Worth Watching: ‘Morning Show’ Finale, ‘Togo’ on Disney+, ‘Two Popes’ on Netflix, Vintage ‘Lucy’ Episodes on CBS
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The Morning Show (streaming on Apple+): If only morning TV were really this exciting. In the eventful season finale of the glossy and gossipy TV-news drama, the stakes are high, with careers and even lives on the line, as plots and counterplots swirl behind the scenes of The Morning Show. On one level, devious programming boss Cory (Billy Crudup) is conspiring with executive producer Chip (Mark Duplass) and earnest anchor Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) to topple the network’s power structure, using a hush-hush ambush of an interview with disgraced anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) as bombshell leverage — if only they can get one of his victims, booker Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), to cooperate. Out of the loop, veteran anchor Alex (Jennifer Aniston) is meeting with a possible replacement for the show’s boss, Chip, at the behest of embattled network president Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin). Corporate backstabbing becomes all-out frontal assault, with several casualties, by the time the dust settles in this slick workplace from TV hell.
Togo (streaming on Disney+): Nothing stirs the soul like the story of a bond between a man and his dog — and this rugged adventure sounds like an instant Disney classic, when a champion dogsled trainer (Willem Dafoe) sets out with his loyal but aging Siberian husky Togo on a death-defying mission in 1925 Alaska. The goal: to transport an antitoxin serum across 600 treacherous miles during bone-chilling storms to alleviate a deadly epidemic in Nome.
Those with a soft spot for canines will also warm to the Disney+ docu-series Pick of the Litter, based on the film of the same name, which follows six adorable pups — Paco, Pacino, Tulane, Raffi, Amara and Tartan — as they train to become service animals and perhaps qualify as guide dogs for the blind. The opening episode introduces the pups on the eve of their final evaluation before advancing to formal training.
The Two Popes (streaming on Netflix): Yet another Oscar contender drops on the streaming giant, joining The Irishman and Marriage Story for those who like to start the awards handicapping early. In what has been described as a master class in acting, Anthony Hopkins stars as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, in an imagined meeting between the two pontiffs during a time of turbulent transition in the Catholic Church.
Also streaming on Netflix: the eight-part epic fantasy The Witcher, which hopes to slake Game of Thrones withdrawal in the bloody, grim saga of Geralt of Rivia (a long-tressed Henry Cavill), a supernaturally gifted monster/witch hunter whose fate in intertwined with a sorceress-in-training (Anya Chalotra) and a princess (Freya Allen) displaced after the destruction of her kingdom.
I Love Lucy Christmas Special (8/7c, CBS): For the sixth year, CBS looks back to its revered comedy past with colorized episodes of the blockbuster hit I Love Lucy airing back to back. Once again, “The Christmas Episode” leads the revival, a 1956 episode in which the Ricardos and Mertzes reminisce while decorating Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) tree. It’s paired with “Paris at Last,” from February 1956, in which Lucy’s misadventures in the French capital includes wrangling with escargots (snails) and counterfeit francs.
Also from the land of vintage comedy: If you enjoyed ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience recreations of Norman Lear classics Wednesday night, the original versions of the All in the Family and Good Times episodes will be shown on getTV (9/8c).
Inside Friday TV: We know they have the gift of gab, but in a first, the hosts of CBS’s The Talk (2 pm/1c) deliver a message in song in an all-musical episode. Eve, Carrie Ann Inaba, Marie Osmond, Sheryl Underwood and guest co-host Vanessa Williams bring the house down with holiday melodies, with special performances by Carnie and Wendy Wilson and the North American touring company of Frozen… ABC pays tribute to a comics legend in Celebrating Marvel’s Stan Lee (8/7c), a biographical portrait that also features a celebration from New York’s New Amsterdam Theater. Among those sharing memories: Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Mark Hamill, Jimmy Kimmel, Method Man, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Todd McFarlane and Disney chief Bob Iger… John Legend hosts NBC’s Global Citizen Prize (8/7c), a ceremony from London’s Royal Albert Hall honoring those who take action to end poverty. Recipients include filmmaker Richard Curtis and Sting. Joining Legend in performing for the honorees: Jennifer Hudson, Sting, Raphael Saadiq, Stormzy, Chris Martin and H.E.R.