Worth Watching: 'When They See Us' on Netflix, 'Deadwood' Movie, Amazon's 'Good Omens'
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
When They See Us (streaming on Netflix): Director-cowriter Ava DuVernay's (Selma) shattering four-part docudrama is a roller coaster of emotion, from rage and sorrow to sympathy and horror, in its retelling of the travesty of injustice perpetrated on what became known as the Central Park Five. The series spans a quarter-century in telling the story of five Harlem teens who are wrongly accused and convicted (because of coerced confessions) of a savage rape in 1989. The cast includes some of the finest young actors since The Wire's fourth season, with Jharrel Jerome a standout as Korey Wise, the only one of the five tried and convicted as an adult. His prison ordeal occupies much of the powerful fourth and final chapter. (Read the full review.)
For more on this important subject, Sarah Burns and Dave McMahon — who with Ken Burns directed and produced PBS's acclaimed 2012 The Central Park Five documentary — have released a new taped conversation with all five of the men, conducted earlier this month, on UNUM, Ken Burns' digital platform.
Deadwood: The Movie (8/7c, HBO): It took 13 years for HBO to bring us a final chapter to David Milch's profane Western masterpiece of law and bloody, muddy chaos — and it was worth the wait. As the two-hour Deadwood movie begins, statehood is coming to South Dakota, and while Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is "half a stride short of fully fit" as he drinks himself to death, he oversees a memorable battle between sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and corrupt politician George Hearst (Gerald McRaney). (See the full review.)
Good Omens (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): With campy whimsy reminiscent of Tim Burton and Pushing Daisies-era Bryan Fuller, this relentlessly twee six-part fantasy (based on the book by the late Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) is what you might call pre-apocalyptic. In colorful, jaunty storybook strokes, and with acting of the mugging variety, this is the story of a prissy angel (Michael Sheen) and a mischievous demon (David Tennant) who's been on Earth since the Garden of Eden days and have grown to like it here. So they combine forces to try to put the brakes on the countdown to imminent Armageddon — a divine plan that goes awry when the Antichrist is switched at birth with a provincial British baby. Jon Hamm is rather wasted as a droll and dapper Gabriel, but Mireille Enos is having the time of her life as War. Fun but a bit wearisome.
Also Streaming: David Letterman returns with a second season of fascinating in-depth interviews in Netflix's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction —which is certainly true of his five latest subjects. His conversations with Ellen DeGeneres and Kanye West have already made headlines, and he also spends time getting to know Tiffany Haddish, Melinda Gates and Lewis Hamilton, who reflects Letterman's love of auto racing… DC Universe presents a new series version of cult fave Swamp Thing, starring Crystal Reed as CDC investigator Abby Arcane, who returns to her Louisiana home to investigate a bizarre swamp-born virus that claims biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), transforming him into you-know-what (Derek Mears)… Fresh Off the Boat's Randall Park stars and is co-writer of Netflix's romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe, about a celebrity chef (Ali Wong) who reconnects with her estranged childhood friend in San Francisco. Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan directs.
Inside Friday TV: Having jumped around multiple networks, The CW's Masters of Illusion (8/7c) presents a 21st anniversary special, with Dean Cain hosting a celebration of new magic and past highlights… History's six-part docuseries Unidentified: Inside America's UFO Investigation (10/9c) features Luis Elizondo, who formerly ran a secret government unit investigating what are now called UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena)… Showtime's documentary Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story (10/9c) profiles the controversial former NBA star who now goes by Metta World Peace (and who lasted just one week on Dancing with the Stars in 2011).