Worth Watching: Octavia Spencer Is Madam C.J. Walker, 'Blacklist' Returns, Margaret Atwood on Hulu
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (streaming on Netflix): Octavia Spencer is terrific in the title role as the visionary entrepreneur (also known as Sarah Breedlove) who was driven to succeed despite the obstacles for African-Americans, especially females, in the business world at the turn of the last century. Walker made her fortune selling and marketing hair-care and beauty products for black women. ("Hair is power," she reflects early on.) The four-part Self Made combines the old-fashioned virtues of a well-made period biopic with the progressive values of a woman who fought for cultural change and identity. The strong cast includes Blair Underwood as her wayward husband, Tiffany Haddish as her daughter, and True Detective's Carmen Ejogo as an unscrupulous business rival who opens Sarah's eyes to the potential of self-worth through hair care.
Among the many other streaming premieres:
Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word Is Power (Hulu): The author of the source material of Hulu's breakout hit The Handmaid's Tale is the subject of a documentary profile, which follows her on speaking engagements, a family holiday and a visit to the Handmaid's set. The special dives into Atwood's body of work, including the acclaimed Handmaid's sequel, The Testaments.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix): A truly wild seven-part true-crime series explores the deadly rivalry between Joe Exotic, the colorful proprietor of a roadside zoo in Oklahoma, and animal activist Carole Baskin, who owns a big-cat sanctuary and vows to put Joe and his crooked friends out of business… Also on Netflix: the six-part fantasy series The Letter for the King, about a young knight (Amir Wilson) whose mission to deliver a crucial letter to the king puts him in the path of a ruthless prince.
Blow the Man Down (Amazon Prime Video): A hit at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, this mystery thriller stars Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe as sisters in a Maine fishing village who discover the town's secrets while covering up a gruesome incident. The supporting cast includes the reliably terrific Margo Martindale, June Squibb and Annette O'Toole… Another movie premier includes The Banker on Apple TV+, starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson as 1960s African-American businessmen who hire a white man (Nicholas Hoult) as the face of their real estate and business enterprise.
The Blacklist (8/7c, NBC): Off the air since December, the long-running caper continues its seventh season — already renewed for an eighth — with Red (James Spader) enlisting the Task Force to track down an art forger who stands in his way of selling his share of a stolen treasure. (This will lead to his reunion with a fellow thief played by Joely Richardson in an episode originally scheduled to pair with this, but which has been rescheduled to March 27.)
Inside Friday TV: Two inspirational Disney+ series reach their first-season finales. In Diary of a Future President, Elena (Tess Romero) takes the advice of a senator in the state capital of Tallahassee. And in the reality series Marvel's Hero Project, Hailey earns her own comic by founding a kids' organization to support families affected by epilepsy, a condition that afflicts her twin sister, Livy… More Disney fun in Disney Channel's Descendants Remix Dance Party: A Disney Channel Music Event (7:30/6:30c), hosted by Descendants 3 star Cheyenne Jackson, who joins High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' Sofia Wylie and Dara Reneé in remixes from the scores of the Descendants movies… On a somewhat higher plane, PBS's Great Performances at the Met presents Franco Zeffirelli's opulent production of the Puccini classic Turandot (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), starring soprano Christine Goerke in the title role and tenor Yusif Eyvazov as her full-throated suitor.