawaii Five-0 (9/8c) as Danny's (Scott Caan) ex-mother-in-law, a celebrated romance novelist who takes a shine to McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) — but not to Danno — when they act as her bodyguards on a book tour… Someone's launching a smear campaign against Jamie (Will Estes) and Eddie (Vanessa Ray) on CBS's Blue Bloods (10/9c). Bet the Reagans will soon put a stop to that.