Worth Watching: Lydia's 'Tale,' 'Florida Girls,' New Seasons of 'Snowfall' and 'Harlots,' The ESPYS
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Handmaid's Tale (streaming on Hulu): This week's episode of Fun in Dystopia, which includes scenes of ritualistic behavior befitting Shirley Jackson and "The Lottery," is notable for two things. First, the creepiest use ever of a famous Doris Day (RIP) ditty, but mostly, for a chance to savor the work of Emmy winner Ann Dowd, who gets to show a more human side of the fearsome Aunt Lydia in flashbacks from before Gilead hardened her soul forever. In the present, however, she's as chilling as ever, overseeing the Handmaids as they turn on one of their own, to the great satisfaction of a quietly rebellious June (Elisabeth Moss).
Florida Girls (10/9c, Pop): Not for prudes, this raucous comedy about a quartet of bad-news babes from a Clearwater backwater could give trailer trash a bad name. Not that these gals care, as Florida Girls blurs and regularly crosses the line between hilarity and vulgarity. Even Roseanne might blush. "I think we might be losers," briefly ponders Shelby (played by series creator Laura Chinn, writing from life experience) after one of the girls' besties moves up and out, leaving them with no money, no prospects but mostly no shame. A later episode focuses on Erica (Patty Guggenheim) — the one who puts the "maniac" in klepto — who is goaded by her buddies to apply for food stamps, which means going home to locate her birth certificate. There were times I wondered if I was watching a comedy or American Horror Story: Redneck. No matter: I laughed, between groans.
Snowfall (10/c, FX): The drug drama is back for a third season, now set in the summer of 1984, as crack cocaine takes its toll on the South Central L.A. community, so much so that the local authorities decide to fight back, including Sergeant Andre Wright (Marcus Henderson), who's got an eye on his next-door neighbor, junior kingpin Franklin Saint (Damson Idris). On the international front, CIA maverick Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) is just as committed as Franklin to keep the cocaine coming in — to help fund the war against communism in Central America. The tangled web escalates when a new cook on Franklin's street begins competing with his crew.
Harlots (streaming on Hulu): The saucy drama set in the world of London's 18th-century brothel trade is back for a third season, with a time jump and a change in the power structure of the prostitution trade. With Margaret Wells shipped off to America after being spared from execution, her daughters now take the reins: Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) running mom's house, while younger sister Lucy (Eloise Smyth) buys rival Lydia's luxurious former home with plans to turn it into a "molly house" (a male brothel). But they haven't counted on new adversaries in the form of the Pincher brothers (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen and Ash Hunter), pimps with a duplicitous agenda.
The 2019 ESPYs (8/7c, ABC): They're good sports one and all at the annual sports awards, starting with host Tracy Morgan. Highlights of the inspiring ceremony include honoring NBA legend and human-rights advocate Bill Russell with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. High school football coach Rob Mendez, born without arms or legs, receives the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. And the Pat Tillman Award for Service goes to former U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis, who lost a leg in a helicopter crash on duty in Afghanistan and has since earned gold medals in swimming at the Warrior Games.
Inside Wednesday TV: PBS' terrific space documentary Chasing the Moon (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) concludes with the triumph of the 1969 moon landing, played out against a backdrop of American conflicts and a look toward the future after such a lofty goal had been achieved… A new threat to the Dutton family arrives on Paramount Network's Yellowstone (10/9c) in the form of casino mogul Malcolm Beck, played by the reliably menacing Neal McDonough. When he proposes a partnership with patriarch John (Kevin Costner), who with typical stubbornness turns him down, a new war could ignite… The participants in History's The Strongest Man in History (10/9c) are not to be messed with. The seven-episode series sends four renowned strongmen, including past winners of The World's Strongest Man competition, around the world to challenge and perhaps surpass historic feats of strength — such as pulling a Viking ship or racing with pianos strapped to their backs… Streaming on Netflix: the retro-feeling sitcom Family Reunion, starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict and former NFL pro Anthony Alibi) as a married couple who move their four kids from Seattle to Columbus, Georgia, to be nearer the grandparents (Loretta Devine and Richard Roundtree).