Worth Watching: ‘Little Fires’ Finale, Earth Day Specials, Tracey Ullman Shines in ‘Mrs. America’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Little Fires Everywhere (streaming on Hulu): The gripping adaptation of Celeste Ng’s ingeniously plotted bestseller reaches its combustible conclusion in an extremely eventful finale. In a prophetic conversation between a mother and daughter (I won’t say who), we learn, “Sometimes you have to scorch everything to start over.” And that’s what plays out in the fractured suburban utopia of Shaker Heights amid the fallout of the verdict in the heated custody battle, and on a more private and personal front, from Elena’s (Reese Witherspoon) mean-spirited revelation to Pearl (Lexi Underwood, a standout) about her birth origins, which seriously strains Pearl’s bond with Mia (Kerry Washington). Life won’t be the same for any of them, including Elena, husband Bill (Joshua Jackson) and their conflicted children: rebellious Izzy (Megan Stott), jealous Moody (Gavin Lewis), distraught golden-child Lexie (Jade Pettyjohn) and smitten jock Trip (Jordan Elsass).
Born Wild: The Next Generation (8/7c, National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD, Disney Channel): If the pandemic is keeping you from going outside to celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day, TV provides a plethora of options, including a 2-fer from National Geographic that begins with this special, hosted by Robin Roberts, which showcases the resilience of baby animals in ecosystems across the globe — including two rescued koala joeys who are paid a visit by Chris Hemsworth.
Stay tuned for Jane Goodall: The Hope (9/8c, National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO), an intimate portrait of the octogenarian conservationist, as she continues her crusade on behalf of chimpanzees, traveling 300-plus days a year.
Other Earth Day highlights: BBC America’s She Walks with Apes (9/8c) also spotlights Goodall in a documentary tribute to the pioneering “trimates”: Goodall with chimpanzees, Dian Fossey with mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Canadian Biruté Galdikas with orangutans in Borneo… Disney Channel’s daylong Earth Day salute includes multiple plays of Disneynature films Monkey Kingdom and Penguins, both new to the channel… Discovery also devotes the entire lineup to Earth Day, including a mini-marathon of the breathtaking Serengeti series (9 am/8c), a new documentary The Story of Plastic (2 pm/1c), spanning three continents to provide an update on the environmental crisis of plastic pollution and offering solutions; and in prime time, The Great Global Clean Up (9/8c), featuring Zac Efron and other celebrities as they champion volunteer efforts and organizations dedicated to clean up the planet… PBS weighs in with Climate Change — The Facts (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org), in which host David Attenborough gathers scientific experts to discuss the impact of global warming and how to prevent further damage; followed by H2O: The Molecule That Made Us (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), the premiere of a three-part series that explores our relationship with the essential molecule of water.
Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort (8/7c, BET Networks and Bounce): With minority populations especially susceptible to the virus outbreak, BET’s domestic and international channels rally with United Way Worldwide to create a relief fund to help charities that provide food and emergency help. These and other efforts will be spotlighted in a two-hour entertainment/information special hosted by Anthony Anderson, Kelly Rowland, Terrence J and Regina Hall. Alicia Keys delivers a tribute to the ravaged New York City, a gospel segment with Kirk Franklin features Fantasia and other soaring voices, and other performances include John Legend, Usher, CeeLo Green, H.E.R., Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson among many others.
Mrs. America (streaming on FX on Hulu): The focus in this thrillingly acted docudrama turns to pioneering feminist Betty Friedan, played with abrasive glee and a fatally flawed egotism by that amazing chameleon Tracey Ullman. Jealous of the media attention given to Gloria Steinem (a blissful Rose Byrne), Friedan decides to amplify the threat of her conservative nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), with a public debate, decrying the Stop ERA leader as a traitor to her sex: “Looks like a Barbie doll, sounds like George Wallace.” Steinem frets that pitting women against each other in such a forum will only make Schlafly more famous — and she’s probably right.
What We Do in the Shadows (10/9c, FX): For a bit of comic relief, join the wacky vampires of Staten Island as they go to a clueless neighbor’s home to attend their very first Super Bowl party — which somehow they think is a tribute to a superb owl. As mayhem ensues, put-upon house “familiar” Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) goes in search of a new supply of virgins, but what he discovers triggers new concerns about his own family history of vampire killing. Craig Robinson (The Office) guest-stars.
Inside Wednesday TV: The CW partners with People magazine to feed the endless appetite for royal gossip in People Presents Harry & Meghan: A Royal Rebellion (8/7c), which looks beyond the love story to follow the couple’s exit from royal life… From the empty-calorie department: Fox follows a new episode of The Masked Singer (8/7c), featuring guest panelist Sharon Osbourne, with The Masked Singer: After the Mask (9/8c), in which host Nick Cannon brings on celebrity guests — remotely, of course — to rehash highlights of the episode, with games and surprise musical performances… Travel Channel’s Ghost Nation (8/7c) returns with a two-hour premiere, adding paranormal investigator Shari DeBenedetti to the team as they investigate an 18th-century Pennsylvania farmhouse that may be haunted by a “witching tree” in the yard… It’s a big day for Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) on IFC’s Brockmire (10/9c), when the sportscaster-turned-baseball commissioner gets inducted into the sport’s hall of fame. Not the best timing for daughter Beth (Reina Hardesty) to learn the sordid truth about her parentage, which could affect the speech she’s expected to make in honor of her reformed-scoundrel dad.