Worth Watching: Apple's 'Little America,' Disney's 'Diary of a Future President,' 'Sex Education' on Netflix, 'Real Time' Returns
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Little America (streaming on Apple TV+): A real gem. The best short-story anthology series since Amazon's Modern Love adapts eight true-life vignettes from Epic Magazine telling compelling and emotional stories of immigrant life in America. Start with the first, "The Manager," which follows 12-year-old Kabir into young adulthood when he's left to manage a Utah motel for years while waiting for his parents to return after they're deported back to India. His adventure includes a national spelling-bee trip to Washington, D.C. where he pleads his case to First Lady Laura Bush (Sherilynn Finn) — to little avail. It's sad, poignant yet ultimately uplifting. Same goes for the wrenching "The Son," about the journey of Rafiq from Syria when his family discovers he's gay, and his long wait for asylum; and the more whimsical "The Cowboy," in which a Nigerian named Iwegbuna pursues a graduate degree in economics in Oklahoma, leaving his family behind in the war-torn land while he becomes enraptured by the local cowboy culture he only knew from Westerns. These mini-movies are wonderful, and the best news is that Apple has already renewed the series.
Other streaming highlights on a typically busy weekend:
Also on Apple TV+: a new edition of Oprah's Book Club, in which Oprah Winfrey interviews Elizabeth Strout about her latest, Olive, Again, a follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge.
Diary of a Future President (Disney+): In what seems a natural progression from Jane the Virgin, the ever-delightful Gina Rodriguez executive-produces and directs the pilot of an upbeat YA comedy about the middle-school travails of future president Elena Cañero-Reed. Rodriguez plays the adult and newly inaugurated President Elena in an intro, where she's gifted her old diary (from her mom, Orange Is the New Black's Selenis Leyva) which sends her into flashback mode for the rest of the series. Tess Romero is quite winning as 12-year-old overachiever Elena, whose academic and social anxieties are a testing ground for future leadership. If I'd rather watch adult Elena in action, that's probably because I'm not the target audience for those snooping in her Diary. Episodes premiere weekly.
Sex Education (Netflix): The saucy but sweet British coming-of-age comedy returns for a second season, with sex therapist Jean Milburn (a wonderful Gillian Anderson) finding new ways to make her awkward adolescent son Otis (Asa Butterfield) squirm in and out of high school. Having set up an underground sex clinic with bad-girl friend Maeve (Emma Mackey) while starting a relationship with fellow misfit Ola (Patricia Allison), Otis has his work cut out for him when a chlamydia outbreak at Moordale Secondary reveals a need for his second-hand wisdom.
Also streaming: Amazon Prime Video's Troop Zero, an uplifting movie starring Mckenna Grace as a space-obsessed girl from Georgia in 1977 who recruits a troop of Birdie Scouts to help her realize her dream of being recorded on NASA's Golden Record. Viola Davis, Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan also star… Canadian comic Russell Peters entertains an audience in Mumbai in Amazon Prime Video's stand-up special Russell Peters: Deported… The prolific Tyler Perry writes, directs and co-stars in the Netflix romantic thriller Tyler Perry's A Fall from Grace, starring Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad and Cicely Tyson.
Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (8/7c, NBC): Yes, something new on network TV! While the mysterious title villain continues to taunt Lincoln (Russell Hornsby), he and Amelia (Arielle Kebbel) track down another over-the-top killer. This fiend is taking cues from Greek mythology and live-streaming their bizarre murders.
Inside Friday TV: As ABC's Fresh Off the Boat (8:30/7:30c) continues its final season, Jessica (Constance Wu) gets a dream job as a private-school dean, and won't let the news that she was a token diversity hire curb her ambitions… Alexis (Elaine Hendrix) is up to her bad old tricks on The CW's Dynasty (9/8c). With Blake's (Grant Show) trial underway, she shocks the jury — and then daughter Fallon (Liz Gillies), who discovers her mom has married her ex-fiancé Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke)… HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher returns for an 18th season (10/9c) at an unusually busy political moment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is Maher’s top-of-show interview guest, with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang his mid-show guest.